Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Karim Mattar

Second Advisor

Karen Jacobs

Third Advisor

Mark Winokur

Fourth Advisor

Joseph Jupille

Abstract

Anglophone Iranian literature gained popularity among the Western scene in the 2000s. In particular, female diasporic Iranian memoirs dominated bestseller's lists and book clubs across the United States, which left scholars debating the cause of their sudden exposure. Many literary critics such as Hamid Dabashi, John Carlos Rowe, and Nima Naghibi provide an Orientalist approach to their arguments and highlight how these texts portray Iranian culture and society for the Western lens. Focusing on arguably the most successful works, Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003) and Marjane Satrapi's The Complete Persepolis (2007), I complicate the previous scholars' theories by asserting a cultural and socially contextual explanation for the rise of female contemporary Iranian memoirs among American audiences.

Drawing on critical events of the early 2000s, such as the September 11 2001 attacks, the rise of the Internet and the new Information age, and the spread of the third wave movement of feminism, I argue for their appeal to American audiences as they interact with the sociopolitical impacts of these events. In my examination, I find that these works reach American readers in their portrayal of complex identity transformations and how they relates to their public and private persona. After my analysis, I conclude that the events of the early 2000s created a space for diasporic Iranian authors to release their work and reshape Iranian and Middle Eastern narratives in the United States. And as a result, their literature generates an open discussion among communities in the diaspora and Western societies regarding Iranian and other Middle Eastern cultures.

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