Modern Reflections of Classical Traditions in Persian Fiction

Author: Khorrami, Mohammad Mehdi
This book describes and analyzes contemporary Iranian fiction through the technical components of Persian literary tradition. Texts examined include: Tuba va Ma’na-ye Shab; Ghazaleh Alizadeh’s “Dadresi”; Ayenehha-Ye Dardar; and the short stories of Shahriyar Mandanipur.


"Important in postmodern literary criticism is the rejection of totalizing or universalizing narratives in the criticism of literary works. Using the ideas of "literariness" as developed by Roman Jacobson and the Russian formalists, and of "dialogism" and "polyphony" from Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the novel, Khorrami seeks the tools and concepts for the criticism of modern (i.e., 20-21st-century) Persian fiction within the Persian literary tradition itself. Thus, he rejects the work of Western and Westernized critics and many attributions of Western influence as "neo-Orientalist discourse," which he views as generally reductionist. Avoiding the formalists' notion of literary criticism as a scientific discipline through the use of universal categories, the author develops his flexible theory in a cogent manner. He devotes the first part of the book to working out the theory and the remainder to applying his theory to a prominent novel and some short stories. He chooses his examples carefully, and his theory is accommodating enough to illuminate various fictional structures. This is a thoughtful book and an interesting contribution to postmodernist criticism of Persian fiction. Summing Up: Recommended. Persian and comparative literature collections serving upper-division undergraduates through faculty." - CHOICE

“… referring to a socio-political discourse that ‘has been the dominant discourse of literary criticism in regard to twentieth-century Iranian fiction’ Khorrami explains the link between this discourse and that of the Orientalist, arguing that one of the major consequences of the predominance of this discourse has been the lack of understanding and appreciation of many aspects of modern Iranian fiction…. Khorrami instead employs Roman Jakobson’s discussion of literariness, the experience of Russian Formalism, and Bakhtin’s theories of the novel and novelization to provide the theoretical framework for his subsequent chapters…. The context within which this conceptualization process functions and with which it interacts is provided through explication de texte and intertextual allusions that comprise the descriptive aspect of the book…. The most important contribution of [this book] is the construction and definition of new concepts which not only reveal some of the under-explored aspects of modern Iranian fiction but also, and more importantly, define a methodology which can be used in future studies.” – Prof. M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Te University of Texas at Austin

“… a vade mecum for all those involved with Persian literature in Iran. Dr. Khorrami establishes all the know-how, the vocabulary, and the necessary points of reference that are indispensable for our own Western scholarship, but are even more essential for the Iranian literati. This book will serve as a beacon, illuminating the trajectory through a maze of rules for all those who are presently groping through the darkness, trying to find their way.” – Prof. Peter Chelkowski, New York University

"What Khorrami does so well os to analyze examples of recent pieces of modern Persian literature with respect for that literature's structures/'literariness' and for the texts themselves, and through these analyses he shows a certain evolution in recent Persian literature. ... It is a fine book in many respects." -- Prof. Claus V. Pedersen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
I. Instead of an Introduction
II. In Search of Fundamental Components: Modern Persian Fiction and the Myth of Imitating the West; Content-Oriented Fiction and Double Standard in the Evaluation of the Literatures of Iran and the West; Transition to an Independent Discipline of Criticism; Some Fundamental Concepts of Fiction; What Does Reality Do? Literary Reality; Literary Tradition and the Attentuation of Conceptual Generalizations
III. In Harmony with God, At Peace with Satan: A Reading of Tuba va Ma’na-ye Shab
IV. Beyond the God-Satan Dualism: The Re-Emergence of Competing Narratives (Ghazaleh Alizadeh’s “Dadresi”)
V. Satan, Forerunner of Revolution or Prince of Exile: The Reflection of Identity Transformation in Ayenehha-Ye Dardar
VI. Toward a Literary Laboratory: Architectural Fluidity in Mandanipur’s Short Stories
VII. In Place of a Conclusion
Selected Bibliography; Index