READING AND RESPONDING: FINDING AND MAKING MEANING IN THE LIFE WRITING OF DIASPORIC IRANIAN JEWISH WOMEN
Jackson, Leora A.
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This project investigates the English-language life writing of diasporic Iranian Jewish women. It examines how these women have differentially imagined their diasporic lives and travels, and how they have in turn been imagined and accepted or rejected by their audiences. In the first chapter, I use “home” as a lens for understanding three distinct life writing texts, showing how the authors write about what it means to have a home and to be at home in contrasting and even contradictory ways. I show how, despite potential hegemonic readings that perpetuate unequal relationships and a normative definition of the ideal home, the texts are open to multiple contestatory readings that create spaces for new formulations and understandings. In the second chapter, I look more closely at the intersections between trauma stories and the life writing of Iranian Jewish women, and I argue that readers use life writing texts about trauma to support an egocentric reconstruction of American democracy and dominance. I also show how a critical frame for understanding trauma can yield interpretations that highlight, rather than ignore, relationships of power and privilege. In the final chapter of the thesis, I present a case study of two online reading groups, and I show that communal reading environments, though they participate in dominant discourses, are also spaces where resistance and subversion can develop.