SOAS University of London

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

Modern Persian Prose Literature

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

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 and representative extracts from novels.

Understanding modern Persian prose is an important part of a student's familiarisation with 20th and 21th century Iran and its literature.


155901242 Intensive Persian Langugae

Language year abroad at the University of Mashhad

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Read and understand selected modern Persian prose texts by the mentioned authors.
  • Contextualize the literary texts and understand their Iranian socio-historical background.
  • Learn a new comparative, intercultural and inter-literary perspective on modern Persian prose literature.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week

Scope and syllabus

  • Introduction to modern Persian prose (first translations from French into Persian in the second half of the 19th century, prose writing during the Constitutional Revolution)
  • Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh and the invention of the short story in modern Persian fiction after WWI.
  • Sadegh Hedayat, a pioneer author of modern short stories, novellas and novels in Persian.
  • Mahshid Amirshahi's short stories and novels.

Method of assessment

  • One 2 hour exam in May/June (50%)
  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 6 (25%)
  • One essay (1500 words) to be submitted on day 5, week 11 (25%)

Suggested reading

A selection of Persian texts by Mohammad Ali jamazadeh, Sadegh Hedayat and Mahshid Amirshahi's texts will be given to the students in a module pack.


  • Mohammad Reza Ghanoonparvar, Prophets of Doom: Literature as a Socio-Political Phenomenon in Modern Iran, Lanham, Md., 1984.
  • Michael C. Hillmann, Hedayat's The Blind Owl Forty Years After, Middle East Monograph No. 4, Univ of Texas Press, 1978.
  • Michael C. Hillmann, Persian Prose Fiction: An Iranian Mirror and Conscience. In: Ehsan Yarshater, ed. Persian Literature, New York, 1988, pp. 291-317.
  • Hassan Kamshad: Modern Persian Prose Literature. (Bethesda: Ibex 1996).
  • Heshmat Moayyad, ed., Stories from Iran. (Bethesda: Mage, 1992).

About Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh:

  • Christoph Balay and M. Cuypers, Aux Sources de la nouvelle persane, Paris, 1983.
  • Paul Prachman, Heshmat Moayyad, tr., Once Upon a Time. (New York: Bibliotheca Persica 1985).
  • Entry about Mohammad Ali Jmalzadeh in Encyclopaedia Iranica: 

About Hedayat:

  • Homa Katouzian, Sadeq Hedayat: The Life and Legend of an Iranian Writer. (London: I.B. Tauris 1999).
  • Mchael Beard, Hedayat's "Blind Owl" as a Western Novel. (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1990).
  • Entries about Sadegh Hedayat in Encyclopaedia Iranica:

 About Mahshid Amirshahi:

  • Michael Beard, tr., Labyrinth ("The String of Beads"), Edebiyât, vol. III, No. 1, 1978.
  • John Green, Farzin Yazdanfar, tr., A Walnut Sapling on Masih's Grave: And other Stories by Iranian Women. Greenwood Publishing House, Ann Arbor 1993.
  • Amirhossein Vafa, Race and the Aesthetics of Alterity in Mahshid Amirshahi’s Dadeh Qadam-Kheyr, Iranian Studies 1/2017).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules