Date of Graduation

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Mohja Kahf

Committee Member

Susan Marren

Second Committee Member

Joel Gordon

Keywords

Social sciences, Aboulela, Leila, Arabic, Comparative, Displacement, Egypt, Journey, Literature, Mobility, Ghada Samman, Ahdaf Soueif, Sudan, Syria, Travel, Women

Abstract

This study examines the trope of women's journey and the various kinds of movement and travel it includes employed and represented by three contemporary Arab women literary writers, Ghada Samman, Ahdaf Soueif, and Leila Aboulela in their literary narratives as well as travelogue in the case of Samman. The primary texts analyzed in this study are Samman's Beirut 75 and The Body Is a Traveling Suitcase, Soueif's In the Eye of the Sun, and Aboulela's The Translator and Minaret. These texts demonstrate how the journey trope becomes a fresh narrative strategy used by Arab women writers that allows the representation of the instability, unpredictability, and heterogeneity of Arab women's identities. The multiple subjectivities the female persona/protagonists occupy become possible due to their mobility and movement, crossing the borders of time and space and occupying a fluid place of their own theoretical and imaginative construction. In these texts, travel creates a geographic in-between space for these women that allows them to contest essentialized views of their identities and narrate their own individual, hybrid, cross-cultural, and transnational identities that continually undergo transformation and change. I argue that the mobility, travel experiences, journeys, and physical displacement the persona/protagonists go through serve as tropes of female agency: movement allows them to map personal geographies and exist in a liminal space of their own construction, where they counter fixed Western Orientalist, Neo-Orientalist, and traditional patriarchal discourses that presented them at different historical moments as speechless, subaltern, and stripped of their agency. As a result, the journey trope serves both as a way to examining the varied representations of Arab woman subjectivities in addition to destabilizing fixed notions of gendered, cultural, and religious identity formations.

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