The idea that some poets in eighteenth and nineteenth century Iran revived Persian poetry by returning to the styles of the classical masters, while poets outside of Iran did not, has deeply impacted how Persian literary history has come to be written. This idea, known as the “literary return,” has left much historiogaphical debris in its wake: the conflation of Persian literary history with that of Iran’s own; the assertion of a greater proprietary right by Iran over the esteemed “masters”; and the erasure from history of many facets of Persian literary culture occurring outside of Iran’s borders. Such a rendering of Persian literary history is insufficient. This talk demonstrates how the idea of “literary return” has impacted the writing of Persian literary history and through the exploration of literary communities in eighteenth and nineteenth century argues that a more integrative approach to Persian literary history writing is needed. This talk will highlight not only literary activities in Iran but also present a case study from South India.
Presented by: Kevin Schwartz, Kluge Fellow, United States Library of Congress