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A History of Literary Criticism in Iran



In the historical analysis of modern Persian literary criticism the contribution made by tenth century Iranian socio-political enlightened thinkers of Iran regretfully have not been fully examined as yet. This book contains a comprehensive research on the works of leading figures in the field of literary criticism in modern Iranian thought of the nineteenth century: Mirza Fath `Ali Akhundzade, Mirza Malkom Khan, Mirza `Abd al-Rahim Talebof and Zeyn al-`Abedin Maraghe`i. Inclusion of Ahmad Kasravi and Sadeq Hedayat was considered appropriate later due to some common aspects of critical attitude to the predecessors.

These critics who employed their thoughts and pens in the service of the masses criticized ignorance, injustice and despotism, and since they were experienced authorities on literature, they attacked the writers and poets whose works served despotism. These criticisms were the first seeds of modern literary criticism sown in the field of social and political life, which has helped the young tree of literary criticism to bear fruit.

The product of four years of research work by the author in this field, are worth considering because it can indicate the contributions made by distinguished social and political reformists of Iran in the nineteenth century.

The author is well-known to researchers in the field of Iranian studies. The publication of this book is useful in familiarizing the readers with one of the most crucial aspects of progressive and critical thought in the Iranian modern era.

The Persian edition of this book, entitled Roshangaran-e Irani va Nagd-e Adabi was well-received by academic circles, book critics and readers.


Iraj Parsinejad's account of the beginnings of Iranian "scientific" literary criticism is a very welcome and useful survey of an important but hitherto neglected factor in the development of the criteria by which twentieth century Persian literature came to be written. His work is especially interesting and valuable on the contributions of the earliest and relatively little known writers, Akhundzade and Kermani, whose importance in the emergence of modern Persian letters is convincingly demonstrated.

— Dick Davis. Professor of Persian, Ohio State University

Until recently, the history of literary criticism in Iran was a neglected area of inquiry. This book, which has been in preparation for many years, features a descriptive history of that crucial field in the latter part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries. It also includes biographies of several major literary critics, which gives it a secondary use as a source of information on the evolution of aesthetic norms in modern Iran.

— Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak. Professor of Persian, University of Washington


History of Persian Literary Criticism: From Pre Islam to the Early Qajar Era
Development of Modern Literary Criticism Literary Criticism (1866-1906)
Mirza Fath ‘Ali Akhundzade (1812-1878)
Akhundzade, the Founder of Modern Literary Criticism in Iran
Reactions to Qeritika
Contemporary Reactions to Qeritika
Social and Literary Criticism
Akhundzade’s Views on Literary Criticism
Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani (1853-1896)
Kermani and Literary Criticism
Fann-e Goftan va Neveshtan (The Art of Speaking and Writing)
Name-ye Bastan (The Book of Ancient Times)
Ayine-ye Sekandari (The Alexandrian Mirror)
Name-ye Sokhanvaran or Ayin-e Sokhanvari (The Book of Eloquent Speakers or the Rules of Eloquence)
Takvin va Tashri‘ (Creation and Lawmaking)
Se Maktub (Three Letters)
Sad Khatabe (One Hundred Lectures)
Factors Leading to Kermani’s Intellectual Modernism
An Overview of Kermani’s Ideas
Mirza Malkom Khan (1855-1898)
Malkom’s Views
Malkom’s Prose
Reform of the Alphabet
Malkom and Literary Criticism
Malkom’s Satire and Qazvini’s Criticism
The Literary Criticism of Malkom and Others
‘Abd al-Rahim Talebof (1834-1911)
Talebof and Literary Criticism
Ketab-e Ahmad ya Safine-ye Talebi
Masalek al-Mohsenin
Pure Persian
Reform of the Alphabet
Literature and Ethics
Zayn al-‘Abedin Maraghe’i (1838-1911)
Intellectual Development
Siyahatname-ye Ebrahim Beyk
Siyahtname’s Plot
Maraghe’i and Literary Criticism
Clear and Simple Prose
Ahmad Kasravi (1890-1946)
Kasravi and Literary Criticism
Kasravi and Hafez
Kasravi and Sa‘di
Kasravi and Novels
Kasravi and Literary Research
Kasravi and the Persian Language
Kasravi’s Impact
Sadeq Hedayat (1903-1951)
Sadeq Hedayat and Literary Criticism
Introduction to Khayyam’s Quatrains
Qazziye (Parody) in the Works of Sadeq Hedayat
Modern Style in Literary Research (Shive-ye Novin dar Tahqiq-e Adabi)
The Story of Naz (Dastan-e Naz)
Modern Styles in Persian Poetry
Academy’s Dictionary (Farhang-e Farhangestan)
Points About Vis and Ramin
On Iran and the Persian Language
On Assadi’s Persian Dictionary
Kafka’s Message
Appendix: Translations of Akhundzade’s Works
A. Criticism (Qeritika)
B. Faultfinding Treatise (Resale-ye Irad)
C. On Rumi and His Work (Darbare-ye Molla-ye Rumi va Tasnif-e u)
D. On Verse and Prose (Darbare-ye Nazm va Nasr)
E. Preface to the Book (Fehrest-e Ketab)
F. Note to the Scribe (Khetab be Kateb)
G. Note to the Narrator (Khetab be Naqel)
H. Letter to Mirza Aqa Tabrizi (Maktub be Mirza Aqa Tabrizi)
I. The Art of Criticism (Fann-e Kritika)
J. The Principles of Writing (Osul-e Negaresh)


Iraj Parsinejad was born in Abadan, Iran in 1939 and educated at the University of Tehran (B.A. in Persian Literature and M.A. in Linguistics). He has studied as a post graduate student at the Wolfson College, Oxford (1974-78). He was invited to teach at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in 1985 as a visiting professor, later being employed as a full-time faculty member. This book is the product of fourteen years of research.

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