School of Modern Languages
The Persian Group
Alternative Paths in Persian Cultural Production
11.45- 12: Tea and Coffee
12- 13: Poetry
Vahid Davar: Nezami, an Equal of Kings, a Giver of the Means of Reigning
Farshad Sonboldel: Verse-essay in Modern Persian Poetry: the Return of Didactic Literature
13-13.30: News Media
Mahtab Saadatmandi: A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Persian News Bulletins of The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), BBC and Iran International Television
13.30-14.30: Buffet Lunch
Parviz Jahed: The Literary Style of Ebrahim Golestan’s Short Stories
Fatemeh-Mehr Khansalar: The Tale of that Distant, Foggy Landscape”: An Ecocritical Reading of Houshang Golshiri’s “Naqāsh Bāghāni” (The Painter of Bāghān)
15.45-17: Drama and Cinema
Saeed Talajooy: From Mehrin Negār to Tārā: The Evolution of Female Protagonists in Bahram Beyzaie’s The Snake King (1966) and The Ballad of Tārā (1979)
Nahid Ahmadian: Indigenizing Shakespeare: Revisiting Iranian theatrical forms in Seh Bāz’khāni
Abstracts and Bios
Title: Nezami, an Equal of Kings, a Giver of the Means of Reigning
Vahid Davar Ghalati, Poet and PhD Student, University of St Andrews
Abstract. In a couplet which has gained currency amongst Iranians, Nezami Ganjavi (c. 1141–1209) places poets close to prophets. Considerably less famous than the proverbial couplet and its likes in Nezami’s oeuvre are excerpts about the equality of poets with kings. In Nezami’s poetic thought the prophet, the king, and the poet owe their unrivalled status to their relationship with Sorush, God’s messenger in Zoroastrian religious literature. Sorush’s name derives from ‘sru’ an old Persian word meaning both ‘hearing’ and ‘obedience’. In the Eqbalnameh, the second part of the Eskandarnameh, the most famous versified romance of Alexander in Persian literature, Nezami claims to be one of those ‘hearers’. His two other rationales for his self-commendation as a king are: firstly, he brings order to the world with his words, like a just and powerful king; and secondly, he publishes his words, and the act of publishing is the very deed that gives him and every other author a kind of authority. Furthermore, reading between the lines of Nezami’s eulogies for his patron king, Nosrat-al-Din Abubakr, one realises that the poet counts himself as a bestower of the means of reigning upon his lord. In this paper, Nezami’s claim to kingship is examined in the light of extracts from the Eqbalnameh. Ultimately, Nezami’s account of the invention of Alexander’s famous mirror will be analysed to cast light on the role of kings’ wise men, including poets, in creating them the means they wield power with.
Vahid Davar is the author of two poetry books and several essays in various Iranian literary journals. He completed his MRes in Creative Writing at the University of Liverpool and is currently a PhD candidate in Persian Studies at the University of St Andrews, working on the conceptions of kingship in the Persian imagination. Davar’s doctoral research is on the cycle of Jamshid-Zahhak and its versions and repercussions across different literary genres. In his capacity as a poet, Vahid Davar has had several collaborations with interdisciplinary artists and his poems have been exhibited at FACT Liverpool, HELDENREIZER Contemporary, and NYU Abu Dhabi. Davar’s poems have also been anthologised in Persian, English, and German. ‘Something the Colour of Pines on Fire’, a pamphlet of his self-translated poems is due to be published soon by Matecznik Press.
Email: [email protected]
Title: Verse-essay in Modern Persian Poetry: the Return of Didactic Literature
Dr Farshad Sonboldel, Poet and Senior Liberian, University of California, Santa Barbara
Verse essay is a poetic form which was first used by Roman poets and philosophers such as Horace and Lucretius and reached its apex in the works of the 18th-century English poet Alexander Pope. A verse essay is generally defined as a didactic poetic piece in which the poet examines a theoretical or philosophical topic. In the past few decades, some poets who have been trying to revive verse essays, experimented in this form with politically charged subjects including sexuality, race, environment, etc. One can argue that although they have never been categorized as verse essays, many canonical Persian poems contain profound critical, theoretical, and philosophical content. Mas’ud Sa’d’s Habsiahs (Prison Poems), Naser Khosrow’s qasidas (Odes), or Mohammad-Taqi Bahar’s mostazad (Refrain-bearing ghazal/Sonnets), and seminary textbooks composed in verse could all be seen as examples of verse essays, or the broader category of verse epistle. In other words, although these didactic/educational works have been examined as the canonical works of Persian poetry in various contexts, they were never studied as independent essayistic literary forms. Therefore, the potential of this poetic form to engage with the socio-political issues and its aesthetic suggestions for the future of Persian poetry were never discussed by literary scholars.
In this talk, I will first present a historical background of this poetic form in the context of world literature. Then, I will demonstrate the significance of verse epistles and verse essays in the history of Persian poetry. Finally, I will elucidate the role that practicing verse essays could play in the contribution of contemporary Persian poetry to socio-political activism.
