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Arab Women Writers

Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide, 1873–1999

Radwa Ashour
Ferial J. Ghazoul
Hasna Reda-Mekdashi
Translated by Mandy McClure
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 540
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  • Book Info
    Arab Women Writers
    Book Description:

    Arab women’s writing in the modern age began with ‘A’isha al-Taymuriya, Warda al-Yaziji, Zaynab Fawwaz, and other nineteenth-century pioneers in Egypt and the Levant. This unique study—first published in Arabic in 2004—looks at the work of those pioneers and then traces the development of Arab women’s literature through the end of the twentieth century, and also includes a meticulously researched, comprehensive bibliography of writing by Arab women. In the first section, in nine essays that cover the Arab Middle East from Morocco to Iraq and Syria to Yemen, critics and writers from the Arab world examine the origin and evolution of women’s writing in each country in the region, addressing fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiographical writing. The second part of the volume contains bibliographical entries for over 1,200 Arab women writers from the last third of the nineteenth century through 1999. Each entry contains a short biography and a bibliography of each author’s published works. This section also includes Arab women’s writing in French and English, as well as a bibliography of works translated into English. With its broad scope and extensive research, this book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in Arabic literature, women’s studies, or comparative literature. Contributors: Emad Abu Ghazi, Radwa Ashour, Mohammed Berrada, Ferial J. Ghazoul, Subhi Hadidi, Haydar Ibrahim, Yumna al-‘Id, Su‘ad al-Mani‘, Iman al-Qadi, Amina Rachid, Huda al-Sadda, Hatim al-Sakr.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-554-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)
    Radwa Ashour, Mohammed Berrada, Ferial J. Ghazoul and Amina Rachid

    Unlike many other women writers, Arab women writers draw on a rich, ancient heritage, which stretches back to civilizations that flourished in the region before the Islamic conquest. As for the Arabic heritage, it takes us back to a venerable ancestor, al-Khansa’, whose poems and recorded exploits give her a secure position in the canon. Among the anecdotes related about her is this enlightening story: it is said that al-Khansa’ went to al-Nabigha while he was sitting in ‘Ukaz and recited her famous ra’iya poem to him.¹ Al-Nabigha told her, “If Abu Basir [al-A‘sha] had not already recited to me,...

  5. 1 Lebanon
    (pp. 13-59)
    Yumna al-ʹId

    As a poet, al-Khansa’ was held in high esteem. She had her own place in the ‘Ukaz market next to the equally renowned poet al-Nabigha, and the Prophet attested to her poetic superiority by dubbing her “the best poet” (notably, not the bestfemalepoet). Critic and grammarian al-Mufaddal al-Dabbi (d. 786) was of the opinion that among all the Arabs, al-Khansa’ had composed the best line of auto-panegyric, while in hisKitab al-Aghani(Book of Songs) tenth-century scholar Abu-l-Faraj al-Isfahani includes her among those poets whose verses were chosen for the one hundred songs sung in the days of...

  6. 2 Syria
    (pp. 60-97)
    Subhi Hadidi and Iman al-Qadi

    Female literary pioneers in Syria, like Mary ‘Ajami (1888–1965), Maryana Marrash (1848–1919), and Nazik al-‘Abid Bayhum (1887–1959) played an extremely important role in the struggle for women’s emancipation in Syria and a no less significant role in the emancipation of men as well.¹ ‘Ajami founded the magazineal-‘Arusin 1910; the women’s publication, the first of its kind, continued to appear despite Ottoman repression, which stood in stark contrast to the relative freedom of Egypt, for example. Her struggle for women was linked to the defense of Syrian men demanding their independence. Indeed, ‘Ajami’s stance on the martyrs of...

  7. 3 Egypt
    (pp. 98-161)
    Hoda Elsadda

    The beginnings of modern Arabic literature in Egypt can be traced back to the era of Muhammad ‘Ali (1805–1848), who took several measures to establish the foundations of the modern state.¹ Muhammad ‘Ali sent his famed educational missions to France and Italy to equip Egyptian students with Western sciences,² and he founded a modern educational system based on the Western model that operated parallel to the traditional educational system headed by al-Azhar.³ He set up the Bulaq Press in 1820, which printed both translations of Western works and Arabic works; private presses began to spread in 1860 and by...

