Persian lyric poetry: Systems approach. A study in generic criticism

Hooshang Rahnama, University of Pennsylvania


Literary criticism in the 'Information Age' requires a theory and a theoretical language compatible with the post-modern interdisciplinary educational communication. It seems that Systems Theory fulfills such expectation. Accordingly, society is an autopoietic system comprised of four aspects: structure, function, process and purpose. It is established on the principle of system/environment difference, structured on communication, functions as the processor of societal information for the purpose of reducing the environmental complexities. It allocates its tasks to subsystems which are differentiated internally from the society as a whole and from each other: polity, religion, knowledge, economy and art. Each subsystem operates according to its own communication codes. The subsystem of art communicates its information according to the experience-code of 'beauty', action-code of 'love' and control mechanism-code of 'taste'. In doing so it divides the internal domain of society into two distinct groups: authors and audience. It also allocates the tasks of processing and communication of information to its internally differentiated sub-subsystems: temporal art, spatial art and spatio-temporal art or verbal art known as literature. Verbal art uses language as its structure or medium of communication. It processes information which refer to three types of system conflict: (1) conflict of right with wrong arising from system/environment difference; (2) conflict of right with right arising from system-internal differences; (3) conflict of right as wrong with wrong as right arising from system's self-reflection. Allocation of processing of each type of conflict constitutes generic differentiation within verbal art: literary genres are born. Epic processes the first type, drama the second type and lyric the third type. A fourth genre, novel, processes a combination of the three types. Persian lyrics as observational data provide a clear example of structural, functional, processual and teleological specificity the lyric genre-acquires in order to operate successfully and continuously.

Subject Area

Middle Eastern literature

Recommended Citation

Rahnama, Hooshang, "Persian lyric poetry: Systems approach. A study in generic criticism" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9829976.