Featured Graduate Student

Pardis Dabashi on Her Work in Fiction and Film

Pardis Dabashi grew up in Philadelphia, New Jersey,and New York City. After earning her B.A. at Columbia University, she studied theater at the Ecole Jacques Lecoq and Ecole Phillippe Gaulier before joining the English Department at BU. She is currently an advanced doctoral student finishing her dissertation on how modern fiction and film abandon realist plots.

What drew you to doctoral study in general and to BU in particular?

I have an obsession with getting to the bottom of intellectual problems and questions, and to do so methodically, purposefully, and in conversation with others. There is a stereotype that scholarly life is reclusive and private, and to a certain extent that’s true. But what we do is also profoundly social. We are talking to each other all the time, and we speak through the voices of brilliant writers and, in my case, filmmakers. What drew me to BU in particular was, without question, the incredible people here—students and professors. I couldn’t imagine doing my graduate work anywhere else.

What do you find most fascinating about your research?

When my hunches are affirmed. I have a chapter on Faulkner’s early fiction and another one in which I discuss a director from the 1920s and 1930s named Tod Browning. I suggest that the two approach similar narrative and historical questions from different angles and with different aesthetic consequences. During my research, I found out that Browning and Faulkner in fact knew one another and would take daily walks together when they were both working in Hollywood. Faulkner didn’t usually forge friendships with people he met there, so this is a big deal and may help explain the connections I was sensing in their work.

Has your relationship to books and film changed since coming to BU?

Absolutely. I’d say that I’m more in awe of literature and film than I used to be. Looking back now, I think I came in with a kind of immaturity, as if I inhabited some high-ground over the works  themselves, that I could “figure them out.” Now I think great works of art are bottomless, and I feel very small in front of them, in a good way.

What was your single biggest challenge in your time here at BU?

When Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Suddenly all of my work felt meaningless. But with time that sense of hopelessness wore off, and working on the dissertation helped me regain some sense of normalcy.

What’s next for you?

I’m headed to Cornell to attend the School of Criticism and Theory, where I’ll be attending a six-week intensive seminar on aesthetic theory. I’m a BU Center for the Humanities Dissertation Fellow for the Spring 2019 semester, and come Fall 2019, I’ll be entering the daunting job market. I love and believe in the work I’m doing, and my hope is that I’ll be able to continue to do it.