To date, sensory studies have been dominated by anthropological discourses and to a lesser degree, historiographical ones. In the past few decades other disciplines in the humanities have attempted to carve out a space to function within the realm of sensory studies, especially with regards to structuring a sensory approach to non-material artistic production. However, the necessary building blocks remain incomplete. This problematic is demonstrated very clearly in literary studies. One of the main reasons for this lacuna is that there are too few case studies from which multilayered answers could potentially emerge in order to address the fundamental question of ‘how the five traditional senses are represented in the works of fiction, poetry, and theatre’. This issue is further complicated when theoretical notions such as reader response, literary realities, and more importantly, the characteristics of specific literary traditions are taken into account. With all of this in mind, the papers in this panel use examples from both classical and modern(ist) Persian literature in order to begin contributing to the emergence of these answers, i.e., building blocks, and to the formation of new directional studies relating to sensory readings of Persian literature. The first paper defines main theoretical concepts of sensory readings and provides an example of their application through a close reading of Parviz Dava’i’s short stories. The second presentation will continue this approach by examining the activation process of various senses in Nezami Ganjavi’s love stories in his romantic epics and how this process leads to a variety of “the senses of love”. The third paper explores the works of a number of war (1980-1988 Iran-Iraq) poets and demonstrates the altercations between sensory perceptions and ideological ones. The last paper, relying on the same thematic approach, uses the concept of “Poetics of Synesthesia” to analyze the interactions of visual (classical) poetry and its various graphical layouts, and their contribution to the creation of alternative meanings in Persian poetry. Within the context of the above-mentioned general goal, the emphasis of all of these papers will also be placed on defining the ways in which dominant discourses have attempted to identify different entities—individuals, social classes, environments, and so on—with particular iterations of various senses. They will also demonstrate how challenging these imposed identities could introduce new sites of resistance, and consequently new models for literature appreciation based on sensory readings.
Conducting research on the topic of sensory readings in literature, especially Persian literature, and verbalizing the results of such projects is a fairly new phenomenon. This means that we do not possess a set of collectively concurred assumptions about the context of such projects and at this early stage, therefore, there is a need to develop models through which such readings could be constructed. The model discussed in this presentation is informed by an ensemble of theoretical concepts such as “landscape”, “touchscape”, “smellscape”, “soundscape” and “tastescape”, developed by anthropologists of sensory studies. The model is further defined by the application of these concepts in a close reading and examination of a few short stories by Parviz Davai. I argue that in order to relate to these stories one should rely on sensory perceptions, and one should consider the invoked senses in the stories as their main protagonists. This presentation demonstrates how these protagonists succeed, with surprising facility, to accomplish the traditional literary tasks such as defining characters, creating a narrative and moving it forward, developing gradually climatic points, achieving a plausible dénouement, and so forth. From a theoretical point of view this model rejects “the imaginary divide between thinking and feeling” and leans on David Howes’ famous statement that “[such] a focus on perceptual life is not a matter of losing our mind but of coming to our senses”.