Narrating the Modern: Iranian Prose Writing

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals


M.R. Ghanoonparvar


by Arshavez Mozafari / University of Toronto

Ayatullah Khumayni's (1902-1989) now infamous epithet for the United States, *shaytan-i buzurg* (The Great Satan), can be construed as a master or gateway signifier in terms of its evocative power. It is a nodal point that captures within its seams the multifarious schemas, attitudes and strategies animating most--if not all--of Iran's post-revolutionary international relations. Several scholars (Amanat 2009, Beeman 2005, Milani, 2010) have provided different vantage points regarding the conceptual structure of the term, but there has yet to be a study exclusively focusing on it from the perspective of intellectual historiography. In this paper, I analyze one moment in the multi-layered and protracted development of a modern Iranian demonology, one in which *shaytan-i buzurg* can be observed and properly analyzed. Sadiq Hidayat (1903-1951), a prominent modern Iranian author, is arguably the most conscious appraiser of the contortions within the inner world of Iranian demonology during the first Pahlavi period (1921-1941). Here, demonism’s linkage with Nature is affirmed through the psychoanalytic interest in libidinal economy and unconscious drives. A relatively complex relationship emerges between inner and outer demons through the functioning of projections and displacements. While there are quite a few instances when suicide is evoked as a way to undermine or disburden oneself of the constant pulsations that mark the demonic in Hidayat’s literature, also present is the alluring, tantalizing, but inscrutable anthropoidal layer of Nature that repeatedly draws the attention of narrators. Even Nature itself is present at times as an eerie but warm calling that is capable of relieving subjects of the pain that it itself initially engendered. The decision to heed this call is one that the early-Pahlavi state never fully committed to, nor did anyone else within literate culture for that matter. In taking a step towards the call of Nature, Hidayat both fulfilled the demonological logic of the age and brought it to a close. This study is less about Hidayat and more about how a modern variant of Iranian demonology was expressed through his writings, one that both maintained and undermined the demonological currents inherent
in and sustained by the Zoroastrian and Perso-Islamic traditions.

by Abd al-Rasoul Shakeri / Shahid Beheshti University

The first years of King Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi’s rule, a period of social and media freedom, can be considered the start of the spread of “Serial novels” in Iran. As media blossomed in Iran, journals such as Ittila‘at Haftigi, Saba, Taraqqi, Kavyan, and Tehran Musavvar ranked as the top journals publishing this genre. Among the best-selling serial novels, which amassed relative popularity, are Ten Qizilbash by Hussein Sukhanyar Masrur, The Flowers that Grow in Hell by Muhammad Mas‘ud Dihati, The Nights of Babil by Hussein ‘Ali Musta‘an, Larijan: Love and Blood by Javad Fazil, and The Bloody Paw by Ibrahim Zamanis Ashtiyani . For various reasons, including a lack of modern story-writing techniques, these novels were never noticed or analyzed closely by critics. Through discourse and textual analyses, this paper offers a study of these novels to highlight the importance of these works and to illustrate the ignored influence of rival discourses of the same period, such as nationalist, Islamic, Marxist, or a combination of the three, on theme, plot, character development, and narrative style in these novels. The primary analytical tool of this paper is based on the discourse analytical approaches of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Considering the post-structuralist orientation of this approach and the limitations it produces for our analysis, this article employs only the structuralist component of this approach for systematic discourse analysis. The conclusion of this article shows that these types of novels are significant both for cultural studies and discourse analysis as well as in the study of the history of the Persian novel. Moreover, an analysis of the elements of the stories in a discourse analysis context, in comparison with analyses that focus solely on the text, provides more analytical options for the researcher. In this article, in addition to Laclau and Mouffe and the aforementioned journals and novels, historical sources and literary histories, elements of story writing, and a couple of literary histories written in the discourse analysis framework such as The Politics of Writing in Iran are used.
Key words: Serial novels, discourse analysis, content, structure, socio-cultural context.

by Zahra Goshasbi / Institut national des langues et des civilisations orientales

Based on popular tradition, Persian fantastic literature first appeared though translations at the beginning of the twentieth century after the movement of “modernization” in Iran, while the country opened its borders to western literature. Yet censorship and repression before and after the Islamic revolution in Iran provided a significant scope of investigation for fantasy, in which imaginary helped man express his illusions. As a mirror reflecting his terror, fantastic narrative as a genre also unveiled the other face of human interiority: hope for a resurrection! In my paper, I’ll try to examine the representations of both hope and fear in Iranian contemporary fantastic literature. Aboutorâb Khosravi’s short stories as well as Reza Ghâsemi’s narratives are used as examples for this study.

by Seyed Gholamreza Shafiee-Sabet / McGill University

Bahram Beyzaie’s recent monograph on the 1001 Nights—Hezar Afsan Kojast? (Where is Hezar Afsan?) (2012) is a groundbreaking body of research in the Nights’ scholarship in Persian literature. Trying to find the answer to the title question, he traces every reference to the frame tale of the Nights since its creation and follows it down to the mythological beliefs and stories of the Indo-Iranian race. The work seems to be a response to, what Beyzaie considers, the European and Arab scholars’ intentional ignorance of Persian origins of the Nights, and attempts to bring a ‘national heritage’ back to the Iranian literature, art and culture. It also reveals a new development in the employment of the nationalist discourse in Beyzaie’s oeuvres. While in his plays and other research books, since the beginning of his career, Beyzaie uses such dominant sociopolitical discourses as the nationalist/nativist discourse, the socialist discourse, and romantic nationalism, in the recent text, he draws upon a postcolonial discourse to blame not only the Arabs but also the Western Arabists who, he believes, have overlooked the Iranian roots of the 1001 Nights. In this paper, I will discuss in brief different dominant nationalist discourses in Beyzaie’s works, the context of Beyzaie’s encounter with the Nights, and then elaborate on the postcolonial discourse in Hezar Afsan Kojast?