This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals
This paper will explore the contours of modern canonisation in the Persian literary context, focussing on the case of the poet Forugh Farrokhzad (1935-1967). Drawing on theories of canon formation from Western literary historiography, I will explore the unique network of valorising and devalorising forces operating on works of Persian literature in the contemporary period.
Forugh Farrokhzad is arguably one of the most celebrated and influential Iranian creative artists of the 20th Century – her counter-cultural poetics and reputation continue to illicit admiration and condemnation in equally strong terms. By considering the legacy of her work, the academic, artistic, and political attention it has received, many of these valorising and devalorising forces are illuminated. For example, the central role of the Iranian diaspora and Western academics in establishing her canonical standing; the perpetuation of her famed iconoclasm resulting from the distaste held for her by the Islamic Republic’s cultural establishment; and the importance of continued artistic engagement with her work and appropriation of her reputation.
It is the canonising function of such artistic engagement that this paper will consider in greater depth. In particular, through a close-textual reading of their work, the inter-artistic dialogue between two leading contemporary women poets from Iran and Farrokhzad will be highlighted. The poetry of Granaz Moussavi (b.1976) and Sara Mohammadi Ardehali (b.1976) demonstrate a number of resonances with Farrokhzad’s aesthetics, including their candid presentation of feminine perspectives, a pervasive sense of alienation, and the emancipatory connotations of images from the natural world. Recent interviews I have conducted with each poet further reveal the importance of Farrokhzad to their poetic practice. Echoing the traditions of istiqbāl and javāb-gu’ī common in pre-modern Persian poetry, acts of emulation and intertextual conversation between creative artists continue to be, it seems, an important factor in the determination of a poet’s worth, and hence, their place in the canon.