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Title: The pre-and post-Revolutionary political representation of the self in French-language autobiographical works by two Iranian exiles : Les Nuits féodales by Fereydoun Hoveyda (1983) and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (2000-2003)
Author: Mazhari, S.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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The autobiographies of Hoveyda and Satrapi represent the self as defying closure by the totalitarian systems of the Pahlavi Shahs and the mullahs, refusing to be confined to a fixed national identity. This thesis explores the interlinking of the self with its socio-political context, whereby dissent from dictatorship implies a mental space where democratic sensibility develops through childhood and adolescent experiences. The theoretical framework is Claude Lefort’s reflection on the birth of modern democracy and human rights during the eighteenth-century revolutions. Both authors’ adoption of French and the Enlightenment tradition helps to define the self in terms of ‘the political’, that is, the decision to dissent from the demand that all subjects’ lives must conform to the official discourse of totalitarianism. Lefort’s analysis of totalitarianism supports a critique of Hoveyda’s flawed theory of a ‘Rostam complex’ crushing Iranians’ revolutionary potential, but shows how that theory invalidates the fusion of politics with myth. Hoveyda represents, through conversations about modernism’s threat to spirituality, the need to separate politics and religion, while retaining his own faith in democratic revolution and free literary self-expression. The democratic significance of Satrapi’s antagonism to the 1979 Revolution’s theocratic aftermath finds confirmation in Lefort’s analysis of 1789. She mediates her self-representation through gender inequality (the veil), persecution of the intelligentsia, and the traumatic Iran-Iraq War. Official condemnation of Persepolis as classist and Islamophobic impels discussion of truth in politics and autobiography. Marjane’s interviews with a senior mullah who accepts her separation of her political and religious identity constitute a rare dialogue between autocratic rule and dissent. The conclusion compares and contrasts the political self in the two works, and proposes a provisional synthesis in the context of Iran’s present moment, dynamised by non-violent protest at home and political writing in the diaspora.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available