SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Modern Persian Prose Literature

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 3, Year 3 of 4 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year

After an introduction covering the changes in Persian literary prose in the nineteenth century and the early moves towards the simplification of the ornate classical style, the module examines the adoption of new genres and styles under Western influence, the tendency towards colloquialism, treatment of political and social issues and the development of these trends up to recent times. The set texts are selected from a range of fictional literature in the form of short stories, representative extracts from novels, and non-fictional pieces such as essays, articles in literary journals, biographies and relevant works of social and political analysis.


Successful completion of at least two years' study of Persian language.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On completion the student should be able to read a variety of literary texts on, if necessary with the aid of a dictionary.


The module normally consists of twice-weekly one-and-a-half hour classes, which include reading, translation and discussion of texts. Students are required to produce translations and write short essays.

Scope and syllabus

Introduction to the module and an overview of thematic and stylistic changes in Persian literary prose in the early years of the twentieth century (including the effects of the Constitutional Movement of 1905-11). Modernist Persian prose literature is then viewed through the study of the works of more prominent Iranian writers from the 1920s to 1979, with special attention paid to the age of secular nationalism (1921-41). 

The early post-war period up to nationalist government of Mosaddeq and the remainder of the Pahlavi period is considered next. Works of prominent writers of the post-revolutionary period and the pervasive themes of the prose literature of this period are looked at briefly towards the end of the second term. Major literary figures studied: Muhammad 'Ali Jamalzadeh, Sadiq Hidayat, Jalal Al-e Ahmad and Simin Danishvar. 

Method of assessment

One three-hour written examination taken in May/June (80%); coursework to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 2 (10%); coursework to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (10%).

Suggested reading

Current Reading List:
  • Muhammad 'Ali Jamalzadeh, Yek¬ bâ€sd yek¬ nabâ€sd, Berlin AHQ 1340/1921 
  • Sadiq Hidayat, Stories from Sih Qatreh Khâ€sn, Tehran 1311, Sayeh-rawshan, Tehran 1312, and Sag-e Velgard, Tehran 1321 
  • Jalal Al-i Ahmad, Mudir-e Madraseh, Tehran 1337, Khas¬ dar M¬q®t, Tehran 1364 and Gharb zadig¬, Tehran 1341 
  • Simin Daneshvar, Stories from Shahri chun Bihisht, Tehran 1354, Be K¬ Sal®m Konam? Tehran 1359 
Background Reading :
  • H. Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Cambridge 1966. 
  • M. R. Ghanoonparvar, Prophets of Doom ... , Lanham MD 1984. 
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht 1968. 
  • E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, Vol. IV, Cambridge 1924 and reprints. 
  • E. G. Brown, The Press and Poetry of Modern Persia, Cambridge 1914. 
  • Iraj Bashiri, The Fiction of Sadeq Hedayat, Lexington 1984. 
  • Homa Katuzian, Sadeq Hedayat, the Life and Legend of an Iranian Writer, London and New York 1991. 
  • Hasan Abedini, Sad S®l D®st®n-niv¬s¬ dar ¡ran I-II, Tehran 1987. 
  • Muhammad Isti'lami, Barras¬-ye Adab¬yy®t-e Imrâ€sz-e ¡ran, Tehran 1974 
  • Farzaneh Milani, Veils and Words: the Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers, London & New York 1992 
  • M. R. Ghanoonparvar, In a Persian Mirror: Images of the West and Westerners in Iranian Fiction, Austin, Texas 1993


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules