Course Description and Texts
A survey of modern(ist) Persian fiction during the Pahlavi Era (1921-79) through the appreciative
reading and discussion of published English translations of nine particulary famous works of Persian
fiction written before the Iranian Revolution in 1978-9 and before the establishment of the Islamic
Republic of Iran. Interestingly, these works of Persian fiction are stories that highlight Islam, patriarchy,
suspicion of or opposition to political authority, traditional attitudes toward women, and suspicion of the
West, all issues significant in Iran and for Iranians decades later. The course texts also highlight new
modernist tendencies and techniques in Persian story-telling.
Four of the course texts are these short stories, available online in the course’s Dropbox folder:
“Persian Is Sugar” (1921) by Mohammad ‘Ali Jamâlzâdeh (1892-1997), “The China Vase” (1946) and
“The Seh’târ” (1946) by Jalâl Âl-e Ahmad (1923-1969), and “‘Esmat’s Journey” (1965) by Ebrâhim
Golestân (b. 1922)
One course text, based on a short story is The Cow: A Screenplay (1970) by Gholâmhosayn Sâ’edi
(1935-1985), also available online in the course’s Dropbox folder. As famous as any Iranian movie ever,
The Cow is available on a DVD with English subtitles.
The other course texts are these four novels: The Blind Owl (1937, 1941) by Sâdeq Hedâyat
(1903-1951), The Mourners of Siyâvash [= Savushun] (1967) by Simin Dâneshvar (1925-2014), Prince
Ehtejâb (1969) by Hushang Golshiri (1937-2000), and Women without Men (1989, completed in 1978)
by Shahrnush Pârsipur (b. 1946). The text of Prince Ehtejâb is available online in the course’s Dropbox
folder, while the other three are paperbacks available for purchase at Co-Op. Movie versions of Prince
Ehtejâb and the first part of The Blind Owl are also available on DVDs with English subtitles.
The course spends more time on The Blind Owl than on other texts because it is the most famous and
controversial work of prose fiction in the history of Persian literature and a story that continues to puzzle
readers who, whether they love it or hate it, have difficulty identifying what actually happens in the story
and what sort of person its narrator is.
The course concludes with a discussion of shared features of course texts and a characterization of
such Persian fiction during the Pahlavi era (1921-1979). In addition to an appreciation of The Blind Owl
and other classic works of Persian fiction, students come away from the course more familiar with with
Iranian society and culture before the Iranian Revolution in 1978/9 and the establishment of the Islamic
Republic of Iran in early 1979.
Oral Reports 25%
Two review tests 25% each
10-page term paper 25%