Within Iran, the transformation in the Islamic legal understanding of the foreign (ajnabi) into a political concept was accelerated by the encounter with Europe during the nineteenth century. The classical Iranian understanding of otherness as a domain fully demarcated from the self was replaced by an internalized other, resulting in what we call here the xenological uncanny. This article examines Iranian modernism through the lens of trauma theory, whereby haunted subjects fail in distinguishing between self and other, and modernization is perceived as demonization. The three works we discuss—Sadeq Hedayat’s Blind Owl (1937), Bahram Sadeqi’s Heavenly Kingdom (1961), and Hushang Golshiri’s Prince Ehtejab (1968)—each delineate a different register in the xenological uncanny. Our lineage reveals how modernist Persian prose recapitulates a trajectory of possession and dispossession by the foreign and in the process brings about the traumatic recognition of a foreign voice within the self. In focusing on the divided modernist self from a Persian point of view, we identify an unrecognized trajectory for the uncanny within global literary modernism.


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pp. 145-168
Launched on MUSE
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