TRANSMODERN (Translational Modernity: Literary Theory from Europe to Iran) is a project funded by the European Commission within Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

The project runs from August 2019 to August 2021. The project fellow is Kayvan Tahmasebian. The project reference number is EU 842125.


TRANSMODERN is a two-year project to revisit the relation between modernity and translation with focus on modern Iranian literary theory. By exploring the translational scaffolding of modern Iranian poetics, TRANSMODERN aims to launch a new field of enquiry into “translational modernities” that focuses on the crises of non-metropolitan modern literatures as challenges of translatability. This project broadens the study of belated modernities methodologically (by proposing new interdisciplinary combinations with translation studies), and geographically (by focusing on understudied literatures).

“Translational modernity” does not reiterate a theory of literary influence based on translation and imitation. TRANSMODERN considers the crucial role of untranslatability and resistance to translation as equally formative forces in shaping a modern Persian literary theory in Iran. We point to the ways that the project of literary renovation should be sought not in the critical norms that are transferred through translations but in what is left out of translation in the form of distortions, variations and imaginary interpretations.

TRANSMODERN shows how translation could be generative and innovative in the context of a “translational modernity,” rather than merely imitative. The project will advance both Middle Eastern studies and the study of world literature by presenting a model of a literary world in which materials and practices are seen as both locally embedded and amenable to global comparison

Main research objectives

  • To map the shifting role of European critical trends in the history of modern Iranian literary criticism through archival research into the publications of literary theory (original and translated books, literary magazine articles, glossaries and paratexts).
  • To analyse the linguistic, philosophical and cultural origins of untranslatability through comparative research into a considerable number of untranslatables.
  • To study different strategies adopted by critics and translators in addressing untranslatability and the ways Iranian literary critics adapt European critical concepts to a radically different Persian poetics.

Key sources

  • Afnan, Soheil Mohsen. Philosophical terminology in Arabic and Persian. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1964.
  • Afnan, Soheil Mohsen. Vāja-nāma-yi falsafī (A philosophical lexicon). Beirut: Dar El-Mashreq, 1969.
  • Balaÿ, Christophe and Shahrokh Tondro-Saleh. Littérature persane moderne, bibliographie critique 1977-2000. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2002. [Adabiyāt-i nuvīn-i fārsī: kitāb-shināsī-yi intiqādī az 1356 tā 1379. Tehran: Muʿīn, Anjuman-i īrān-shināsī-yi farānsi dar īrān, 1382]
  • Cassin, Barbara, Emily Apter, Jacques Lezra, and Michael Wood (ed.). Dictionary of untranslatables: a philosophical lexicon. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.
  • Dirlik, Arif. Modernity in the age of global capitalism. New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Eisenstadt, Shmuel N. (ed.). Multiple modernities. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • Farhadpour, Morad. “Thought/translation [Tafakkur/tarjuma],” in Routledge handbook of translation and activism. London: Routledge, 2020 [forthcoming].
  • Hayot, Eric and Rebecca L. Walkowitz (ed.). A new vocabulary for global modernism. New York: Columbia University Press, 2016.
  • Jusdanis, Gregory. Belated modernity and aesthetic culture: inventing national literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.
  • Lane, Richard J. Global literary theory: an anthology. London: Routledge, 2013.
  • Latour, Bruno. We have never been modern. Tr. Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  • Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton anthology of theory and criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
  • Parsinejad, Iraj. A history of literary criticism in Iran, 1866-1951: literary criticism in the works of enlightened thinkers of Iran –Akhundzadeh, Kermani, Malkom, Talebof, Maraghe’i, Kasravi, and Hedayat. Bethesda: Ibex Publishers, 2002.
  • Rabaté, Jean-Michel (ed.). A handbook of modernism studies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013.
  • Wollaeger, Mark and Matt Eatough. The Oxford handbook of global modernsims. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.


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