Farshad Sonboldel is the Middle East Librarian and Area Studies Collection Strategist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds a PhD in Modern languages (Modern Persian poetry) from the University of St. Andrews, UK. He is a poet, literary critic and researcher in modern Persian literature. His books in Persian include two selections of his poems titled Metropolis (2015) and She’r-e Boland-e Sharayet (2019), a research monograph, Gozaresh-e Nahib-e Jonbesh-e Adabi-e Shahin: Tondar Kia (2016) , and an edited volume on the current trends of the literary criticism in Persian literature titled Naqd-e Irad (2021). His forthcoming monograph is titled The Rebellion of Poetic Forms: Politics of Poetic Experimentation in Modern Persian Poetry. He is the book review editor for MELA Notes (Journal of the Middle East Librarians’ Association).
Email: [email protected]
Title: A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Persian News Bulletins of The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), BBC and Iran International Television
Mahtab Saadatmandi, Journalist and PhD candidate, University of St Andrews
In this paper, I examine the contradictory approaches that Persian TV channels inside and outside Iran display towards similar pieces of news. This is a work in progress, but in this presentation, I will conduct a comparative analysis on two pieces of political news to identify the way they are presented to reflect the respective perspectives of these three channels.
Mahtab Saadatmandi was born in Tehran. She received her Master’s degree in Persian language and literature from the Azad University of Tehran in 2012. Her master’s dissertation was on Narrative and Feminine Writing in the Works of Iranian Women Writers (2001-2010). She has published a paper on the representation of women in post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. In July 2016, she also presented her conference paper on cultural production in Iran during the Reform Era, held at the University of St Andrews. In her second master’s degree, she studied Global Media and Communications at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her dissertation was entitled Intersectionality in New Social Movements: Women’s Mobilization Under the #MeToo Movement in Iran.
Following her graduation, Mahtab worked as an independent journalist for different media platforms covering a wide range of socio-political issues and as a Newsdesk Producer at Volant Media, the first 24/7 Persian news channel in London. She is currently a PhD student at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Mahtab is currently working on her research, Narratives of the Real: A Comparative Discourse Analysis of the Persian News Bulletins of The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), BBC Persian and Iran International Television.
Email: [email protected]
Title: The Literary Style in Ebrahim Golestan’s Short Stories
Parviz Jahed: Cinema Scholar and PhD Candidate, University of St Andrews
Abstract. Among the modern Iranian writers, Ebrahim Golestan has a significant position due to his unique poetic and terse prose style. As an auteur filmmaker, producer, writer and translator and an outstanding cultural and intellectual figure, Golestan had a decisive role in the formation and development of modern literature and cinema in Iran. Golestan’s short stories are significant in terms of style, form and narrative and the way they freely move between poetic and allegorical, political and philosophical metaphors and concepts. In this paper I just concentrate on Golestan’s literary style in his short stories. Golestan’s language is simple and natural on the surface but metaphoric and allegorical in its suggestiveness. I argue that Golestan’s style is influenced on the one hand by the classical Iranian writers such as Sa’adi and Beyhaqi, and on the other hand by the style of modern American and European writers.
I challenge the widely held perception that Golestan’s fiction was predominantly influenced by the narrative style of American writers such as Earnest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and William Faulkner (Golestan, 1998, p.243 / Abedini 1990, p.188). Instead, I argue that his style is closer to the French Nouveau Roman and that he was more closely familiar with the French language and closely aligned himself with writers such as Alain Robbe-Grillet, Marguerite Duras and Nathalie Sarraute. Like nouveau roman writers, Golestan generally rejected the traditional use of chronology, plot and cause and effect (causal) logic between incidents in his stories, and instead of these he concentrated on space, time, objects and memories.
Keywords: modern literature, Persian literature, Ebrahim Golestan, Nouveau Roman
Parviz Jahed is an independent scholar, a film critic, film researcher, filmmaker and lecturer in film studies. Jahed is the editor-in-chief of Cine-Eye, a UK based film journal focused on independent and art cinema in Iran and around the world. Jahed is the editor of the two volumes of Directory of World Cinema: Iran which were published by the Intellect publication in the UK in 2012 and 2017. Jahed’s new book The New Wave Cinema in Iran, A Critical Study will be published by the Bloomsbury Publication in the UK in June 2022. Jahed received his MRes from the University of St-Andrews. He is currently doing his PhD research on Ebrahim Golestan and the Rise of Modern Cinema in Iran at the University of St-Andrews.
Email: [email protected]
Title: The Tale of that Distant, Foggy Landscape”: An Ecocritical Reading of Houshang Golshiri’s “Naqqāsh Bāghāni” (The Painter of Bāghān)
Fatemeh-Mehr Khansalar, writer and independent Scholar
In this article, I am analysing Houshang Golshiri’s short story, “The Painter of Baghan” from an ecocritical perspective to examine how it see how the relationship between humans and nature is shaped in the story. I explore the methods that the author uses to give voice to nature and how he goes beyond the subject-object, phallocentric view of the world. I argue that Golshiri challenges the dualistic thinking of his characters when they encounter nature and nonhumans and depicts nature as a living place for all humans and nonhumans.
