On September 16, 2022, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, Jina Mahsa Amini, was killed in police custody in Tehran. Her death, ignited mass protests across Iran and its diaspora, hailed as the first women-led political uprising in the history of the Middle East – however, as literary references in the slogans and rallying cries of the protesters have unfolded, the roots of anti-patriarchal conflict and dissent have been deep under the surface of Iranian society and documented by poets since the inception of Persian poetry. How has the millennium old corpus of poems helped shape the demands and rallying cries of protestors today? What is the connection between the voices on the page and the voices on the street? By examining the two side-by-side, this lecture will explore the ways in which some of the political slogans that were chanted for the first time over the course of the past 9 months, reference, amplify, and manipulate the literary tradition.
Fatemeh Shams is a Humboldt Foundation-EUME fellow and associate professor of Persian literature at University of Pennsylvania. She received her doctoral degree in Middle Eastern Studies from University of Oxford. Her work focuses on the intersection of literature, society, and politics. Her first monograph, A Revolution in Rhyme: Poetic Co-Option Under the Islamic Republic (Oxford University Press, 2021) is the first comprehensive study of the intersection of poetry and politics in post-revolutionary Iran. It charts the evolution of poetry and patronage in the Persian literary tradition with specific focus on the post-revolutionary Iran and the role of state-sponsored literary institutions and the ideological state apparatus in the formation of official literature. She is currently working on her next monograph which is the first comprehensive study of modern Persian poetry of exile.
Anne-Marie McManus is a comparative literary scholar of Arabic, English, and French literatures in the 20th and 21st century. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. She has published on poetics, comparative and theoretical methods, and contemporary Arabic literatures and cultures in venues such as Critical Inquiry, The Cambridge History of World Literature, Books & Ideas, International Journal of Middle East Studies, Journal of World Literature, and Expressions Maghrébines. Her first book charts the emergence of a transregional Arabic literature across the Maghreb and Mashreq after decolonization, notably under the influence of Arab nationalism and the Algerian War of Independence. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, NYU Abu Dhabi, and the European Research Council (ERC). She oversees the ERC-funded project SYRASP at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.