Across the Persianate regions of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Eurasia, the discourse of modernization had a deep, perhaps even dominant aesthetic dimension. Apparently disparate anxieties about oriental indolence, homosexuality and unmanliness, flattery and unmeaning speech, and submission to despots all may be understood as elements of a coherent critique of a single literary mode: taghazzul. Insofar as ghazal was a “royal genre” (Ireneusz Opacki), it provided the formal-aesthetic framing for numerous literary and speech genres, and thus for the social and political order. In case studies from across the Persianate zone, this article considers how writers’ refusal of taghazzul, or its excision from their texts, became a recognizable gesture of disaffiliation from the Persianate. In the resulting reordering of the literary field, taghazzul took on new functions in relation to the Western category of lyric.
This article considers how sound—especially Persian phonology, but also music—and gender came together in articulating an Iranian national identity distinct from the Persianate past. Through analysis of the film The Lor Girl as well as close readings of poetry from the first half of the twentieth century by Nasīm-i Shumāl, Parvīz Khaṭībī, and poet-laureate Muḥammad-Taqī Bahār, the article demonstrates how an erotic attachment to language was fostered, in which the very phonology of Persian became the object of desire. Pharyngeal consonants became markers of Arab male sexual deviancy against which a feminized Iranian nation was to be protected. This eroticized discourse of language also contributed to establishing the Tehrani dialect as the Iranian national standard. The article considers how nationalism and modernity impacted the Iranian soundscape, as well as the impact of developments in Iran on Persian and Urdu in South Asia.
This article addresses poetic form as a foundation bridging the literary contexts of Arabic and Persian that exists beyond the bounds of Euro-American influence. We find the originally Arabic science of ʿarūḍ, prosody, used in these two contexts to retool premodern poetic form for the modern era. Questions of form encourage us to think about how modernist poets writing in Persian and Arabic approach their poetry as a craft that emerges not out of engagements with Western literature but rather from a shared poetic past. By tracing formal links across Arabic and Persian, this article argues that paying attention to the premodern tradition of prosodic science they share helps us both to understand the early development of modernist poetry in each language and to avoid explanations informed mostly by literary critical frameworks used to study Western literatures.
This article analyzes a little-known practice called iqtirāḥ—“test of poetic talent” or “poetic competition”—that proliferated in twentieth-century Persian-language periodicals. It examines two case studies: one in Tehran in 1928, which mythologized Nādir Shah (r. 1736–1747), a Turko-Persian monarch, as a national hero, and one in Kabul in 1932, which eulogized Muḥammad Nādir Shah (r. 1920–1933), a ruling monarch at the time, for restoring an Afghan homeland imagined as unified. The article frames iqtirāḥ as an afterlife of Persianate modes of sociability that were reconfigured by modern periodicals to serve the demands of romantic nationalism in the twentieth century. By critically examining the ways in which poetic composition interacts with the formation of a national historiography, this article also shows that any clear-cut distinction between the two is arbitrary.
This article focuses on late Ottoman/Turkish translations of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat (“quatrains”) as part of Perso-Ottoman poetic connectivity in the early twentieth century. Situating the reception of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat at the nexus of world literature, literary historiography, and translatability, the article explores the methodological affordances of translation to redress the overdominance of discursive and historical points of rupture in studies of late Persianate literatures. To that end, the article offers a comparative reading of Hüseyin Daniş’s Rubaiyat-ı Ömer Hayyam (1927), Rıza Tevfik’s Ömer Hayyam ve Rubaileri (1945), both of which are based on their co-authored translation in 1922, and Mevlevi Mustafa Rüşdi b. Mehmet Tevfik’s translation of Khayyam’s quatrains (1931–32). By way of specific attention to translation as hermeneutics, this article suggests that translating after the Persianate did not involve a straight shift from regional translation practices to translation proper nor was it exclusively a modus operandi of literary and linguistic nationalism. In drawing attention to how translation can accommodate both synchronic and diachronic mobility, the article therefore calls for alternative comparative methodologies which attend to persistent textual practices as well as conjunctural discourses in literary history.
This article centers on an Urdu-language manual on lithography, published in 1924 by the Nizami Press in Budaun (United Provinces), to explore how a Muslim printer-publisher in a North Indian qaṣbah tried to reform educational methods in his trade. It introduces the Nizami Press (est. 1905) and compares the manual with similar European and Indian instructional handbooks. How did Indian printers and publishers learn their craft? What were the tools and materials used for lithographic printing in colonial India? And given the popularity of lithography, why were such manuals rarely published in Indian languages? By examining the material and technical aspects of the lithographic printing process explained in the Urdu manual, this article engages with larger scholarly debates revolving around knowledge production, pedagogy, and technological developments in South Asia. Furthermore, it analyzes the manual’s language to demonstrate how printers and publishers were engaged in discourses about nationalism, modernization, and social reform.
This article investigates European collecting of Malay manuscripts during the colonial era to address two inter-related questions: was this collecting instrumental in destroying the Malay manuscript tradition, and are colonial collections accurate representations of Malay manuscript culture? It makes the case that while European intervention was certainly destructive, in fact the majority of Malay-language literary texts survive only in colonial-era collections. It also considers whether colonial collections, precisely because they are high in Malay literary texts and low in Arabic religious texts (known as kitab), are unrepresentative of Malay manuscript culture in the nineteenth century and earlier. Taking Marsden’s seminal collection of Malay manuscripts as its case study, the article provides a fuller account of how this collection was assembled, and traces the individuals known to have acquired manuscripts for Marsden. Newly documented manuscript collections that remain in situ in Indonesia and in Malaysian institutions are discussed as a counterpoint.