Gender and Eventfulness in Zoya Pirzad’s I Turn off the Lights: Towards a Comparative Narrative Theory

Document Type: Original Article


Instructor of English Language and Literature, Semnan University, Semnan, Iran



The present paper proposes to consider eventfulness as a category for developing feminist narratology. Feminist/gender-conscious models of narrative theory have already taken into account a few narratological categories for their project including narrative closure, engaging narrator, and narrative authority. Studying the relationship between narrative eventfulness and women’s writing can be of great help for furthering the feminist narratology’s agenda. Eventfulness is a scalar feature of narrative, attributed to the degree of existence of a change of state. An event can occur in story-world, narration, or in the reader’s mind. The canonicity-breach aspect of an event, that is, the success or failure in transgressing boundaries, makes eventfulness ideologically significant. To show the applicability of gendering narrative eventfulness, Zoya Pirzad’s I Turn off the Lights is used as an illustrative example. I Turn off the Lights (Persian: Cheraq-ha ra Man Khamush Mikonam 2001; English translation: Things We Left Unsaid 2012) is a contemporary Iranian novel which has been received very well by the readers. Choosing I Turn off the Lights as an example is expected to give my appropriation of feminist narrative theory a comparative quality. By situating I Turn off the Lights in the literary context of Iran, it is argued that the reduced form of eventfulness in the novel can be read as a sign of ossified normative orders that make border crossing for the main female character (Clarisse) almost impossible.


Bahramitash, Roksana, and Hooglund, Eric, eds. Gender in Contemporary Iran: Pushing the Boundaries. New York: Routledge, 2011.

Bruner, Jerome. “The Narrative Construction of Reality.” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1991, pp. 1-21.

Daneshvar, Simin. A Persian Requiem. Trans. Roxana Zand. London: Peter Halban, 1990.

Friedman, S. Susan. “Towards a Transnational Turn in Narrative Theory: Literary Narratives, Traveling Tropes, and the Case of Virginia Woolf and the Tagores.” Narrative, Vol. 19, No. 1, 2011a, pp. 1-32.

---. “Why Not Compare?” PMLA, Vol. 126, No. 3, 2011b, pp. 753-762.

Gheytanchi, Elham. “I Will Turn off the Lights: The Allure of Marginality in Postrevolutionary Iran.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Vol. 27, No. 1, 2007, pp. 173-187.

Gymnich, Marion. “Gender and Narratology.” Literature Compass, Vol. 10, No. 9, 2013, pp. 705-715.

Hedayat, Sadegh. The Blind Owl. Trans. D. P. Costello. New York: John Calder Publishers Ltd., 1957.

Herman, David. Basic Elements of Narrative. London: Blackwell, 2009.

---. “Introduction.” The Cambridge Companion to Narrative. Ed. David Herman. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007, pp. 8-10.

---. “Scripts, Sequences, and Stories: Elements of a Postclassical Narratology.” PMLA Vol. 112, No. 5, 1997, pp. 1046-1059.

Hühn, Peter et al. Eventfulness in British Fiction. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

Hühn, Peter. “Eventfulness in Poetry and Prose Fiction.” Amsterdam Electronic Journal for Cultural Narratology:

---. “Functions and Forms of Eventfulness in Narrative Fiction.” Theorizing Narrativity. Eds. John Pier and José Ángel García Landa. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008, pp. 141-163.

Lanser, Susan. “Gender and Narrative.” the living handbook of narratology. Eds. Peter Hühn et al. Hamburg: Hamburg University:

---. “Toward a Feminist Narratology.” Style, Vol. 20, No. 3, 1986, pp. 341-363.

Nafisi, Azar. “The Quest for the “Real” Woman in the Iranian Novel.” Social Research, Vol. 70, No. 3, 2003, pp. 981-1000.

Parsipur, Shahrnush. Touba and the Meaning of Night. Trans. Havva Houshmand and Kamran Talattof. New York: Feminist Press, 2006. 

Pirzad, Zoya. Things We Left Unsaid. Trans. Franklin Lewis. Cornwall: Oneworld Publications, 2012.

Schmid, Wolf. An Introduction to Narratology. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2010.

Shang, Biwu. “Toward a Comparative Narratology: A Chinese Perspective”. Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 54, No. 9, 2017, pp. 52-69.

Talattof, Kamran. “Iranian Women’s Literature: From Pre-revolutionary Social Discourse to Post-revolutionary Feminism.” International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 29, No. 4, 1997, pp. 531-58.

---. “Postrevolutionary Persian Literature: Creativity and Resistance.” Radical History Review, No. 105, 2009, pp. 145-150.

Warhol, Robyn. “A Feminist Approach to Narrative.” Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates. Eds. David Herman et al. Columbus: The Ohio State UP, 2012. 9-13.

---. “Toward a Theory of the Engaging Narrator: Earnest Interventions in Gaskell, Stowe, and Eliot.” PMLA, Vol. 101, No. 5, 1986, pp. 811-818.