Austin O'Malley

Assistant Professor, Persian and Iranian Studies

Austin O’Malley is a scholar of classical Persian literature with a special interest in performance, textuality, and reception, particularly in Sufi contexts. His first book, The Poetics of Spiritual Instruction: Farid al-Din ʿAttar and Persian Sufi Didacticism (Edinburgh UP, 2023), seeks to uncover an implicit poetics of didacticism embedded within Sufi homiletic verse. While treating didactic verse more broadly, it focuses on the narrative poetry of ʿAttar (d. c. 1221), whose innovative frame-tale structures allow the poet to reflexively imagine his own poems’ idealized reception. Through a close reading of ʿAttar’s works alongside other religious and literary texts, the monograph argues that didactic speech was approached as a pragmatic utterance that worked on its recipients on a bodily, psychological, and an ontological level, and that readers’ encounters with ʿAttar’s poems functioned as symbolic performances of particular Sufi rituals and social relationships. Dr. O’Malley has also published on hagiographical texts, a Perso-Hellenic verse romance, and the quatrains of ‘Omar Khayyam. He is currently at work on a second monograph on forged and spurious works from the Timurid period, in which he shows how literary misattribution—intentional or otherwise—functioned as a generative mode of imagining the literary past.