nl en

Literature and Politics in the Persian-speaking World


Admission requirements

Admission to (one of) the programme(s) listed under Part of in the information bar on the right.
If you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student of (one of) the listed programme(s), please contact the Education Coordinator.


In this weekly seminar we look at the impact of major political events on Persian literature in Iran from the nineteenth century till present. The past hundred years in Iran are marked by a number of pivotal events, beginning with the Constitutional Revolution (1905-1911) which aimed to introduce a new political system based on parliamentary democracy. This was followed by the introduction of a secular and central state by Reza Shah in the 1920s, the CIA-lead coup in 1953, the ‘White Revolution’ in 1960s, the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), the Green Movement or the Twitter Revolution in 2009, and currently the sanctions and nuclear deal of 2015. In Iran, literature is a central medium in all domains of life, especially in politics and religion. Writers, including journalists and politicians, explore the extremely rich literary tradition for the expression of their views and analyses. Persian literature played a central role in communicating modern western political philosophy to ordinary Iranians from the nineteenth century to present. Poetry is used to justify violence and to give meaning to life and death, to express very personal thoughts and to mobilize people to achieve a goal. In this course we examine a wide array of examples, such as the Western racial theory referred to as Aryanism, political Islam, and the complicated relationship between Iran and the west. But we also look at the changing role of women in society, gender and sexuality, the role of Sufism in the Islamic Revolution, the poetry of Ayatollah Khomeini, and how poetry was used in the cult of martyrdom to mobilize young Iranians to sign up for the war. Whereas in the early twentieth century, newspapers were an important medium, today Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. play a major role. We will study the role of poetry in Social Media channels by politicians such as foreign minister Javad Zarif or president Hasan Rouhani.

Course objectives

One of the chief objectives of this course is to acquire insight into the way literature is used as a means to communicate various political views to a broad public in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Indo-Pakistani sub-continent. The students acquire knowledge on the interaction between politics and literature in the Persian-speaking world. In addition, the students learn how to contextualize literary, philosophical, and religious works in a wide range of modern political domains. They also learn how to present orally and in writing their findings to a specialist and broader audience.



Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Presentations 40%
Paper of 3,000 words 60%

The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented upon and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. (The actual deadlines for submission of the first and final versions of the paper will be communicated by the convener of the course through Blackboard. The deadline(s) mentioned in uSis is/are a fictional date for administration purposes only.)

The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower), the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper and the final version of the paper was submitted on time, a re-sit of the paper is possible. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

A resit of the presentation is not possible

Inspection and feedback

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A reading list for each week will be provided at the start of the course.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory for:

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies students: the number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served. Priority is given to students who started with the MA programme in 2023-2024.

  • MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) students who opt for the Research MA version of the course. The number of places is limited and the principle is first come, first served.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.

Students from the other MA programmes listed under Part of in the information bar on the right, need to contact their study adviser for information on the enrolment procedure. After admission they will be registered by the Education Administration Office Vrieshof.



Please note that the additional course information is an integral part of this course description.