Theses Doctoral

Fragmented Allegories of National Authenticity: Art and Politics of the Iranian New Wave Cinema, 1960-79

Honarpisheh, Farbod

The New Wave (Moj-e Now), as the rather large body of “quality films” made in Iran before the 1979 revolution came to be known, forms the main thematic concern of this study. From start to end, however, this primary track of investigation is opened up to other mediums of cultural production: modernist Persian fiction and poetry, the visual arts scene, the discourse on ethnography and “folklore studies,” and the critical texts produced by public intellectuals. The second main theme coming to the fore is the intersection of the emergent “discourse of authenticity,” the Iranian intellectuals’ growing demand for “cultural rootedness,” and the production of modernist aesthetics in literature, arts, and cinema. Introduced early in the text, the idea of “modernism of uneven development” provides the theoretical frame for this project; the recurrences of the hypothesis, particularly as it pertains to a temporal divide between the city and the countryside, are discerned and analysed.
The Iranian New Wave Cinema, I contend, always showed an ethnographic register, as it too was after worlds and times deemed as vanishing. This “movement” in cinematic modernism first emerged from within the documentary mode, which began to flourish in Iran from the 1960s. Cutting right across this study, the perceived divide between the urban and the rural finds its reflection even in the way that some of its chapters are organized. Hence, the allegory of the city, and that of the country. But, where ends the national allegory, a matter still conditional on imagined continuity, other forms of allegory come to the surface. Critical reading in this sense becomes an act of reproduction, further opening up fissures and discontinuities of what is already deemed as petrified, whether of the national or of realism. Retaining a faith in the cinema’s ability to redeem physical reality though, certain manifestations of materiality come to the fore through my close readings of films from the New Wave. A number of these material formations come to focus as the “objects” of the study: the museum display, the ruin, the body, the mud brick wall, the moving car, and the old neighborhood passageway.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Dabashi, Hamid
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 4, 2016