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.