Figures of Excess: Subversive Narrative Strategies in Contemporary Iranian Women's Literature and Cinema
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This study seeks “formal” and “thematic” excess in the works of contemporary Iranian novelists and filmmakers, including Shahrnush Parsipur, Moniru Ravanipur, Fariba Vafi, and Marzieh Meshkini. It strives to develop new critical perspectives on the literary contributions of these works in terms of female resistance through their employment of figures of excess. Exploring excessive woman-subjects, the first chapter of this study engages with Shahrnush Parsipur’s, novel, Women without Men and a number of her other novels, which provide fertile sites for extraordinary and defiant women, who subvert standards of womanhood in Iranian culture. Seeking excess, embodied in strange themes, the second chapter of this study investigates Moniru Ravanipur’s magical realist novel, The Drowned in conjunction with Parsipur’s science fiction novel, Shiva. It argues that excessive/strange themes enable each author to articulate her particular message: favoring fast-paced social and economic progress through highly advanced technologies in Shiva, and the preservation of long standing tradition in The Drowned. The third chapter of this study engages with Fariba Vafi’s novels, My Bird and A Secret in the Alleys, in terms of excessive non-verbal and verbal acts, such as “internal monologue” and “verbosity.” It demonstrates that in both novels the protagonists’ active engagement with traumatic experiences, facilitated by memory and internal monologues, enables them to ultimately process trauma into language. The fourth chapter of this study examines the representations of women in Jafar Panahi’s film, The Circle (2000), and Marzieh Meshkini’s film debut, The Day I Became a Woman (2000). It argues that in both films excess not only manifests in “circular” narrative forms, but also in themes and images that evoke the motif of the circle. It argues that these themes speak to the perpetual sense of captivity and despair many women feel in the post-revolutionary Iranian society, for example, those belonging to the rural poor as in The Day, or, the urban poor and lower-middle classes as in The Circle.