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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Moira Inghilleri

Second Advisor

Jim Hicks

Third Advisor

Nil Santiáñez

Fourth Advisor

Paul Sprachman

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Comparative Literature | Contemporary Art | English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies | Modern Languages | Modern Literature | Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Theory and Criticism | Visual Studies


Trauma theory of the 1990s pioneered by Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman, and Geoffrey Hartman has been criticized by postcolonial scholars such as Irene Visser, Michael Balaev, and Stef Craps for being neglectful of the trauma of the colonial world in adopting a deconstructivist approach and psychologization of experiences of trauma. This antagonism between the traditional and postcolonial trauma theory has resulted in even deeper isolation of the human subject at the center of this argument. In my research, I highlight the reality and materiality of traumatic suffering in the shared realm of the human body to suggest a need for a more universal approach that places the emphasis on the significance of the suffering body in its social relations. I argue that a commixture of a pluralist/postcolonialist critique and deconstructivist psychoanalysis is exactly what is needed in non-Western theorizations and practices of representation, on the one hand, in order to address non-Western authoritarian regimes and incompetent governing systems, and, on the other, to recognize the compliance of Western and European colonial or imperial powers in perpetuating suffering. In the first chapter, my analysis of visual representations of the Iran-Iraq war interrogates the transition from complete ideological and revolutionary thought in Iranian Sacred Defense art toward the more troubled self in photography and film. The second chapter, which focuses on the novel Gunǧiškʹhā bihišt Rā mīfahmand [Sparrows Understand Heaven], exemplifies an era of transition, lingering between the romanticized narratives of war and its brutal reality, in those who have not experienced brutalities of war first-hand and struggle to find a balance between the concept of martyrdom and death. In Bagh-e-Boloor (Crystal Garden), examined in the third chapter, both the physical and psychological pressures of war time remain incommunicable by the characters and are thus narrated through a psychoanalytic social realist form in order to highlight the anxieties of the suffocating conditions for women and children at the home front when men die in the battle. In the fourth and last chapter, Ahmad Dehghan’s Man Ghatel-e-Pesaretan Hastam, (A Vital Killing) takes the reader to a whole new level of post-traumatic madness, a state of being where the body itself doesn’t remain immune from the ravages of psychic breakdown, nor does the psyche remain intact from the extremes of bodily wounds.