Revisiting Persian Architectural Myth through Byronic Gaze in Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana
Dr. Bahman Zarrinjooee

Architecture is a cryptogram through which intellectual travellers decipher the myth and read the history of countries to/in which they travel. This paper focuses on the significance of Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana (1937) regarding the aspects of power hidden beyond architectural myth, as a leitmotif, in the social strata of Persia. It investigates Byron’s reaction to the diverse aspects of power, displayed in Persian architecture and the strategies which demonstrate power relations in a thick description and visualized fragmentary illustrations of Persian architecture before and after Islamic periods. Byron’s familiarity with the Persians is through deciphering the narrations narrated in their architectures, as a nation’s heritage, which represent the nation’s past and present history, codes and conventions, desires and motivations of the people. Having an eye on Clifford Geertz’s studies and Homi K. Bhabha’s theories, the paper approaches one of Byron’s objectives in Persia through discovering the source of Islamic architecture. In dealing with architecture, signs and objects, Byron acts as a cultural critic, whose focus is on the hidden meanings behind each sign and on decoding them based on his own understanding. Byron, indeed, reads different architectural constructions in Persia, traces their palimpsest meanings manifested in their interior and exterior structure, illustrates the significance of such monuments and buildings in constructing and rewriting power, and translates these cultural codes for his specific readers.

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