ENGS44 Imagining Persia/Iran: Orientalism, Revolution and Diaspora 5 ECTS
Period I Period II Period III Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Advanced studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
DP in English Language, Literature and Translation
Faculty of Communication Sciences

General description

Since Donald Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the “Iran Deal” in May 2018, Iran has been in the global news almost every day. This has led to an intensified circulation of different – and highly politicised – imaginaries about Iran, either reinforcing or contesting Trump’s portrayal of the Islamic Republic as the “leading state sponsor of terror.” These imaginaries have a long history, and this course explores the ways in which fictional representations have constructed conflicting visions of Iran, putting their own spin on political discourses that are themselves fuelled by imaginaries and myth. In the first part of the course, we will explore Western visions of Persia/Iran from the early seventeenth century (The Travailes of the Three English Brothers) to contemporary cinema. These imaginaries are often difficult to reconcile with each other and range from orientalist fantasies of Persian opulence and decadence to the recent representation of Iran as a threatening nuclear power. In the second part of the course, we will reverse the gaze and examine how Iranian-American authors and filmmakers have mobilised their own imaginaries to reflect on political events (such as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the terrorist attacks of 9/11) as well as the experience of diaspora and exile. As we will see, these fascinating works – from Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran to Manoucher Parvin’s Dardedel and Porochista Khakpour’s The Last Illusion – conjure up nostalgic visions of Persia, adapt Persian literary traditions and adopt techniques such as magical realism to reflect on the contradictions of the distant homeland and the complexities of the Iranian-American experience. Throughout the course, we will draw on theoretical concepts and perspectives such as Orientalism (Said) and Occidentalism (Buruma and Margalit), cultural hybridity (Bhabha), planetarity (Spivak) and diaspora studies to develop a nuanced understanding of the primary texts.

Participants are required to read Ali Ansari’s Iran: A Very Short Introduction before the first session. A detailed syllabus will be circulated at the beginning of term. Students will be evaluated on the basis of an essay as well as additional smaller assignments.

Enrolment for University Studies

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Johannes Riquet, Teacher responsible


12-Sep-2018 – 12-Dec-2018
Wed 12-Sep-2018 - 10-Oct-2018 weekly at 12-14, Pinni B 2078
Wed 24-Oct-2018 - 12-Dec-2018 weekly at 12-14, Pinni B 2078