Identity formation as the means of bringing desirous subject into being in the novels of Simin Danishvar

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University of Arizona
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Parvaneh Hosseini is a Persian instructor and PhD student at the Near Eastern Studies department at the University of Arizona. Her interest in the field of modern Persian literature is in the domain of sociolinguistic analysis of literary texts, as well as in seeking the evidence of agency and its relationship with identity in literary works. Parvaneh Hosseini has been doing research on the mentioned factors in modern Persian literature, envisaging particularly women protagonists of Iranian women authors. As a Persian instructor, she benefits from modern Persian literature in teaching Persian in her classes. She is a member of American Association of Teachers of Persian, ACTFEL, and the International Society of Iranian Studies.
The relationship between agency, desire, and identity has been the topic of a number of recent studies of literary criticism. One of the important questions concerning these factors, is which has a priority in impacting the other(s) . The present study attempts to provide an answer to this question through the analysis of three Persian novels written by Simin Daneshvar:  Savushun (1969), The Island of Bewilderment (1993), and The Bewildered Camel-Driver (1991). These three books portray social relationships in Iran during three different historical periods: Savushun focuses on Iran at the end of World War II; The Island of Bewilderment--on Iranbefore the revolution of 1979; and  The Bewildered Camel-Driver—on Iran during the revolution and at the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war.
In its exploration of the causal order of  the identity- desire- agency relationship in the narratives of these works, the paper draws on Borch-Jakobson’s theory of identity formation. It focuses primarily on the analysis of the psychological and sociological conditions of the protagonists, antagonists, and other characters of the novels. While some critics have argued that agency is the primary cause of identity formation, the present paper finds ample evidence in the three novels that identity formation is prior to agency. What connects these two factors to one another is “desire” in Borch-Jacson’s terms. Borch-Jakobson’s theory recognizes identity formation as the prerequisite for  bringing desirous subject into being - and the development of the relationship between identity, desire, and agency in the novels studied.  In brief, the analysis of the relationship between agency, identity, and desire in these novels indicates that identity exploration plays a determining role in finding the desire which can—eventually--lead to the subject’s agency.
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