Open Lecture: The Writing on the Wall

«The Writing on the Wall: The Poetics of Architectural Inscription in Medieval Andalusia and the Early Modern Persian World»

Paul Losensky (Indiana University – Bloomington)

May 3rd, 2023


Calligraphy and the written word cover buildings throughout the Islamic world from Andalusia to India. Cast in tile, carved in stone, or cut into stucco, calligraphic forms dominate the surface decoration of both courtly and religious architecture. Though many patterns are based on the repetition of single words or formulaic phrases, other inscriptions feature poems written specifically for their architectural setting, integrating poetry into the material fabric of the structure.

This lecture will examine the rhetoric and poetics of these architectural inscriptions from the late medieval Nasirid palace in Granada to the Mughal royal gardens of Kashmir. As they commemorate the building as a sign of the wealth and power of its patron, these inscriptions also guide the viewers’ gaze to specific architectural features and direct their movements around the structure. In others, the building speaks for itself, celebrating its beauty and explicating the significance of its visual form. Even when the inscription has the basic function of providing the date of the building’s construction, it draws its readers into the somatic experience and semantic meaning of the architectural structure.


Opening Lecture of the academic year 2019/2020

César Domínguez

(Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)

Public Lecture

September 30th, 2019, 4:30 pm

Room B.2

“Comparative Literature and Linguicide” 

Whereas ‘endangered languages’, that is, languages that are at risk of falling out of use as their speakers die out or shift to speaking other languages, have become a pressing issue during the last decades, not only within academia but also in terms of human rights and protection of diversity, a similar urgency does not apply to literary studies. And yet, according to optimistic prognoses used by the UNESCO, at least 50% of today’s over 7,000 spoken languages may be extinct or very seriously endangered around the year 2100.

Such a disappearance of linguistic diversity, with languages being killed at a much faster pace than ever before in human history, provides unforeseen overtones to Erich Auerbach’s prophecy that ‘the notion of Weltliteratur would be at once realized and destroyed’. Though the issue of endangered languages cannot be easily extrapolated to the literary field, for literary works are precisely the archive of languages (either alive or endangered or extinct), an investigation into the relationships between endangered languages and literary diversity needs to be initiated. My point of departure is the paradoxical fact that comparative literature (the discipline best suited to address this issue due to both its work with literature in different languages and ethical standpoint) has a long history of limitation to the less linguistically diverse area of the world, for Europe and the Middle East together account for only 4% of the world’s oral languages. My approach is encapsulated in the phrase ‘urgent comparative literature’, which, though coined upon ‘urgent anthropology’, should not overlook the dangers of neocolonialism, nostalgia and endangerment hypersensibility.


Results of the 2019/2020 call

Students Admitted to the Programme

Aleksandra Katarzyna Stokowiec
Ana Raquel Morais Mendes
Nicola Giansiracusa
Seren Ustundag
Raluca Balan
Alberto Simões
Ana Carolina Martins Roman
Eneida Cunha Gomes Marta Tavares
Rayssa Marinho Pacífico das Neves

Students selected for the 5 PhD Scholarships

Aleksandra Katarzyna Stokowiec
Ana Raquel Morais Mendes
Nicola Giansiracusa
Seren Ustundag
Raluca Balan

For detailed scores and information on the evaluation process, please click here.