  8. 4 Sudan
    (pp. 162-177)
    Haidar Ibrahim

    Sudanese women are victims of a double marginalization—once as citizens in a developing country and again as women in a male-dominated society—and this status is reflected in their cultural and artistic production. Sudanese literature, written by both men and women, is generally in short supply due to the conditions of Sudan’s historical development. The country is economically underdeveloped despite its enormous resources, which are either unexploited or wasted, and with sporadic exceptions, it has also been involved in the quagmire of civil war since the 1950s because of an underlying identity conflict. As a result, Sudan has become...

  9. 5 Iraq
    (pp. 178-203)
    Ferial J. Ghazoul

    Iraqi women can draw on a rich literary tradition that stretches back to the dawn of recorded civilization at Sumer and Babel, and continues up to the pre-Islamic era (the poet Salma Bint Malik ibn Hudhayfa, for example) and after the Islamic conquest, with figures such as Layla al-Akhyaliya (who engaged in literary sparring with the governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafi), Raya al-Salmiya, ‘A’isha Bint al-Mahdi, al-Fari‘a Bint Tarif, Mahbuba, Dananir, the Sufi poet Rabi‘a al-‘Adawiya, and many others. Nothing is more indicative of literary history’s neglect of women’s literature than the fact that Zubayda Bint Ja‘far was...

  10. 6 Palestine and Jordan
    (pp. 204-234)
    Radwa Ashour

    It is generally difficult to separate writing from geography and history, but in the case of Jordan and Palestine, it is impossible. The geographical/historical fact of Palestine and Jordan should not be ignored. Both part of the Levant, they were divided into two nation-states as part of the colonial enterprise in the early twentieth century, but the greater Levant (extending from the Taurus mountains in the north to Rafah in the south, and from the Mediterranean coast to the Euphrates in the west) was, since the Islamic conquest until the end of the First World War—that is, for more...

  11. 7 Arab North Africa
    (pp. 235-253)
    Mohammed Berrada

    It is not necessary here to delve into the history of Arab North Africa in the twentieth century, its colonization, and the attempts to displace its national cultures and language.¹ Rather, we hope to stick close to the topic at hand: a review of the contributions of North African women writers to literature of all types written in Arabic and an examination of the distinguishing features of their contributions. Nevertheless, we must pause at certain factors that have had a special impact on the literature of North African women. First and foremost, we must note the disparities in the literary...

  12. 8 The Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf
    (pp. 254-282)
    Suʹad al-Mana

    The appearance of women’s creative writing in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf area is linked with the rise of girls’ education. In the first half of the twentieth century, only rarely do we find writing women of the likes of the Hijazi Khadija al-Shanqitiya, who published a collection of poetry in praise of the Prophet Muhammad in 1936.¹ The absence of women’s writing prior to this does not mean that women in the Arabian Peninsula created no literature, for women played a role in oral composition, particularly colloquial poetry.²

    Official education for girls was initiated at different times in the...

  13. 9 Yemen
    (pp. 283-300)
    Hatem M. al-Sager

    To write about women’s literature in the twentieth century in a country like Yemen is first to confront the many gaps in the historical record. The cultural ruptures and lacunae that are a product of Yemen’s modern history, both in the north and the south, are reflected in the general conditions of Yemeni life and particularly in the cultural identity and literature of women. Indeed, it is difficult to talk about women’s literature much before the 1960s, both in the south, where British colonial rule lasted until 1967, and in the north, which was under the rule of the Imamate...

  14. Bibliography of Works in English
    (pp. 301-308)
  15. Bibliography of Works in French
    (pp. 309-332)
  16. Bibliography of Works in Arabic
    (pp. 333-520)
  17. Sources
    (pp. 521-526)