Abstract

Iraj Mirzā has a reputation for excessive sexual content in his poetic oeuvre. His “forbidden literature,” so to speak, and to quote Paul Sprachman, has suffered unjustly from charges of frivolity, and while vanity and profanity do indeed feature prominently, these allegations disregard the artistic high-mindedness that is ever-present in the prince’s extensive canon. Recent scholarship has attempted to rehabilitate his reputation by highlighting the formalistic aspects of his poetry as well as by emphasizing the striking intricacies of his particular poetic perspective. In this article, I will delineate Iraj’s line of poetic maturity—especially when interlaced with thoroughgoing thoughts of Constitutional Revolution—and will discuss how, juxtaposing the stylistic decorum of classical Persian poetry with interlocution and colloquialism, he could impact the upcoming movement of new poetry (she‘r-e no) in Iran. More emphatically, I will illuminate how Iraj Mirza’s attitude toward women is self-contradictory—though in some places he seems sympathetic toward women, criticizing the restrictions placed on them in Qajar Iran, he ultimately betrays them by degrading them to the status of sex objects as in ‘Ārefnāmeh, where he depicts the veil as an obstacle to women’s and the country’s progress and he contaminates women’s chastity by justifying his (character’s) raping. Iraj’s boldness in addressing female genitalia and sexual intercourse pushed the boundaries of literature in transitional Qajar era; however, seen from a feminist perspective, his poetry equates the Persian literary woman to the fictionalized demimonde who wished to be sexually abused.

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