Aspects of Historical Consciousness through the fabric of Akhavan Sales's Literature

Summer 2016

Saman Arfaie : Molecular and Cell Biology, Persian Literature ; Minor in Chemistry, Minor in Music

Donor: Banatao Fund
Mentor: Professor Wali Ahmadi

Mehdi Akhavan Sales is regarded as one of the most celebrated contemporary poets in modern Persian Literature. My research aims to shed light on Akhavan’s viewpoint on history and historical consciousness along with its trajectory of development. Namely, I am curious to understand what form historical consciousness is manifested in and whether its development can be described as a linear progression, evolutionary or one marked by abrupt changes. This analysis will examine historical events as early as Iran’s 1953 coup d'etat (28 Mordad) to post 1979 Iranian Revolution while paying close attention to a selection of his works as sources of collective awareness: Arghanun (1951), Zemestan (1965) and Akhar-e Shahnamah (1959).

Akhavan’s poetry is eclectic with its epic themes alluding to the style Ferdowsi, the free verse like that of Nimai’s poetry in the manipulation of rhythm and rhyme and yet being so descriptively symbolic. Because of his intellectual complexity transcending the boundaries of Iran, my analysis would not rely on Akhavan’s works and that of his contemporaries alone, but would require me to conduct a comparative literature grounded on a thorough examination of various schools of thought in philosophy such as that of the German Idealism (particularly Hegel’s Lectures on Philosophy of History and Schopenhauer's magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation ) and Analytic Philosophy (Wittgenstein’s stance on Ethics). In addition, I will scrutinize these works in a post-structuralist approach by often replacing the author as a primary subject of inquiry and bringing various other sources of literary texts in hopes of finding new perspectives.

I have studied Persian Literature (in the form of poetry and prose) and Philosophy (Analytic and Continental schools) for well over four years now. As a student of Professor Wali Ahmadi, and receiving his permission to enroll in his PhD classes, has given me one of the most academically vibrant experiences here at UC Berkeley; these classes have acted as the landscape where I can apply specific philosophical and sociological theories into each piece of literature and delve more into the content of works in order to explore new arguments and analysis. I must note that this generous and kind fellowship by the Anselm Foundation is one of a kind: It has allowed me to have a source of funding to conduct research in a field that is so dear to my heart. Without this excellent opportunity by Anslem Foundation, I would not have been able to systematically dedicate my summer to comparative literature research in parallel to my rigorous training in the laboratory for my other major Molecular Cell Biology. Within the next year, this research shall culminate in a form of an honors thesis which (I sincerely hope) will be exemplar of my time here while reflecting on my intellectual, linguistic and cultural interest as a student of UC Berkeley. I must also thank the SURF program for choosing me as of one their fellows and for their continuous support in my endeavors.