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Hamdar, Abir (2008) The Female Suffering Body: Representations of Illness and Disability in Modern Arabic Literature of the Levant and Egypt 1950-2005. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis examines the representation of female physical illness and disability in selected literary works by Arab male and female writers of the Levant and Egypt from the period of 1950-2005. The analysis investigates the ways that sick and disabled female characters have been depicted in these works, the roles allotted to them within the narrative as well as the metaphoric connotations they took. Throughout a comparison in the representation of the female suffering body amongst both groups of writers is emphasized while the textual and narrative structure each employed is compared and contrasted. Chapter One establishes the theoretical framework of the study by drawing on theories in literary studies, social medicine, medical anthropology and sociology of the body but with an emphasis, above all, on a Foucauldian reading. Chapter Two deals with works of male writers who published between 1950-2000 and focuses on how the ill female body was absented. Chapter Three examines the works of female writers who published within the same time span as their male counterparts but who brought about more developed female illness narratives infused with complex structures and subversive ideologies. Chapter Four, on the other hand, focuses on works published in 2000 and beyond to show how the sick female body begins to be textually and physically constituted in some male and female narratives. Chapter Five concludes by highlighting the social and political forces that have shaped the representations of ill female bodies in the works discussed. Through all this, the study demonstrates that the representation of the female suffering body has been marked by a slow movement from domains of invisibility to spaces of literary visibility, from symbolic meaning to lived, corporeal experience and from a voiceless presence to one that charts a passage to its subjective and self-reflexive narrative. Furthermore, the longstanding stigma associated with imperfect female bodies in the wider Arab cultural surrounding is highlighted while the changing relationship to ill female bodies underway at the moment is transmitted.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:19

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