Method and Formation in Iranian Theater Histories

By Nahid Ahmadian
Submitted to Session P6633 (Crises of Representation, Reform, and Recovery in 18th-21st c. France, Iran, & Turkey, 2021 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries; Comparative; Cultural Studies; Drama; Historiography; Iranian Studies; Persian; Theater;
In a historiographical study, this paper explores the ways Iranian theater histories engage with the registration and representation of Iranian theater. Prior to the first western forms of theater histories, performance traditions in Iran were mostly recorded in classical poetry, ancient images, or engravings on pottery and canvases. The systematic registration of the tradition appeared nearly a century after the introduction of the western form of theater to Iran in the mid-19th century. The beginning of western theater marked a transition from oral tradition to print theater. This resulted in a typological shift in the existing records and archives on Iranian theater. The refashioning of this transition within the framework of western historiographies has been a challenge to Iranian theater historians since then. This has resulted in various forms of theater histories that while partially stay within the framework of the western theater historiographies, divert from the mandates of the genre. Iranian theater historians, in other words, have formed a hybrid method of a historical narrative to speak to the bifurcated nature of Iranian theater archives. This paper reviews the tradition of these histories written by Iranian theater scholars on the indigenous and western forms of theater. In a reviewal survey, the paper examines the methodological development of the scholarship since the 1960s. The data collected for this purpose is based on the study of 125 histories (in Persian and English) from books to book chapters. These sources are partially or entirely engaged with the records of Iranian theatrical productions. Among these sources are Beiza’i’s A Study of Iranian Theater, Floor’s The History of Theater in Iran, Janti Ata’i’s The Origin of Performance in Iran, Malekpour’s Drama in Iran, and Amjad’s The Rise of the Iranian Theater between 1821 and 1921, to name a few.