World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


WOMEN WRITERS: Political Conciousness and Engagement – 3/3 (347) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU, 22 / 2.30 - 4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:
Chair: Maryam Hoseini (Azzahra University)

Paper presenter: Neda Alizadeh Kashani (Independent Scholar), “The Voice of Woman as a Transforming Power in Society in the Poetries of Adrienne Rich and Forough Farrokhzad”
This paper aims at studying the position and the transforming power of women poets in society around the early 1970s through the works of two prominent female poets, Adrienne Rich (1929-) and Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967). These two poets, one from North America and the other from Iran, but both under the effect of the ideas of Carl Marx, struggled for achieving equality of rights between men and women and were in search of a new society freed from oppression. Adrienne Rich, influenced by the Marxist idea of “feminist ferment”, believed in the transforming power of women in society. In this respect, substituting this power for the male power-as-force, she benefited from the theory of “projective verse” of Olson in order to reject the male voice dominant in her early works and to finally adopt a female voice in her sixth collection of poetry, The Will to Change (1971). Sustaining the idea of Gramsci, in her article “Poetry and the Forgotten Future”, Rich affirms that a new society requires a new kind of art, however, as this society and its art cannot be foreseen, the artist should speak of the struggle for achieving them. In the same article, she mentions the name of the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad (1935-1967) as a voice who broke the silence and stood against the oppressing society of her time. Like many other poets of those years, Farrokhzad was affected by the ideas of Marx. She was also looking for the equality of rights between men and women, and, like Rich, she was in search of a new society. In her last collection of poetry, Iman Biavarim be Aghaze Fasl-e Sard (1974), she finally adopted a female voice as a power that could bring changes to society. This paper is a comparative study of the position of woman as a transforming power in society in the sixth book of poems of Adrienne Rich, The Will to Change (1971), and the last collection of poetry of Forough Farrokhzad, Iman Biavarim be Aghaze Fasl-e Sard (Let us Believe in the Beginning of the Cold Season, 1974). It attempts at showing how two female poets around 1970s underwent the same process in adopting their own voices as sources of change in two diverse societies such as the USA and Iran.

Paper presenter: Maryam Hoseini (Associate Professor, Azzahra University), “Polyphony in the Novels of Iranian Women Writers”
Women have an important role in novel-writing in Iran. The great number of their contributions has provided the opportunity for the historical study of their works. One of the methods used by them is the application of “Polyphony” in their novels. “Polyphony” is one of the most appealing and debatable concepts that was firstly introduced by Bakhtin in the realm of literary sociology. The central idea of this concept is the theory of dialogue in novel. Feminists were among the strict followers of Bakhtin’s theories on the logic of dialogue. Bakhtin was revered by Julia Kristeva. However, she emphasizes that Bakhtin did not have any kind of tendency towards feminism and women affairs. He did not even mention among his examples the name of any women’s novels. Wayne Booth in the book, Freedom of Interpretation: Bakhtin and the challenge of feminism put stress on the influence of Bakhtin’s ideas on feminists. On the whole, the theory of dialogue of Bakhtin played an important role in actualizing the objectives of feminists and the presence of women’s voices in literature. Julia Kristeva identifies female writing as polyphonic text. The present paper aims at assessing the extent to which Iranian women writer, have made use of dialogue and polyphony in their novels. It also discusses whether deprivation of women from dialogue and discussion has been the reason why women writers have applied the method of dialogue in their novels. The patriarchal monophony that has been dominant in the literature of Iran did not let voices of women to be heard. Considering this deprivation, women writers try to remove this defect: while the main character in their novels is a woman, they provide the opportunity for both male and female characters to speak throughout the novel. The pioneer women writers in Iran have found their own schools, styles, and specific voices. A good example is the change of style in the novels of Simin Daneshvar from the Suwashun to Sareban Sargardan (The wandering camel rider). In the improving process of her story writing, Simin Daneshvar has moved from monophony to polyphony. In this paper the novel of Suwashun as the first important work of women novel-writers and Bazie Akhare Banou of Belgheis Soleimani as the most recent work have been studied.

Paper presenter: Omid Azadibougar (PhD Candidate, Catholic University of Leuven-KUL), “The Persian Novel and Feminism: From the Passively Darkened of Daneshvar to the Actively Darkening of Pirzad”
In a challenging essay Kamran Talattof compares some pre-revolutionary works by female Iranian authors with post-revolutionary ones to conclude that the general movement of Iranian female writers has been from a pre-revolutionary socially committed pro-masculine literature (not seriously engaged in gender issues) to a post-revolutionary consciously feminist one; the so called Islamic Revolution has had a great causal impact in raising women’s consciousness of their situation. This apparently descriptive assertion harbors important contradictions indicative of its ultimately normative thrust. In this paper I problematize the stance first: Talattof's discussion ignores the agency of authors by subjecting them to haphazard changes in the dominant ideology and fails to explain non-mainstream writing; besides, it overlooks the possibility of consciously writing subversive literature, as Gubar and Gilbert argue, even in a harshly dominant masculine milieu. Furthermore, though Islam became the new state's policy after the revolution one must bear in mind that the culture was fundamentally untouched and that Islam was not previously alien to society. Moreover, the argument fails to explain why post-revolutionary literary productions do not turn out to be oppositional and socially committed even though dictatorship is constant. Additionally, ideology is questionably and contradictorily cast as homogeneously affecting all and everyone prohibiting dissent. And the final extremely important point is that emphasizing the absolute import of ideology in the production of literature, the argument skips the discussion of the ideological importance and the functions of literary genres and their socio-economic pre-requisites. Having problematized this stance I will then argue that: 1) the current feminism in the Iranian context is not a culturally embedded ideology but merely a legal and political oppositional strategy; it is not, or not yet, a cultural force with clear goals and methods; and 2) that the raising of consciousness is not merely affected by the dominant state or oppositional ideology but is rooted in broader socio-economic transformations (which involves demands an explanation from a generic perspective, the Novel); and 3) I conclude with a case study comparing two strikingly similar novels: Zoya Pirzad's post-revolutionary I’ll Turn off the Lights and Daneshvar's pre-revolutionary Suwashun, proving that the former has intentionally been structurally based on the latter to subvert the dominant ideologies, pre and post revolutionary, and that the Novel is not inertly subjected to dominant dogmas, and is rather an independent post-ideological expression, symbolic of the status of modernity, actively and assertively mocking ideologies of all sorts, thereby announcing the approaching age of the novel.