Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Alexander Beecroft

Abstract

Arab women’s literature continue to receive considerable critical attention by scholars in East and West. However, through my focus on three novels in this dissertation, The Cinnamon’s Aroma (2008) by Samar Yazbek, Brooklyn Heights (2011) by Miral al-Tahawy and It’s Called Passion (2009) by Alawiya Sobh I hope to contribute a more holistic understanding of these works by highlighting features not fully explored in previous scholarship. I concentrate on the creative means of struggle and resistance to the entrenched structures of oppression locating sights of potential hope and emancipation. I point out the ways in which these texts subvert and present a new articulation of ossified social and cultural truth value notions on gender and sexuality. This subversion and resignification is done through exploring the relationship between concrete transgressive acts and narrative construction. Subversive and alternative acts pertaining to sexuality and gender are ephemeral and transient if not transmuted into a structured, narrative form. In The Cinnamon’s Aroma I analyze how the sexual relationship between two female characters is presented as an act of subversion and resistance to patriarchal oppression. Brooklyn Heights addresses the need to re-conceptualize female gender identity. It’s Called Passion discusses sexuality and war in rural and urban settings stressing the significance of fiction and narrative construction in any subversive and emancipatory project. I also discuss the focus on the body as contested site upon which sexuality, violence and oppression are discussed. The dissertation also explores the temporal and spatial mobility of traditional patriarchal structures and gendered oppression. I explore the unifying elements binding these novels in addition to their diversity. I complicate my study utilizing feminist theory, gender and sexuality and theory of narrative construction.

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