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C LIT 323 A: Studies In The Literature Of Emerging Nations

Women, Sex & Taboos: Reflections on Middle Eastern Cinema and Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm
Location: 
MGH 271
SLN: 
11826
Instructor:
Jacinthe Ahmed Assaad
Jacinthe Ahmed Assaad

Syllabus Description:

Women, Sex & Taboos: Reflections on Middle Eastern Cinema and Literature

It is believed that, in Islam, a woman’s voice is ‘aawra, a taboo that portrays her nakedness, shameful and dishonorable. Silence was always the preferred mode of expression for women. Over the years, in silence, women have felt pain and shame, love and loss. They have struggled against patriarchal traditions, grieved in wars, forgotten, and remembered—all in silence. However, when they learned the power words yield, they broke the silence that denied their presence. Through their voices, women claim agency, expressing their feminist consciousness, their engagement with history, their struggle with patriarchy, and their narrative right to remember.

In this class we will explore various voices of women who refuse to be silent, who use words and images to break the taboo of their own muteness. We will start by exploring why and how women are silenced: How is society complicit in creating the silent and submissive woman? We will ask how women talk about the unspeakable, express a trauma that resonates across their daily lives, or cope with overwhelming violence. How do they express their feelings and desires, and represent and reclaim their sexuality, which is often cloaked in shame and dishonor? In what ways have women found a representation for their absence, on the screen and on the page? How does cinema translate the feeling of oppression in the lives of women, and their search for identity and subjectivity? Ultimately, we will question the ways women rebel against social discourses that reinforce their silence, control their behavior, and regulate their sexuality.

We will examine the intersection between the material selected, ranging from novels, short stories, poems, graphic novels and films, from Egypt to Lebanon, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, thus expanding our cultural contexts, in order to understand how even though women’s voices may be taboos, they ultimately reveal a nakedness that is at once a show of vulnerability and one of power.

This course counts as a foundations class for the Diversity Minor.  It means that students who pursue the Diversity Minor would have to earn only 20 more credits to satisfy its requirements.  For more information about this opportunity, contact Jamie Barnhorst, academic advisor of the Diversity Minor Program <c21@uw.edu> or visit: https://divminor.washington.edu/

 

All readings are in English, and films have subtitles.

Full syllabus is available here.

 

Texts:

 

Mamdouh, Alia. “Presence of the Absent Man.”

Nasrallah, Emily. “A House Not Her Own.”

Rifaat, Alifa. Distant View of a Minaret. Waveland Press, 2014.

Al-Samman, Ghada. Arab Women In Love & War: Fleeting Eternities. (Selected Poems)

Satrapi, Marjane. Embroideries. Pantheon, 2006.

al-Shaykh, Hanan. The Story of Zahra. Anchor, 1996.

 

Films:

 

The Circle. Dir. Jafar Panahi, 2000 (Iran).

Scheherazade Tell Me a Story. Dir. Yousry Nasrallah, 2009 (Egypt).

Wadjda. Dir. Haifaa al-Mansour, 2012 (Saudi Arabia).

Caramel. Dir. Nadine Labaki, 2008 (Lebanon).

 

Additional Details:

 

It is said, in Islam, that a woman’s voice is ‘aawra, a taboo that portrays her nakedness, shameful and dishonorable. Silence was always the preferred mode of expression for women. Over the years, in silence, women have felt pain and shame, love and loss. They have struggled against patriarchal traditions, grieved in wars, forgotten and remembered—all in silence. However, when they learned the power words yield, they broke the silence that denied their presence. Through their voices, women claimed agency, expressing their feminist consciousness, their engagement with history, their struggle with patriarchy, and their narrative right to remember.

In this class we will explore various voices of women who refused to be silent, who used words and images to break the taboo of their own muteness. We will ask how women talk about the unspeakable, express a trauma that resonates across their daily lives, or cope with overwhelming violence. How do they express their feelings and desires, and represent and reclaim their sexuality, which is often cloaked in shame and dishonor? In what ways have women found a representation for their absence, on the screen and on the page? How does cinema translate the feeling of oppression in the lives of women, and their search for identity and subjectivity?

We will explore the intersection between the material selected, ranging from novels, short stories, poems, graphic novels and films, from Egypt to Lebanon, from Iran to Saudi Arabia, in order to understand how women’s voices are taboos, and how they reveal a nakedness that is at once a show of vulnerability and one of power.

All readings are in English, and films have subtitles.

 

Texts:

 

Mamdouh, Alia. “Presence of the Absent Man.”

Nasrallah, Emily. “A House Not Her Own.”

Rifaat, Alifa. Distant View of a Minaret. Waveland Press, 2014.

Al-Samman, Ghada. Arab Women In Love & War: Fleeting Eternities. (Selected Poems)

Satrapi, Marjane. Embroideries. Pantheon, 2006.

al-Shaykh, Hanan. The Story of Zahra. Anchor, 1996.

Al-Tahawy, Miral. Blue Aubergine. AUC Press, 2006.

 

Films:

 

The Circle. Dir. Jafar Panahi, 2000 (Iran).

Scheherazade Tell Me a Story. Dir. Yousry Nasrallah, 2009 (Egypt).

Wadjda. Dir. Haifaa al-Mansour, 2012 (Saudi Arabia).

Caramel. Dir. Nadine Labaki, 2008 (Lebanon).

Catalog Description: 
Novels and short stories, from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Discusses relationship of Western literary genres to an oral literary tradition, as well as issues like colonialism, gender relations, narrative technique, native and non-native languages.
Department Requirements Met: 
Literature Core
GE Requirements Met: 
Diversity (DIV)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:12pm
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