Literature as a Tribunal: The Modern Iranian Prose of Incarceration
Forthcoming in Prose Studies
27 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2017 Last revised: 1 Dec 2018
Date Written: October 29, 2017
This essay examines the development of prison memoirs in modern Iranian prose, with a focus on how literary texts function as a tribunal, delivering forms of justice missing from the existing legal system. It constructs from the prison memoirs of a range of dissident writers (Dashti, ʿAlavi, and Baraheni) a genealogy of prison consciousness in Iranian modernity. The modern Iranian prose of incarceration is contextualized within an account of the prison as a site where the modern technologies of the state are refined. As I trace resonances between the long history of prison writing across the Islamic world and the prison literature of modern Iran, I consider how literary texts illuminate the relation between aesthetics and power in modern Middle Eastern literatures.
Keywords: prison, justice, memoir, testimony, aesthetics and politics, prose, modernity, Iran, Pahlavi, Islamic Revolution
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