Spring 2010

Special Subject Spring 2010

Course Title: Special Subject: Contemporary Arab Women Writers
Course Number: 2201481
Semester: Spring 2010
Time of Class: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday (11-12 a.m.)
Meeting Place: Arts 13
Instructor: Prof. Rula Quawas
Office Hours: Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday (12:-1:00 p.m.)
I am available for consultation during scheduled office hours and by appointment.  Do not hesitate to make an appointment.  If you are having any difficulties at all, see me; don’t wait until it is too late to improve the situation.  My office is located in the English Department at the Faculty of Arts.
Telephone: 5355000 (Ext. 24768)

Course Description:

This course will explore a range of texts by contemporary Arab women writers from across the Arab world, Arabophone, in English translation, and Anglophone, within a transcultural framework, understood in their literary, cultural, socio-economic, and historical contexts. Central to this course will be the treatment and unveiling of a number of important issues: the socio-cultural construction of femininity and masculinity, the meanings and practices of hegemonic masculinity, sexual objectification and commodification, and the politics and social / economic dynamics of gender relations and gendering in the vast Arab world. Required writers include, among many others, Alifa Rifaat (Egyptian), Ahdaf Soueif (Arab European), Samira Azzam (Palestinian), Hanan Al-Shaikh (Lebanese), and Daisy Al-Amir (Iraqi); and recent critical theoretical inquiries into gender identities, sexual politics, and strategies of Arab and American feminisms.

Objectives:

  1. To introduce students to a variety of fictional works by Arab female writers
  2. To examine the particular constraints that women–and women writers in particular–were subject to
  3. To examine myths and realities of women’s experiences across various socioeconomic and cultural groupings
  4. To focus on women in relation to themselves, to others, to institutions, and to society
  5. To use critical thinking skills from both theoretical and practical perspectives, thus merging theory and practice
  6. To compare the similarities and differences between male and female experiences
  7. To develop critical awareness of feminist issues in literature

Methods of Teaching:

A variety of methods will be used;

  1. Lectures on the development of Arab feminist writing
  2. Group discussion of critical ideas or of significant literary texts

The class will be conducted as a seminar in which each person assumes responsibility for sustaining class discussion. It is, therefore, crucial that you come to class having read and thought about the assigned texts. The students are encouraged to initiate/guide discussion of any given text. To this end, generate a list of questions and issues for the class to focus on.

Attendance Policy:

Regular and punctual attendance is valuable and desirable. Unexcused absences will automatically lower your grade.

Evaluation:

Students will be required to read extensively on the literary texts assigned for this course, to familiarize themselves with the major studies of Arab feminism, and to contribute to discussion every time we meet. The student’s semester grade will be the average of four grades: the Mid-Term Exam, the Final Examination, Projects, and class participation. 50% of the grade goes to the final Examination, and 50% for the mid-term exam, projects, and class participation. The final exam will require essay-type responses. On essay questions, the student will be evaluated on clarity of argument, critical thinking, use of evidence, and stylistic presentation. At the beginning of the essay, state your thesis or argument in response to the question or topic, and then structure the essay clearly to establish your points. Use topic sentences to show where the essay is going and avoid over-generalizations.

Reading Assignments:

All reading assignments must be completed by the beginning of the class period on which they have been assigned. It goes without saying that the student is encouraged to read as widely as possible in the field, over and beyond the assigned material.

Study Plan:

  • Week 1: Course Plan and Orientation
  • Week 2: Introduction to Arab Women Writers (Photocopy Package)
  • Week 3: “Amina” and “The Protected One”
  • Week 4: “I Saw Her and That is Enough” and “In a Contemporary House”
  • Week 5: “The Eyes in the Mirror” and “A Girl Called Apple”
  • Week 6: “House of Arrest” and “The Cat, the Maid, and the Wife”
  • Week 7: Critical Essay: “Is Feminism Relevant to Arab Women”
  • Week 8: “The Newcomer” and “Tears for Sale”
  • Week 9: “I Will Never Forfeit my Right” and “Half a Woman”
  • Week 10: “Visitors” and “The Ostrich”
  • Week 11: Critical Essay: “New Arab Women’s Fiction as Seen in the West”
  • Week 12: “New Arab Women’s Fiction,” contd.
  • Week 13: “An Incident” and “Bahiyya’s Eyes”
  • Week 14: Critical Essay: “Western Feminist Muslim Women and the Veil that Separates Them”
  • Week 15: Wrapping Up

A Set of Helpful Reading Texts:

  1. Badran, Margot, and Miriam Cooke, eds. Opening the Gates: A Century of Arab Feminist Writing. London: Virago Press, 1990.
  2. Shaaban, Bouthaina. Voices Revealed: Arab Women Novelists, 1898-2000. Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2009.
  3. Aghacy, Samira. Masculine Identity in the Fiction of the Arab East since 1967. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse UP, 2009.
  4. Roded, Ruth, ed. Women in Islam and the Middle East: A Reader. London: I. B. Tauris, 1999. Revised Edition
  5. Ahmed, Leila. Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Have: Yale UP, 1992.
  6. Malti-Douglas, Fedwa. Woman’s Body, Woman’s Word: Gender and Discourse in Arabo-Islamic Writing. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.
  7. Accad, Evelyne. Sexuality and War: Literary Masks of the Middle East. New York: New York UP, 1990.
  8. —. Veil of Shame: The Role of Women in the Contemporary Fiction of North Africa and the Arab World. Sherbrooke: Editions Naaman de Sherbrooke, 1978.
  9. Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock, and Basima Qattan Bezirgan, eds. Middle Eastern Muslim Women Speak. Austin: U of Texas P, 1977.
  10. Shaaban, Bouthaina. Both Right and Left Handed: Arab Women Talk About Their Lives. London: The Women’s Press, 1988.
  11. Brooks, Geraldine. Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women. New York: Random House, 1995.
  12. Said, Edward. The Edward Said Reader. Ed. Moustafa Bayoumi and Andrew Rubin. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.
  13. Mernissi, Fatima. Beyond the Veil. Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society. Revised edition. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.