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.
Mohammad-Taqi Bahār’s 1942 textbook Sabkshenāsi (“Stylistics”) was a landmark text in modern Persian literary studies. It coined terms (like sabk-e Hendi or the “Indian style” of Persian poetry) and laid out a tripartite, geographical-temporal model for the history of Persian poetry which largely remain dominant today. Bahār’s articulation of a national canon of Iranian literature (comprising writings in various stages of the Persian language as well as Arabic) made Sabkshenāsi an important text not only for the nascent department of Persian literature at the University of Tehran for which it was written, but for twentieth-century Iranian nationalism in general. By combining traditional forms of knowledge with the methodologies pioneered by European Orientalists, it played an important role in modernizing Persian literary studies. The influential introduction to Sabkshenāsi is translated here into English in full for the first time, along with a preface explaining the work’s importance for Persian literary studies.
This article examines the translation and domestication of an important piece of Persian didactic literature, the Gulistan of Saʿdi, into modern Chinese. We address all of the Chinese translations of this text, focusing on Yang Wanbao’s translation published in 2000. Yang transforms the text according to the imperatives of the Chinese state, altering the homoerotic scenes of the original and rendering Sufi Islamic concepts into a Confucian or Buddhist idiom. The result is a translation that serves as a significant text for the Jahriyya Sufi order in China, but also an articulation of Chinese Islam countenanced by the People’s Republic.