African 606: Francophone Women Voices from Africa and the Middle East

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Course Description

This course focuses on francophone literature and culture, principally from Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Cameroun), but also from the Middle East (Lebanon and Iran). 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 in their respective societies. The course examines issues of identity, agency and resistance, using as points of entry a diverse set of theoretical and literary texts. We will delve into feminist and postcolonial theories to better understand the power dynamics sustaining these questions. A particular focus on language as a tool of expression for social transformation and critique will be central to our discussions too: Is the use of French language liberating or obstructive? How is it “indigenized”? Does it confine or go beyond national boundaries? Who is the readership? Is the category “francophone” indispensable or could World Literature embrace these literatures? 

Course Objectives

To introduce students to a variety of theoretical and conceptual frameworks underpinning African and Middle Eastern women writing

To expose students to complex historical moments in Africa and the Middle East, in order to engage with their diversity through a critical examination of women’s voices 

To foster the students’ critical thinking and comparative skills as they perform close readings of literary texts and genres

To refine students’ awareness of variances in culture, ethnicity, class, sexuality and religion inherent in all societies

Texts include major authors such as:  

Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose. The Post-Apollo Press, 2010 (Sitt Marie Rose, 1978)  

Werewere Liking, The Amputated Memory: A Song-Novel. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2007, ISBN-10: 1558615555 (La mémoire amputee, 2004)  

Fatou Diome, The Belly of the Atlantic. Serpent's Tail, 2008 (Le Ventre de l’Atlantique, 2003)

Fatima Mernissi. Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood. Perseus Books, 1995 (Rêves de femmes : Une enfance au harem, 1998)  

Malika Mokeddem, The Forbidden Woman. University of Nebraska Press, 1998 (L’interdite, 1994) 

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis. The Story of a Childhood. Pantheon Graphic Library, 2004 (Persepolis, 2007)