Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran

Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran

Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran

Burying the Beloved: Marriage, Realism, and Reform in Modern Iran


Burying the Beloved traces the relationship between the law and literature in Iran to reveal the profound ambiguities at the heart of Iranian ideas of modernity regarding women's rights and social status. The book reveals how novels mediate legal reforms and examines how authors have used realism to challenge and re-imagine notions of "the real." It examines seminal works that foreground acute anxieties about female subjectivity in an Iran negotiating its modernity from the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 up to and beyond the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

By focusing on marriage as the central metaphor through which both law and fiction read gender, Motlagh critically engages and highlights the difficulties that arise as gender norms and laws change over time. She examines the recurrent foregrounding of marriage at five critical periods of legal reform, documenting how texts were understood both at first publication and as their importance changed over time.


Constellations of meaning accrue around powerful cadavers.

—Jean Franco, Rise and Fall of the Lettered City

In the political and cultural upheavals of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Iranian intellectuals began to suspect that the fate of any modernist was premature death. They were strengthened in this belief through the execution of early reformists at the court of Nāsser al-Dīn Shāh Qājār, such as Mīrzā Abū al-Qāʾem Qāʾ em-maqām Farāhānī (d. 1835) and Mīrzā Taqī Khān (Amīr Kabīr; d. 1852); by the murder of poet and iconoclast Fātemeh Barāghānī (more commonly known as Tāhereh Qorrat al-Ayn; d. 1852); and through the mortal illness of young poet Parvīn Eʿtessāmī (d. 1940) and the suicide of Iran’s premiere writer of fiction, Sādeq Hedāyat (d. 1951). Modernity, it seemed, could be deadly. To be on the wrong side of it at any given moment—and the right side was always changing—was to find oneself on the wrong side of fate.

What happened to these modernizing bodies after their deaths is sometimes as violent and as telling as the manner of the death itself. From Tāhereh, strangled in a garden and thrown into a well, to Hedāyat, who traveled to Paris in order to gas himself, Iran’s modernity has been the graveyard of its advocates, making it a modernity preoccupied with where the bodies are buried. In her study of Latin-American literature during the Cold War, Jean Franco recounts the astonishing and curious travels of Argentinean First Lady Eva (Evita) Perón’s corpse, which was stolen from its grave after her husband’s fall from power. Subsequently, Evita’s corpse traveled all over South America before making its way to Italy and being reinterred under the name María Maggi. Finally returned to Argentina in 1971, Evita now reposes in the Duarte family tomb in Bue-

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