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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam for the 21st century. How can we bring it more into current thinking and discussion?

October 10, 2016

At the Rubaiyat Research Day held in Cambridge early in July this year, the final session was devoted to a discussion of ‘Where do we go from here?’  Some of the topics put forward for consideration are shown in the table below.

rokfuture

Underlying the discussion was a basic agreement that the Rubaiyat has something to offer all of us in the 21st century, both as a literary work in English, Persian and other languages, and as a statement of a general approach to, and philosophy of life.  The comments and suggestion ranged widely.  In the rest of this post, we focus on some ways of giving the Rubaiyat a higher profile today, posing various question about possible action on which we should like to have readers’ reactions.  Please comment below. Other aspects of future development will be covered in later posts

Giving the Rubaiyat a higher profile today

Most Rubaiyat enthusiasts have had the experience of being faced with a blank look, particularly from younger people, when the subject of the Rubaiyat is mentioned.  In contrast to the position 100 years ago, when most educated people would have been aware of the poem and its content, today it seldom figures in the reading lists in school, university or outside.  There are unrecognised quotes in the media or in keynote speeches, but that is it.  Yet, as Tony Briggs and others pointed out in Cambridge, if you take the trouble to tell people more about the Rubaiyat, they react very positively both to the language and the substance of the poem, and want to know more – for more of Tony Briggs’ comments see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/a-reduced-rubaiyat-full-of-wisdom-but-is-it-omarian-wisdom/ .

Obviously each of us who wants people to know more about the Rubaiyat can publicise the subject among our own contacts.  A more general question is Should we try to do more about wider publicity, particularly using social media and other digital resources?  For example, the posts on this blog are reproduced on Twitter but not yet on Facebook.  How far is this route to spreading awareness likely to be effective, and are there other ways of influencing reading lists which we should be investigating?  Practical suggestions for action please.

New editions of the Rubaiyat have continued to be published regularly since 2000 (more on this in a later post).  But Tony Briggs has also suggested that modern readers of the Rubaiyat are initially put off both by the length of the poem and by the multiple variations in which FitzGerald’s and other versions are presented.   He has suggested both a ‘reduced Rubaiyat’ of perhaps eight quatrains which contain the essence of the message of FitzGerald’s poem and a ‘composite edition’ based on FitzGerald’s three main editions.  The latter would probably need the efforts of a group of experts, and there is an obvious danger that agreement among them might be difficult to obtain.  But: Are either of these projects something that might usefully be promoted?

Your reactions please. Subsequent posts will deal with Greater co-operation among Rubaiyat collectors and researchers, and Possible new areas for research and investigation relating to the Rubaiyat.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Kimeldorf permalink
    October 10, 2016 5:26 pm

    I will write using my phone audio please excuse errors then i’ll right more later. If I want to reach younger people here is my strategy:
    1. Never present the entire poem it is not only to long but too opaque. Also present the poems with some clues as to what they’re about I have created such a short document of 30 quatrains and I’m happy to share it. If truth be told people younger than 60 profit from this approach not only millennial’s
    2. Try to find graduate students who might be able to hook up some of the exemplary Stanzas with current music makers. Then create a music video with songs featuring the lyrics. Both the band and perhaps a brand-new website or brand-new front and could feature this as an introduction
    3. Using the Contacts developed in the previous idea ask them to go on to social media to share poems and thoughts When I can type again I will attempt some of this myself but it will take much larger effort than one person oh and by the way I’m 68

  2. October 10, 2016 5:39 pm

    Great suggestions, Martin. Thanks for these constructive ideas. Let’s see what others can bring to the debate.
    S&B

  3. October 11, 2016 3:39 pm

    Members could forward a reference to my Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat video (on YouTube) to their friends, and so forth. Also, to avoid confusion concerning FitzGerald’s five editions, a reference to my consolidated 114 quatrains merged (including the three from his notes), each quatrain now having an illustration.

  4. October 12, 2016 10:03 am

    More details of Austin Torney’s new versions of the Rubaiyat are in the following post, see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/austin-torney-is-finally-satisfied-with-his-version-of-the-rubaiyat/.

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