Fatemeh-Mehr Khansalar is a writer of fiction. Her first collection of short stories, The Unfinished Plot was published in 2003, and the second one, The Snowy Owl in 2019. The latter was long listed for the ‘Mehregan Prize’ and won the ‘7-Eqlims Prize’ in Iran in 2019. She has been a member of the editorial board of two major Iranian periodicals for 20 years.
Khansalar has a MA in Middle Eastern Cultural and Literary Studies from University of St Andrews, UK, and is currently preparing her novel for publication (in Persian) while working on a collection of ecocritical essays on Iranian cultural products (in English).
Email: [email protected]
DRAMA and CINEMA
Title: From Mehrin Negār to Tārā: The Evolution of Female Protagonists in Bahram Beyzaie’s The Snake King (1966) and The Ballad of Tārā (1979)
Dr Saeed Talajooy, Lecturer in Persian, University of St Andrews
Abstract: The Ballad of Tārā, the second film in Bahram Beyzaie village trilogy is focused on negotiating a collective identity that is aware of the past but has transcended the obsession with glorifying the past and its heroes. The film marks Beyzaie’s most explicit engagement with “the Iranian imaginal,” where the religious and secular heroes of the past await to be conjured to act as role-models and guides of the present. Rather than glorifying the ideal heroes of hegemonic masculinity, however, the film suggests that these heroes were victims of a violent culture of brother-killing and craved to have a normal life of hard work, prosperity, and fertility. To do so, however, Beyzaie creates a female protagonist whose deeds echo those of Mehrin Negār in the folktale of “Mehrin Negār and the Snake King”. Thus, just like Mehrin Negār, who embodies fertility and perseverance and travels to the land of demons to reclaim her husband, or like Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, who goes to the underworld to reclaim the resurrecting god Tammuz, Tārā does her best to reclaim the Historical Man from death. In The Snake King, the hero is still a man who, is, nevertheless, brought back to life because a woman who wants him back risks her life for him. In The Ballad of Tārā, however, the final episode marks the return of the hero of the past to the underworld in a process that enables Tārā to rise as an ideal questioning heroine and citizen.
Saeed Talajooy is lecturer (Assistant Professor) of Persian at the University of St Andrews. Saeed has taught and published on literature, drama and cinema in Iran and the UK, and is currently teaching comparative literature and Persian literature modules. His research is on the point of convergence between cultural theory and literature, performance and film and on the reflections of the changing patterns of Iranian identities in Persian literature and Iranian theatre and cinema. It involves analysing the works of Iranian poets, novelists, playwrights and filmmakers to find how they refashion indigenous forms and characters or adapt Iranian or non-Iranian myths, history and literary narratives, to challenge dominant political and cultural discourses. Another aspect of his research involves comparative studies of cultural resistance in Africa and the Middle East. His publications include several articles on Iranian theatre and cinema, a co-edited volume entitled Resistance in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies: Literature, Cinema and Music (Routledge 2012). His two monographs on Bahram Beyzaie’s Cinema and Theatre are scheduled to be published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2023.
Email: [email protected]
Indigenizing Shakespeare: Revisiting Iranian Theatrical Forms in Seh Bāz’khāni
Dr Nahid Ahmadian, Lecturer in English, University of Maryland
The trilogy Seh Bāz’khāni (Three Re-Readings) is a collection of three adaptations of Shakespeare’s King Lear, Hamlet, and The Tempest. Written and staged by Bazi Theater Group between 1997 to 2005 they register attempts to synthesize global stories with indigenous theatrical forms in search of a new theatrical language. Written by Atila Pesyani, Tabār-e Khūn (The Blood Descendants) reconfigures King Lear in a story that blends techniques from taziyeh, takht-e howzi, and mir-e norūzi to create a multi-layered narrative that defies a definite ending. Qahveh Qajari (Qajar Coffee), the second work in the collection, retells the story of Hamlet in a metatheatrical play that parodies Shakespeare’s tragedy by appropriating takht-e howzi elements. The last in the collection, Bahr al-Gharāyeb (The Sea of Wonders), offers Charmshir’s radical modernization of The Tempest in a play that replaces the Mediterranean setting of Shakespeare’s story with the local culture of Southern Iran.
These works create dynamic platforms where the global and the local meet and integrate to advance new forms of adaptation. This paper studies the ways Pesyani and Charmshir revisit Shakespeare’s classical works in search of a theatrical language that features new performative mechanism of indigenous and local forms.
Nahid Ahmadian is a Lecturer of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. She received her second Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Maryland where she completed her dissertation “The Development of Theater in Post-Revolutionary Iran from 1979 to 1997.” Nahid obtained her first Ph.D. in English from the University of Tehran where she taught English and world literature during and after graduation. She has published articles and translation books on western philosophy and comparative drama studies. Her translations include An Introduction to Modern European Philosophy (2008); Nietzsche, an Introduction (2009); The After-Dinner Joke (2016 & 2018); and Fen: A Play (2019). Nahid has served as a researcher at the Academy of Persian language and Literature and as a reviewer in Theatre Quarterly, an Iranian journal on theater studies. She teaches World Literature and Social Change, and World Literature by Women at the University of Maryland.
Email: [email protected]