For many of us, modern Iran calls to mind only hostage-taking terrorists and gun-toting mullas. These media images belie the complex realities of a highly sophisticated people with a cultural and literary tradition going back many centuries struggling to come to grips with the rise of western power and modernization. Their efforts to forge an independent modern identity is given full expression in a variety of new literary forms and the emerging medium of film. In this course, we analyze various literary and cinemagraphic texts against the background of the history and social developments in Iran in the twentieth century. In brief lectures and long discussions, we will explore how modern Iranian writers utilize the expressive techniques and artistic potentialities of their mediums to give voice to the rapid and sometimes violent transformations of society in which they live. Among the issues that we will consider are: the impact of the West, the tension between tradition and modernity, the antagonisms between authors and authorities, the changing roles of women, the “engaged” writing of the 60's and 70's, village versus city, and developments in cinema and writing since the Islamic revolution.
In addition to regular class meetings, students will be required to attend five film screenings in the evening. All students will be asked to write brief response papers for each film. For Intensive Writing credit, undergraduates will be required to write four short papers. Graduate students will write one short paper and an extended research paper.