SOAS University of London

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

Modern Persian Poetry

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of a module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. A rounded knowledge and critical understanding of the major genres and themes of Modern Persian poetry
  2. Familiarity with the principal critical works on the subject, and familiarity with the structural & textual analysis of the poems of 17th Century to present time
  3. Knowledge of different literary schools, political and social movements instrumental in the developments of modernist Persian poetry
  4. An understanding of literary language, structures and imagery as embodied in selected texts by leading poets
  5. The ability to relate literary structures, themes and imagery to political and cultural changes of the period under study
  6. Acquisition of the critical language to articulate the ways in which language, literature and thought are interrelated

On successful completion of the module the student should be able to study a wide selection of modern Persian poetry independently with some help from translations and dictionaries.


This module is taught over 22 week with 2 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The module offers a brief background to the literary developments in the late mediaeval period that paved the way for the emergence of modernistic literary expression in Iran. The students will then be immersed in the in-depth study of works of selected poets from the 16th century to the modern period. The module proceeds to examine specimens of the Indian Style, the eighteenth century "Literary Reaction", the Western-influenced but formally traditional poetry of the first decades of the twentieth century and the subsequent "New Poetry", followed by the neo-classical compositions and poetry of ‘sacred defence’ remerging in the post 1979, Islamic revolution’ period.  Samples of modern poetry of other ‘Persian’ speaking countries, such as Tajikistan and Afghanistan, will also be looked at and discussed.

The role of censorship in development of poetry, and the influence of modern poetry on other mediums of expression, such as pop songs, rap and spoken word will be studied.  Preparation of the texts for class and background reading will be required.

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1 - Translation and Critical Reading (1000 words) to be submitted in Term 1, week 8, day 5 (10%)
  • Assignment 2 - One essay (2000-2500 words) to be submitted in Term 2, week 3, day 5 (40%) 
  • Assignment 3 - One essay (2000-2500 words) to be submitted in Term 3, week 1, day 5 (40%)
  • Plus one powerpoint, oral presentation on a specific topic (15-20 minutes) at an agreed time with the Convenor (10%)

Suggested reading

This is a selected reading list:

Texts of all poems will be provided as handouts or study packs.

General Works of Reference

  • Thackston, W. M., (Wheeler McIntosh,) A millennium of classical Persian poetry. a guide to the reading and understanding of Persian poetry from the tenth to the twentieth century
  • C. E. Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook, 1980
  • E.G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, London 1902-24 (and reprints - by C.U.P.), Vols II, III. vol. i 1902, ii 1906, iii 1920, iv 1924.
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968.
  • A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London 1958.
  • A.J. Arberry, Persian Poems, Everyman's Library, 1954 (and reprints).  A selection of translations.
  • Julie Meisami,  Medieval Persian Court Poetry, Princeton 1987.
  • History of Persian Literature from the Beginning of the Islamic Period to the Present Day, (Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung 1,  Band 4, Abschnitt 2, Lieferung 2) ed. B. Spuler (Leiden 1981), includes George Morrison, 'Persian Literature (Belles-Lettres) from the Earliest Times to the time of Jami,' and Julian Baldick, ‘Persian Sufi Poetry up to the Fifteenth Century.’
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968.
  • A.J. Arberry, Persian Poems, Everyman's Library, 1954 (and reprints).  A selection of translations.
  • C.A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. IV, parts i and ii, by. F. de Blois, London 1992-4.  This goes up to AD1225 so far.
  • Articles in Ehsan Yarshater (ed.), Persian Literature, [New York] 1987.
  • Encyclopaedia of Islam.  Articles on individual poets and topics, second edition where possible




Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules