Myth of the Silent Woman

Myth of the Silent Woman: Moroccan Women Writers

SUELLEN DIACONOFF
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442670129
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  • Book Info
    Myth of the Silent Woman
    Book Description:

    Suellen Diaconoff situates French-language texts from Moroccan women writers in a discourse of social justice and reform, arguing that they contribute to the emerging national debate on democracy and help to create new public spaces of discourse and participation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7012-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    Today the question of women in the Arab world is of particularly compelling interest in both the East and West, not only because woman has often been placed at the centre of the ideological conflict between the two poles, but also because, as Moroccan-American writer Laila Lalami has recently written, women are treated as pawns by both Islamist movements and Western governments, each seeking to actualize their own agendas. The result, she says, is that Muslim women have been saddled with the ‘burden of pity,’ by proponents on each side of the divide, with everyone wanting to speak on their...

  5. 1 Morocco’s New Voices: Women Writers and the Socio-Political and Cultural Landscape
    (pp. 18-36)

    In 2006, when Morocco celebrated fifty years of independence from French colonial rule, Moroccan women had been publishing works of fiction for just over two decades. The first novel generally credited to a Moroccan woman, Halima Ben Haddou’sAïcha la rebelle– whose title may be an early augur of how women’s writing would be seen – was published in 1982, whereas the first novel by a man,Mosaïques terniesby Abdelkader Chatt came out in 1932.¹ To explain that half-century lag between the initial forays into literary fiction by the two sexes, we need to consider not only the...

  6. 2 Mernissi and Scheherazade in Dialogue: Rereading and Acts of Subversion
    (pp. 37-58)

    Scheherazade is a great reader, a fact directly, if surprisingly, related to her survival. If she had not had in her possession such a great storehouse of tales and wisdom acquired from years of reading, she would not have been able to seduce the bloodthirsty king into sparing her life, allowing her to live for yet one more day so that she would be able to finish each story and begin a new tale, also left in suspense, night after night after night. Indeed, by her sagacious choice of story and her creative use of narrative postponement, Scheherazade subverts the...

  7. 3 The Myth of the Silent Woman
    (pp. 59-79)

    One of the most striking images in Fatna El Bouih’s prison memoir,Une Femme nommée Rachid, describes how lying side by side on the cold cement floor, blindfolded and gagged, she and the other female political prisoners were able to communicate by using their fingers like pens to trace letters on the ‘pages’ of the palm or the flank of the woman next to her, transmitting messages of hope and encouragement. Despite the rule of silence, enforced by their jailors, these young women telegraphed with deft fingers, letter by letter, ‘des contes du merveilleux, des récits et des blagues’ (tales...

  8. 4 Transgressive Narratives
    (pp. 80-104)

    To utter the words ‘transgression,’ ‘violence,’ and ‘eroticism’ in the same breath as Moroccan women writers appears, in itself, to violate everything that we think we know about North Africa. Both we and they have bought the notion that Arab Muslim women are highly conservative, if not actually repressed, about sex, that Islamic culture commands silence and modesty of women, and that no member of the female sex, as opposed to a man, writes openly about the body, sexual desire, and practices.¹ It would behchouma(inappropriate or shameful behaviour) to do so, a grave crime againsthichma(modesty), a...

  9. 5 A Prison Narrative: Female Memory and a Woman Called ‘Rachid’
    (pp. 105-124)

    On a spring day in May 1977, Fatna El Bouih and a male classmate from the university arrive at a friend’s apartment in the Océan quarter of Rabat, with the intention of spending the afternoon studying for their upcoming exams. When Fatna knocks at the door, it flies open and she is yanked inside. Instinctively, her companion bolts, but is quickly halted by a warning bullet that barely misses his leg. In the apartment, men brandishing firearms slap the students and unleash a flood of insults, questions, and accusations. Dazed by this startling rupture from the mundane, Fatna feels as...

  10. 6 The Female Body and the Body Politic: Harem and Hammam
    (pp. 125-149)

    In the textual and visual depictions of North Africa and the greater Middle East, two iconic spaces traditionally associated with Orientalism and issues of power and powerlessness are the customary site for investigating the cultural politics of gender and sexuality: harem and hammam. Conventionally, the harem is that part of the Oriental house reserved for women, while the hammam or baths are located outside the home in establishments with abundant water and heating capacity to produce steam. Gender-specific spaces of intimacy, closed off from the outside world and ruled by precise laws regulating inclusion and exclusion, these spaces of the...

  11. 7 Women and the City
    (pp. 150-168)

    To investigate the issue of women and the city is to become a cultural geographer and to incorporate the principles of feminist geography, focusing on the intersections of gender, identity, and place. It is to understand that the city as a field of experience is different not only at different historical moments, but also for men and women, who may construct, negotiate, and contest its boundaries in disparate ways. It is to see how the city can become a kind of cartography of connections and disconnections, a network of possibilities and of dichotomies.

    When literary critics become cultural geographers, they...

  12. 8 Scheherazade’s (Moroccan) Sisters: The Poetics of Identity and Democracy
    (pp. 169-193)

    By the time both chambers of the Moroccan legislature voted changes to the Moudawana, or family code, in January 2004, nearly fifty years had passed since Morocco had won its independence from France, during which time women activists’ hopes for a more democratic society had repeatedly been raised, then dashed, as commission after commission bickered and broke faith, revealing deep divisions about what should constitute modernity. Finally, after nearly half a century and much expenditure of the so-called female virtue – patience – the law caught up with the times and offered to women a handful of basic rights previously...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 194-198)

    In 2002, officials for the sixth annual Salon of the Book in Tangier chose ‘Writing and Resistance’ as the overarching theme of their book fair which had been designed to focus on prison narratives based on the ‘years of lead.’ The relevancy of that fact to this book is that the same theme offers an especially appropriate lens through which to study the history and experience of women in Morocco and more particularly the history and experience of the first wave of Moroccan women writers. In her 1998 film, ‘Still Ready,’ Alison Baker gives a riveting account of three female...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 199-240)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 241-256)
  16. Index
    (pp. 257-269)