The Transition from Traditional Hikayats to Novel Literary Forms in the Prose Narratives from the Period of the Constitutional Revolution

Despite the abundance of the scholarship on the Constitutional Revolution, very little attention has been paid to the literature of the time, and especially to its structural analysis, notwithstanding its great impact on the ensuing literary transformations. This paper attempts to provide some insight into factors that prompted the transformation of the literary structure in the decades prior to the Constitutional Revolution. This study is important not only because it promotes common knowledge about the language that was employed in the decades leading up to the Constitutional, but also because the comprehension of the political and social influences of this era on the literature of the time, would facilitate the understanding of the interactions between the society and literature in the decades that follow.
Drawing on a number of sample texts, the proposed paper will examine the transition of “the outlook” and “point of view” of literary narrators, as structural forms, in the decades leading up to the revolution. It investigates some of the elements that penetrated the elaborate literary forms inherited from the Safavid era, due to the critical outlook taken towards literature after the failures in the wars with Russia in the late eighteenth century. Such criticism-- first arising from the inability to create new forms-- were inspired by a return tothe past. However, with the decline of the glorious Bazgasht movement, a period emerged that can be called the era of epistolary, “belletristic” and essay-like writings. This paper shows how “letter-writing” offered new templates for the self-expression of the writer and narrator in the text. Among the samples used are Ibrahim Bayk’s Travelogue, where the character of Ibrahim Bayk, the first fictional (and not anecdotal) character in contemporary Iranian literature, foreshadowed the introduction of the novel; the writing of Abdulrahim Abutalib (Talibov), especially the book, Masalik al-Muhsinin, and excerpts of Charand va Parand which demonstrate the promotion of an “individualized” viewpoint.