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ENGC51H3 Lecture Notes - May Ziade, Scheherazade

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Maria Assif

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Arab Women Writers – An Introduction
Lecture 1 – (Sept 18, 2011)
Article #2
A sense of inferiority due to colonialism – not good to be an Arab
Article #1 (By Amal Amireh)
Overview of the problems faced by women writers
History of Arab women writers date back long before the 19th century.
Al-Khansa (7th century poet)
One of the most successful poets in 3 Islamic periods - 6th/7th century
Wrote about her brothers who passed away during war (elegies)
Wrote about family, romantic love.
After converting to Islan, she wrote poems about Islam and the prophet – poetry was
extremely important at this time
She was a very independent woman, travelled, never married.
Did not conform to the traditional Arab women's role.
Rabia-Al Adawiya (7th century)
Was a beautiful entertainer for royalty.
After converting to Islam, she started writing poetry (mystic, spiritual, etc).
Shahrazad (10th)
One Thousand and One Nights
Originally an Indian story. A man is betrayed by his wife and then sets out on a killing spree
to get rid of virgin women after sleeping with them\
Shahrazad was seductive through her way of storytelling and manages to change the king's
mind about women.
Walladah (11th)
Princess had relationships with the men she loved and this was unusual at that time.
Wrote explicit literature about her sexuality and love interests.
Wrote poetry on her sleeves to carry with her at all times
Mayy Ziyadah (19th)
A rich Egyptian, only child, wrote a lot of poetry & diaries.
One of the first of Arab writers to write autobiographies
Encouraged a lot of novice writers at that time but sadly died in an asylum while suffering
from hysteria.
1) Issue of Representation
If we read one story, do we automatically assume it's the story of all Arab women?
Just cause one Arab male is bad, does it mean all of them are?
To read it in the context of sociology or anthropology?
Arab vs. Islam
70% of Muslims are not Arabs
70% of Arabs are Muslims
There is a difference between culture and religion
2) Questioning the interest in this body of Literature
a) Historical
Colonial quest & politics
Arabs are the center of politics => Gulf War 1 & 2, 9/11
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