As part of a series of three panels and a roundtable session on the topic of Iranian literary modernity, this panel’s central theme is poetic modernity in Iran from the “classical” era to the present time. It focuses on various moments of poetic modern making within the Iranian poetic tradition. These moments and their location within a specific historical context displace stock notions of literary modernity as a teleology or an ontology bound to a specific period (or location) and instead highlight innovations resulting from negotiating literary traditions and contemporary experiences.
Drawing upon Suhravardī (1154-1191/549-587 gh.), Mullā Sadrā (1571-1640/979-1050 gh.), and Sā'ib Tabrīzī (1601-1677/1009-1088 gh.), Henry M Bowles' “Linguistic Realism or Literary ‘Modernity’?” argues that universalist and onto-theological accounts of periodicity obscure the possibility of non-European "modernities" whose existence is indebted neither to the Reformation nor the Enlightenment. The paper seeks to explicate the transhistorical consistency of literary "modernism." In “The Cold, Quiet Dream of Phoenixes: Temporality and the Annihilation of the Absolute Subject in Furūgh Farrukhzād’s Poetry,” Saharnaz Samaeinejad focuses on the demythologization of the biblical/Quranic story of the Garden of Eden in Farrukhzād’s poem “Conquest of the Garden.” The paper shows how Farrukhzād’s (1935-1967/1314-1346 sh.) poem mimics and manipulates the story’s structure, infusing it with new meaning, and reflects on the consequences in the poem of the loss of transcendental certitude with regard to temporality and the emergence of a modern lyric subjectivity. Through an examination of the underlying notions of modernity in Suhrāb Sipihrī’s (1928-1980/1307-1359 sh.) art and worldview, Pranav Prakash's “Setting Sail in Sipihri’s Qāyiq” reflects on the historical relationship between religiosity and poetic art in Persian literature and subsequently looks into how changes in their relationship may be integrally linked to the emergent notions and influences of modernity at a given point in history.
Neither temporally nor spatially specific, the formal consistency of literary “Modernity” consists in what I will call “linguistic realism.” This “realism” entails a second-order perception of language as truth-producing event, one conscious of “la langue comme puissance infinie ordonnée à la présence” and “comme aptitude à présentifier la notion pure du ‘il y a’” (Badiou). Persian letters and philosophy, I will show, possess a rich history of precisely such a “Modern” realism.
My analysis turns on three moments—each wholly independent of European “Modernity”—of precisely such linguistic realism in Persian literary and intellectual history. First, I examine Sohravardî’s transformation of the peripatetic and neo-Platonic apparatus into one where language emerges as the key to turning “az ẓolomât-i jahl beh nûr-i ma‘âref va ḥaqâ’iq.” Against the Platonic resistance to poetic discourse—one continued in Aristotle’s refusal of (poetic) “πλεονασμάς” and (poetic) tropes that do not “ποιεῖ πως γνώριμον τὸ σημαινόμενον διὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα”—Sohravardî makes “al-mutakhayyila,” “al-kalâm al-ʻaẕb,” and “al-lisân” the bridge between “al-nufs wa-‘âliman qâdran.” I turn, secondly, to Mollâ Ṣadrâ’s "Kitâb al-mashâ‘ir" and "Al-Ḥikma al-muta‘ālīy," both of which present us with a picture of “al-wujûd” as necessarily delimited by linguistic predication—or “‘ufuq al-bayyân.” Ṣadrâ points the way for a poetics exceeding the “shawb tarkîb” of naïve (apophantic) predication, bringing us nearer “shams al-ḥaqiqa min maṭla‘ al-‘irfân.” Turning finally to the Ṣafavid lyricists and focusing especially on Ṣâ’eb’s dîvân, I demonstrate that the “sabk-i hendî,” especially in exploiting "ḥosn-e ta‘lîl" and the poetic syllogism, is the legatee of precisely the “realist” and “Modern” conscience of language found also in Sohravardî and Mollâ Ṣadrâ.