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تاريخ:اول آبان 1387 ساعت 12:03   |   کد : 216
conferences
Popular Novels and Cultural Policies in Iran
 

Paper presented at: Popular Culture & (World) Politics Conference

The University of Bristol, UK

September 11 & 12, 2008

Popular Novels and Cultural Policies in Iran

On the Definition of Popular Novel

There can be a distinction among a range of novels, from popular to elite and technical as well as serious novels. Yet the major distinction lies in something between the popular and the high (the latter including serious and elite). On the other hand, there is a variety of definitions on the notion of the popular. But I would like to take into account the characteristics of the popular as a more practical way to define it, and that since in Iran popular, romantic novels compose the majority, my characterization will be set accordingly. Iranian Popular, romantic novels depict:

· internal, emotional, and family contents enveloping the individualYs, especially womenYs private lives and their familyYs

· simplistic world view: absolute good and absolute bad, not the real world gray character

· an individual rather than the society as the pivot

· adventures which are frequent, based on chance, and at times unnatural controlled by the metaphysics, that is the fate

· often simple characterization comprising the two fully developed who lack profound emotions

· simple words, sentences, and implications with common language for all the characters

· constant use of clichés in all the elements, namely stories, characters, and happy endings

On the Theories of Popular Literature

In the area of popular literature there are contradicting views; Frankfort School considers that as a part of book industry, false consciousness, and fake ideology made by the ruling class who aims to present a beautiful but unreal picture of the society, thus it has a narcotic function. In their point of view, popular literature is extended by the ruling system which depicts a false vision of an ambitious life, a vision in which men are brave, wealthy, and altruist while women look beautiful, have high self-esteem, and are involved in family life. Popular literature leaves an impression on the readers without nurturing high attitudes. There, the audience is passive and easily influenced by the media.

Reception Studies concentrate on the extraction of meaning on the part of the audience. On the basis of this theory, texts are devoid of fixed, precise, and essential meanings but meaning is produced through the process of reading itself. Reading popular novels, women could identify with the characters and live in another world for a while, finally coming to the conclusion that man and marriage were two good things. Radway is on the belief that reading such books is a type of objection through daydreaming and an enthusiasm for a better world. He points to the problem of female escaping among the audience of these novels and states that escaping helps women tolerate the reality of social life, that is to say playing the role of a homemaker in a patriarchy.

However, Cultural Studies subscribe to the view that popular literature and the inclination to that can be a type of soft resistance against the dominant culture which aims to provide its readers with a space to run away from everyday life. Cultural Studies, on the other hand, believe that such novels, in one way or another, can contribute to an understanding of the society, have an educational function, be good pastimes, reconstruct the dreamy world of the readersY mind, and be taken as a sweet start to create interest in reading novels.

On the Situation of Reading Popular Novels in Iran

On the basis of the statistics announced by the Iranian Book House on the literary novels over tenth printing between 1992 and 2006, nine out of ten best-selling were popular novels, and in 449 best-selling printings just 118 were high novels. The top best-selling novel, which was also popular, had 38 printings, while the second ranking was 22 for another two popular novels; however, the highest printing for a high novel was just 16.

There is an average circulation of 1300 copies for serious novels, while that of popular novels amounts to 2500 volumes. Moreover the works of prominent authors exceed 5000, and even 18000 for some.

On the Explanation of Popularity in Popular Books

It is a fact that popular works are favorable all around the world and Iran seems no exception. However, there are various reasons why they have gained such an acceptance in our country: leisure accompanied by literacy among women, the overall development in convenience and well-being, and the higher rate of TV viewing could be the causes of the increased popularity. On the other hand, as women more and more demand better situations in life, this soft resistance (containing love not sex) can obtain wider and wider acceptance.

I. Ang on the popular literature of the Third World states that the domestic popular literature is attacked from three angles: the intellectual literature, the formal literature of the government, and the Western popular literature. In the following, I am about to analyze the effects of the conflict between the intellectual literature and the formal literature on the growing popular literature.

Since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, traditionally, there have been two major fractions governing our cultural policies, namely the Fundamentalists and the Reformists. Broadly speaking, the Fundamentalists support Islamic ethos to extend the principles of the Islamic Revolution, based on which they oppose music, dance, uncovered woman body or hair, and male and female expression of feelings and emotions in the cinema, theater, and novel. In contrast, the Reformists, maintain tolerance with artists and authors and attempt to attract them and accept them as they are. This group has acknowledged polyphonic patterns in the society especially in literary and artistic arenas.

The gap between the two parties in the area of literature and art goes back to their level of tolerance against the XoppositionY groupYs thinking, literature, and art. The opposition party is said to be composed of those Iranian literati and artists who resist against the Islamic RepublicYs criteria: observing Sharia in contacting the opposite sex, clothing, drinking, and the dominance of religious rules on the society. This group has continued to be tough against the Islamic rules and religious government in the years after the Revolution. They gained some benefits and facilities to express their ideas due to the tolerance of the Reformists at the time of their control. Yet they were dramatically confined by the Fundamentalists.

However, in each group (intellectual and formal) those who do not tolerate the opposite party compose the majority, something which feeds bipolarization in literature.

The circumstances, however, have been more severe owing to the cyber space. Because of limited dialogs and censorships, there seems to be another way available to publish; low circulations of high literary works, weak relationship between high literature and the society, and financial loss in the publication of high literature have forced the literature to turn away from the public to specific.

The literati of the opposition high literature, disregarding material benefits and fame or perhaps other literary profits, have now entered other spaces such as private tutoring classes for story writing, numerous sites for introducing and criticizing literary works (even one showing unauthorized novels), and increasingly growing weblogs.

As the opposition literature in Iran is now considered as a means of changing the government, it is getting more non-material benefits; things like a chance to immigrate abroad, attain scholarships, and show on famous satellite channels and sites are only some of them. The situation has made the opposition serious literature sound hazardous in the eye of the government on one hand and on the other it has brought about a rapid fame and an unclear vision of self-assessment and popularity to the authors. Both sides will harm gravely the Iranian high literature.

The Iranian literary space has been devoid of the opposition high literary works and also the formal successful literary works are neglected from the opposition. The tendency of the Ministry of Culture to increase publications and spread story literature, lack of regular literary criticism trends to elevate readers to high novels, and lack of publicizing for high novels on TV and in the radio have given the popular novels a high social status. Also, Iranian publication industry to survive has found interest in popular novels. On the other hand, the religious societiesY harsh reactions against literary works have provoked the officials to spend more on control, but popular works are more conservative, can avoid expressing sex, and do not endanger the existing social security and order.

In conclusion, the conflicts between intellectual and formal literature nourish the popular literary works. Last but not least, the negative outlook on the popular literary works has brought negligence to them, that are no policies are made on the content, circulation, and size of such works but handed over to the market taste.

Finally it seems that more research is needed in the era.

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