As part of a series of three panels and a roundtable session on the topic of Iranian literary modernity, this panel is dedicated to the alternative roots of modern Iranian literature, meaning an investigation of the cross-fertilization of various local, transnational, trans-historical and to some extent extra-literary conditions that affected literary production in modern Iran. Unlike conventional wisdom which imposes a 'point of commencement' and a subsequent narrative of development on modern Iranian literature, the present studies foreground a variety of spatio-temporal specificities underlying much of Iranian literary modernity.
The panel begins in second half of the nineteenth century when Middle Eastern literary criticism underwent a reassessment of critical conventions. This impulse is investigated in Nefise Kahraman's “Comparison as a Method of Literary Reappraisal in 19th Century Iranian and Ottoman Literary Criticism” by drawing attention to the self-reflexive agency of Ottoman and Iranian literary critics in their attempts at setting new critical measures for judging literary works. This self-reflexivity challenges those accounts that ascribe to comparative literature a Eurocentric genealogy and highlights the role of innovative and nuanced early Middle Eastern comparatists in the comprehension of indigenous literary productions. Turning to the mid-twentieth century, Shayesteh Mousavi's “The Influence of the 1960s Literary Miscellanea on the Trend of Modernism in Iranian Fiction” challenges those established paradigms that assign the beginning of modernist trends in Iranian fiction to Sādiq Hidāyat's (1903-1951/1282-1330 sh.) Būf-i Kūr (The Blind Owl) (1937/1316 sh.) and instead investigates the role of literary gatherings known as Jungs (Miscellanea)--particularly Jung-i Isfahān (1965-1973/1344-1352 sh.), which has been regarded as the most impressive one--in discussing, determining, and disseminating their vision of literary modernity in the country during the 1960s. In a similar fashion, Roya Khoshnevissansari's “Iranian Oil Literature” contests posthumous classifications of modern Iranian literature such as “historical,” “social,” and “committed” by foregrounding those significant social factors that played a role in shaping literary productions in southern Iran. Specific attention is paid to the role of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in industrial refinery towns, those quasi colonized, inter-cultural spaces featured prominently in what is called “Iranian oil literature.”