Iran and French Orientalism: Persia in the Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century France

Julia Hartley
Mar 27, 2024, 12:15 pm1:15 pm
Free, Open to the Public



Event Description



Iran held a unique place in the culture of nineteenth-century France, considered at once part of the Orient and yet elevated above all other Oriental nations. Admiration, identification, and even imitation were essential to how French writers and artists apprehended Iran in this period. This resulted in a multiplicity of treatments that went far beyond the oppositional emphasis on difference that we have inherited from Edward Said’s model of Orientalism. Literary translation played an essential role in this, since over the course of the nineteenth century French readers went from only having access to translations of Sa’di’s Golestān to being able to read the works of Ferdowsi, Hāfez, Khayyām, Jāmi, and Nezāmi. In this talk, I will focus on the role of intertextuality, literary genre, and authorial intention in shaping French perceptions of Iran. I will address these three dimensions by comparing the reception of Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāmeh in Jules Michelet’s history of world religions La Bible de l’Humanité (1864), Judith Gautier’s novel Iskender: Histoire persane (serialised press publication 1869; book publication 1886), and Paul Dukas’s ballet La Péri: poème dansé (created 1911, premièred 1912).


Dr. Hartley is a Lecturer in Comparative Literature in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Prior to joining Glasgow in 2023, she was Lecturer in Comparative Literature at King's College London and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Warwick. She completed her BA, Masters, and doctorate (2016) in French and Italian literature at the University of Oxford. In 2017, she also completed a second Masters in Iranian Studies at SOAS.

As a British-Italian from Brussels with personal ties to Iran Dr. Hartley is passionate about teaching and researching literature from a comparative perspective, as well as fostering inclusive and multicultural learning environments.

Alison Cummins