The controversial notion of commitment in literary discourse implies a state of dialectical engagement of the writers and poets with socio-political causes and ideological approaches. The history of contemporary Persian literature is filled with literati who have committed themselves to various ideological statements and revolutionary ends. Our panel investigates intellectual preoccupations with commitment among contemporary Persian poets and novelists of Iran and Afghanistan. We limit our discussion to twentieth and twenty-first century Iranian and Afghan poetry and novels in order to investigate a number of literary works that fall in the category of committed literature (‘Adabiyāt-e- Mote’ahhed’) and literature of resistance (‘Adabiyāt-e-Pāydāri’), either as defined by the authors themselves or by the critics who make meaning from the texts. The panel aims to explore these fields with specific reference to the works of Iranian and Afghan literati in order to see if a coherent tendency toward the committed literature is traceable throughout the history of contemporary Persian literature or, on the other hand, if notions of commitment change in different socio-historical contexts.
The panel will ask how one begins to differentiate between commitment as an inherent feature of texts and commitment as a process of critical reading and interpretation. The panelists will attempt to address some of the following questions: How do various reading methods and hierarchies of senses have an impact on the formation and definition of commitment in literature? How might the socio-political context of a given society influence its literati and their works and to what extent are contextual elements fundamental in literary analysis of a given work? How do commitment and resistance as socially constructed concepts manifested in the literary works in question transform over time? And what is the relationship between notions of socially engaged or committed poetry and aesthetics?
We hope that the presentations and discussions of this panel will offer insight and applicable results to theoretical debates concerning commitment in contemporary Persian literature through addressing some of the issues inherent to any work identified as committed literature. Finally, we hope the panel contributes to the ongoing debates on committed literature by offering new insights on how to approach, interpret and analyze socially engaged literary works without underestimating their aesthetic aspects.