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While Iran and France may be seemingly very distant in terms of both geography and culture, new translations of Persian literature, the invention of the Aryan myth, increased travel between France and Iran, and the unveiling of artefacts from ancient Susa at the Louvre are among the factors that radically altered France’s perception of Iran during the long nineteenth century. 

This is reflected in the literary culture of the period. Iran’s history and culture remained a constant source of inspiration across different generations and artistic movements, from the ‘Oriental’ poems of Victor Hugo to those of Anna de Noailles, from Théophile Gautier to his daughter Judith. Iran also played a central role in Michelet, Renan, and Al-Afghani’s debates on world history and religion. Alternatively joyous, as in Félicien David’s opera Lalla-Roukh, and ominous, as in Massenet’s Le Mage, Iran elicited a multiplicity of treatments. This is most obvious in the travelogues of Flandin, Gobineau, Loti, Dieulafoy, and Bibesco, which describe the same cities and cultural practices in altogether different ways. Under these writers’ pens, Iran emerges as both an Oriental other and an alter ego, its culture elevated above that of all other Muslim nations. At times this led French writers to critique notions of European superiority. At others, they appropriated Iran as proto-European through racialist narratives that reinforced Orientalist stereotypes.  

Drawing on theories of Orientalism and cultural difference, this roundtable event discusses Julia Hartley’s recent book, Iran and French Orientalism: Persia in the Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century France (I.B. Tauris, 2023), which navigates both sides of a complex and fascinating literary history between France and Iran.
Panellists include: Sarah Arens (Liverpool), Alexander Bubb (Roehampton), Joseph Ford (ILCS) and the author, Julia Hartley (Glasgow).

A drinks reception and book signing will follow the main event.

This event is generously supported by the University of Glasgow and the Cassal Endowment Fund at the University of London. 

All are welcome to attend this event which is being held in person only. Please register in advance by clicking the Book Now button at the top of the page