Two Writers, Two Linguistic Worlds: Simin Daneshvar and Shahrnoush Parsipour

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Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
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I hold degrees in linguistics (M.A., University of Masachusetts, 1974) and Persian literature (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 1981); a main research interest of mine has been the desire to relate the two fields, especially (in recent times) by examining the ways in which the awareness of linguistic form may enhance the understanding and analysis of literary text. I have over twenty years of undergraduate and graduate level instruction, focusing on language and cognition.

An increasingly well-established hypothesis, today supported by corpus linguistics as well as traditional stylistics and even linguistic forensics, claims that virtually every aspect of a writer’s usage can be measured and linked to the writer’s distinctive style; these range from the relative proportions of categories (noun/verb, functional/lexical items) to the form, functions, salience and meanings of metaphor in the author’s writing. 
In this spirit, and with the insights of recent work in cognitive stylistics as theoretical base, this paper analyzes authorial identity in the prose of two widely acclaimed Iranian woman writers:  Simin Daneshvar and Shahrnoush Parsipou.  The main texts analyzed are Daneshvar’s Savushun (1969), and Parsipour’s Touba va ma’na-ye shab (1989).  Factors to be considered (selectively) include sentence and phrasal structures, modifier form and function, metaphorical practice, and limited features of diction, such as Daneshvar’s use of relatively ‘erudite’ terms (andishid for fekr kard, for instance).  
After an overview presentation, a small set of examples will be chosen for elaboration.  Both novels refer to history, women’s issues, and Iranian social and cultural themes; but they differ in their treatment of these topics, their level of realism, their use of humor/satire, and in other ways. In addition to establishing authorial identity for these two women writers, the paper will show how seemingly ‘neutral’ linguistic choices can be seen as supporting theme and tone in each work. To illustrate such a link using a simple example, Parsipour’s opening sentence stretches a full five lines, contains multiple subordinate and coordinate structures, and features five overt conjunctions at different levels; though we presumably know nothing about the protagonist, Tuba, at this stage, the linguistic structure of this opening may be subtly inviting us to suppose that her tale will involve repeated challenges, related in complex ways; at the same time, the lexical forms used (“broom… mud…water”) suggest simplicity, powerlessness, and domestic drudgery. In stark contrast, Daneshvar’s simple seven-word opening sentence (It was the wedding day of the Governor’s daughter.) leads us to expect no-nonsense realism, especially from the narrator.
Since these novels span two decades in the late twentieth century, analysis of their respective styles may inspire tentative comparisons with both earlier (more elaborate) and later (more experimental) stages in Iranian prose writing. More tangentially, since both novels have been translated into English, these translated re-creations might be invoked where they help to highlight features of the original texts.

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