Women's poetry in early Qajar Iran:
Some context to Táhirih's poetry

By Dominic Parviz Brookshaw

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #109
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 16–20, 2012
(see list of papers from #109)

    In this paper I seek to answer the following questions:
    1. What contribution did women make circa 1800-1830 to the production of poetry in Iran?
    2. To what extent did women act as patrons for female and male poets in this period?
    3. What training did women receive in the poetic arts?
    4. How was their poetry disseminated?
    5. To what extent was nineteenth-century women's poetry in Iran viewed as part of a longer history of women's writing?
    6. To what extent did the most accomplished women poets of the period stand on a par with the leading male poets of the day?
    Although the primary texts studied here (anthologies, divans and court-sponsored histories) emphasise the role played by individual women poets, I seek to detect patterns within royal and urban elite women's circles, as well as echoes of dominant literary movements and the broader, contemporary, male-dominated literary context of early nineteenth-century Iran. Close reading of literary and historical source material from the early nineteenth century helps us to challenge the widely-held assumption that women did not contribute to the literary reforms of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in Iran. Work on the earliest women poets of Qajar Iran enables us to imagine a literary background and context for the Babi orator and poet, Tahira Qurrat al-`Ayn (d.1852).

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