No Man's Land: Representations of Masculinities in Iran-Iraq War Fiction

  • Jennifer Chandler

Student thesis: Phd


This study offers an exploration of masculinity in both Iraqi and Iranian fiction which holds the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) as its major theme. Representations of masculinities in Iran-Iraq War fiction present a deep, and at times, confounding paradox. Whilst this corpus of war fiction at times deeply challenges hegemony and completely reformulates its own definitions of normative codes of manliness, at other times it strictly conforms to chauvinistic and often profoundly oppressive patterns of male behaviour. By relating these works of fiction to their wider social and political context, the aim of this study is to recognise and nuance the relationship between representations of masculinities, and literary depictions of the nation at war. Theoretically grounded in reformulations of the concept of hegemonic masculinity, the study also reflects the work of Joseph Massad, as it attempts to contextualise a body of fiction which employs representations of masculinities as part of wider socio-political allegories. As such this study treats masculinity as a complex phenomenon fraught with ambivalence, operating within particular historical and political contexts, whose subjects are often empowered and oppressed in equal measure. By relating these representations to wider social and political contexts, this study seeks to recognise and nuance the relationship between representations of masculinities and the role which the nation plays in literature, in particularly, when war is the over-arching theme. It is within the context of war, when masculinity is often proposed to be at its most simple, that it is proven to be at its most complex as age, class and political affiliations become defining factors in the pursuit of hegemony and therefore what constitutes hegemonic masculinity. By comparing two national literatures participating in the same conflict, this study reveals the close socio-political dynamic which exists between gender, literature and the so-called constructed "reality" of nation which they purport to represent. Accordingly this study showcases a corpus of work which speaks to a larger literary canon systematically ignored in studies of Persian and Arabic literature. Through in-depth readings of eight works of fiction, published between 1982 and 2003, this study investigates representations of masculinity in both an Iranian and Iraqi context. This thesis is a riposte to common assumptions that literary canon which constitutes Iran-Iraq War is purely associated with state-sponsored narratives, and instead sheds light on a subtle body of fiction which offers a complex account of war and its effect on society.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHoda Elsadda (Supervisor) & Anastasia Valassopoulos (Supervisor)


  • Literature
  • Masculinity
  • Iran-Iraq War
  • Gender

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