Dominic Parviz Brookshaw: Sisters of the Pen: Women Poets in Early Nineteenth-century Iran

Posted on August 28th, 2012 in Events

October 11, 12:15 PM, Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra Street)

Workshop Series: “Persian Literature on the Cusp of Modernity”

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw (Stanford University), “Sisters of the Pen: Women Poets in Early Nineteenth-century Iran”

Abstract: For many in nineteenth-century Iran (both female and male), women’s writing was seen as a transgressive act. However, it is also true that for a good number of women in the Qajar period, composing poetry was not only an integral part of their education in the harem, but also a favorite pastime. Some women of the period employed poetry as a means through which they left a mark on their world, and a handful of women in Qajar Iran earned a livelihood from producing poetry for wealthy patrons. This paper focuses on a key text from the 1820s, Mahmud Mirza’s anthology of women poets, Nuql-i majlis, which contains a representative selection of poetry composed by women (both royal and non-royal) in the first decades of the nineteenth century. These women were active participants in the literary salons of their day, and through the reconstruction of female-centered patronage networks and associated female-only performance venues, this paper shows how, starting in the 1820s, successive generations of women in nineteenth-century Iran were actors in the production, dissemination, and appreciation of poetry. These patronage and poetry production networks should be read as evidence of a female-centered literary tradition, one that was in dialogue with (and often intersected) the dominant one of men; a literary tradition that empowered women to create a sisterhood of poets in which their art could be passed on from mother to daughter, and from daughter to granddaughter (and occasionally from mother to son).

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Persian Literature at Stanford University. He received his B.A. and D.Phil. from Oxford University. efore arriving at Stanford, Dominic Parviz Brookshaw taught medieval and modern Persian literature and Persian language at the University of Manchester (2007-2011), McGill University (2005-2007), and the University of Oxford (2002-2005). His research on pre-modern Persian and Arabic literature explores the intersection between performance, patronage, and desire. He is currently examining the emergence and genesis of Persian wine poetry in the early Islamic period, its relationship to earlier and contemporaneous Arabic wine poetry, and the connection of the genre in both literatures to homoeroticism. In terms of nineteenth-century Persian literature, his research focuses on the production, patronage and dissemination of poetry by women in the early Qajar period (circa 1797-1848), and women poets’ involvement in the Literary Return movement (bazgasht-i adabi). His research on modern/ist twentieth-century Persian poetry is currently centered on women poets and their dialogue with -and ultimate reconfiguration of- the classical Persian poetic canon. Dominic Parviz Brookshaw’s other research interests include literature of the Iranian diaspora, non-Muslim religious minorities in Qajar Iran, and Persian language learning.

Papers are available to Stanford affiliates upon request.

[Co-sponsored by the Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature]

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