Wali Ahmadi: Subjects of Literary-Historical Marginality

Posted on August 28th, 2012 in Events

October 25, 2012, 12:15 PM, Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra Street)

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

Wali Ahmad (University of California, Berkeley), “Subjects of Literary-Historical Marginality: Reflections on 19th Century Persian Poetry in Afghanistan”

Abstract:The 19th century represents a major transitional period in the literary and cultural composition and unity of the Persianate sphere. Prior to this period, what conventional literary history calls the Khurasani, Iraqi, and Indian “styles/schools” referred to developments in the greater Persianate world that bespoke its overall literary-cultural cohesiveness. The bazgasht style or period, on the other hand, refers to literary developments within a specific geographic space, i.e. Iran. My presentation aims to place the bazgasht in its larger geographical and chronological context, thereby relating it to major contemporaneous shifts and movements outside Iran. More specifically, I explore the effective  assertion of a new literary style, nothing short of a significant bazgasht, in poetic compositions in Persian in the 19th century Afghanistan. Thus, by offering examples from the works of some prominent poets in Afghanistan, I seek to re-evaluate the Iran-centicity of the bazgasht movement. Furthermore, the paper will discuss some of the primarily non-literary and discursive reasons Persian literature of Afghanistan in the 19th century has been neglected, or expressively marginalized, in the Iranian literary historiography and the subsequent works of Orientalist scholars.

Wali Ahmad is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UCLA. His primary areas of interest include classical and modern Persian literature, literary theory and criticism, and cultural history. Among his publications are Modern Literature of Afghanistan: Anomalous Visions of History and Form (2008), “Exclusionary Poetics: Approaches to the Afghan ‘Other’ in Contemporary Iranian Literary Discourse” (Iranian Studies, 2004), and “The Institution of Persian Literature and the Genealogy of Bahar’s Stylistics” (British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2004). He is currently a book project, titled The Barren Sky of Hope: Contemporary Persian Poetry in English Translation.

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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