SUMMARY:This panel examines important issues related to the ethno-linguistic and religious diversity of women poets in Iran. In particular, the four panelists consider the various means by which poetic discourse allowed women of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to probe questions of gender, encounter traditional norms, express local literary genealogies, and challenge entrenched literary perspectives.
There has been a recent groundswell of scholarship on women poets in Iran. Building on the legacy of the early-modern biographical dictionaries (taḏkiras), which began with the mid-sixteenth century Javāher-al-ʿAjāyeb (Jewels of Wonder) of Faḵri Herāvi, scholars such as Ruhangiz Karāči, Dick Davis, and Sunil Sharma have investigated the obscured role of women in the Iranian literary tradition, particularly in the context of the Persian language, court culture, and women as minor interlocutors of renowned male poets. Using this foundation as a source of inspiration but providing an alternative to the nationalist literary historiography of Iranian poetry, this set of papers inquires into the process of literary marginalization of women in the Iranian literary canon, and the history of women-driven poetic forms.
Addressing the marginalized identities of poets who do not fit squarely into the male Muslim Persian archetype, and whose apparently “meagre” output conceals a distinctive poetic subjectivity, these papers trace the way women poets navigated the same historical terrain as their male counterparts, but often deriving radically unique insights. The first paper examines the works of several modern Turkish-speaking Azeri women poets in Iran who challenged marginalization in the realm of both gender and ethnicity. The second paper inquires into the recurrence of the perennial theme of national independence in Zandoḵt Širāzi’s (1909-1952) poetry and prose. The third paper argues that the poetic voice in the poetry of ʿĀlam'tāj Žāla Qāʾem Maqāmi (1883-1947) and Parvin Eʾteṣāmi (1907-1941) echoes a profound struggle for women’s self-assertion. The fourth paper addresses the absence of women’s voices in Kurdish literary histories, anthologies, and academic studies on Kurdish literature over the span of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
The presenters together show the consequences of poetic production stemming from non-normative loci, detail the means through which marginal women poets worked to assert identities counter to conventional literary history, and explore the efficacy of discursive strategies used by these women to carve out a place for them in the corpus.