Mirrors of Entrapment and Emancipation Forough Farrokhzad and Sylvia Plath By Leila Rahimi Bahmany (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2015)

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Babak Elahi



In 1992, Farzaneh Milani’s groundbreaking Veils and Words brought into dialogue
the fields of Iranian studies and feminist critical theory – two areas of
humanist inquiry that, in some sense, need each other. Moreover, with works
like Hamid Naficy’s The Making of Exile Cultures (1993), interdisciplinary
critical theory has informed many humanist and social science approaches to
Iranian literature and culture. These links between integrated critical theory
and Iranian studies can produce compelling and insightful analyses. However,
the cadence of such work might be more in tune with one subfield than another.
While the content and subject of these studies might include Iranian society,
culture, or art, it is often the case that the critical method being deployed
is more important than the historical, literary, or social content to which it is
applied. Methodology eclipses the subject of analysis.
This is the case with Leila Rahimi Bahmany’s Mirrors of Entrapment and
Emancipation (Mirrors). Bahmany’s work tells us more about the feminist
critical genealogy brought to bear on the work of Sylvia Plath (d. 1963) and
Forrough Farrokhzad (d. 1967) than it does about the works and lives of these
poets themselves. But if, as I note above, these fields do “need” each other,
then this book is worth exploring for both feminist scholars and Iranian studies
specialists. Beyond specialists, however, the work does little to draw in a
reader not already at least slightly familiar with debates in psychoanalytic
feminist theory of the twentieth century.
Bahmany begins her book with the highly suggestive images of Narcissus
and Echo from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. However, she quickly moves
from this basis in classical western mythology to the relevance of these images
for psychoanalysis and feminism. Thus, she rapidly establishes a ...

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