Course Spotlight: Dissident Women Voices from the Middle East and North Africa

nossery-imageCourse Description

If dissidence is broadly defined as a manifest opposition with an established institution, dogma, genre or tradition, it also implies innovation and originality. The legacies of colonialism, the repressive nature of post-independence regimes, and the continuance of patriarchal apparatuses have prompted women to constantly find new means to cope with political, religious, and social despairs. These obstacles in the way of women’s empowerment could not quell the voices of artists, writers, filmmakers, musicians, scholars, and other dissidents who ceaselessly work to disseminate alternate and alternative perspectives on themes such as nation, patriarchy, sexuality, identity, and agency, to name but a few. This course examines various instances of the nexus of nation, patriarchy, agency and women and how it is configured in literature and visual art. It will also focus on the ways in which women in the MENA region have broken conventional artistic molds through creative forms and contents, representing Arab world in its gendered diversity.

Course Objectives

  • To introduce students to the complex contemporary history of MENA, in order to engage with its diversity through a critical examination of women’s voices.
  • To foster the students’ critical thinking skills as they perform close readings of literary texts; interpret and analyze works of art, historical images, songs and movies; and analyze sociological and historical phenomena with rigor and depth.
  • To introduce students to comparison of genres, disciplines, and contexts.

Sample Readings

  • Literary works: Etel Adnan. Sitt Marie Rose (Lebanon); Malika Mokeddem, The Forbidden Woman (Algeria); Fatima Mernissi, Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood (Morocco);  Mona Prince, My Name is Revolution (Egypt).
  • Movies, music and art: Assia Djebar, The Nouba of the women of Mount Chenoua (movie); Lalla Essaydi (polyvalent artist); Umm Kalthum (singer); Moufida Tlatli, The Silence of the Palace (movie)
  • Theoretical and critical works: Nawal El Saadawi, The Hidden Face of Eve; Leila Ahmed, Women and Gender in Islam; Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety; Dabashi, Hamid, The Arab Spring; Brinda Mehta, Rituals of Memory in Contemporary Arab Women’s Writing; Valentine Moghadam, Modernizing Women; Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam, and Nation.

Enrollment details

African Languages and Literature 300: Dissident Women Voices from the Middle East and North Africa
3 credits
T/TH 11:00-12:15pm, 254 Van Hise Hall
Spring 2016

About the Instructor

Névine El Nossery is Associate Professor in the departments of French and Italian and African Languages and Literature. Her research interests and teaching include North African and French Canadian literatures, Francophone Studies, women writing, photo-texts, graffiti, trauma fiction, and Middle-Eastern literature and culture.