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Tunisian Women’s Writing in French

The Fight for Emancipation: From Ben Ali’s Rise to Power to the Eve of the Tunisian Revolution, 1987–2011

Sonia Alba was awarded a PhD in French and Francophone Studies in 2017. She is a qualified teacher of modern foreign languages with extensive experience teaching in Higher Education. She has engaged in research in a number of academic institutions including the University of Oxford where she worked as an applied linguistics research assistant, and the University of Leicester where she worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in French. She currently works at Alliance française in Cayenne, French Guiana.

Tunisian women’s literary production in French, published or set between the years 1987 and 2011 – from Tunisia’s second president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s rise to power to the eve of the Tunisian Revolution – reveals the role of women, their political engagement, and their resistance to patriarchal oppression.

A great deal of media and scholarly attention has focused on the role of women during the Tunisian Revolution itself, yet few studies have considered women’s literary and active engagement prior to the uprising. By contrast, this book focuses specifically on the time period leading to the Revolution. The book is structured around three chapters, each focusing on a different form of writing and on a number of contemporary Tunisian writers who have chosen to express themselves in French. Sonia Alba explores the complex ways in which the authors have attempted to deal with those issues – cultural, social and political – most relevant to them. This is the first study of Tunisian women’s writing in French to compare and contrast key themes in three different genres within a single study and within the conceptual framework of subaltern counterpublics. The work is enhanced by the inclusion of extracts from previously unpublished authors’ interviews.

Tunisian Women’s Writing in French is essential reading for all Francophone and Postcolonial scholars, and for scholars and students working in Contemporary Women’s Writing.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-939-5
Hardback Price: £45.00 / $55.00
Release Date: February 2019
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-78976-039-2
Paperback Price: £25.00 / $34.95
Release Date: January 2020
Page Extent / Format: 224 pp. 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: No



Introduction: Understanding Tunisian Francophone Women’s Writing
The ‘Arab world’ and the perserverance of stereotypes
Tunisia – Overview
Why literature and why women’s literature?
On language
On exile
On counterpublic theory
Authorial intention and the defence of anonymity

Shame and Punishment in the Autobiographical Novel La Retournée by Fawzia Zouari and in the Novel Leïla ou la femme de l’aube by Sonia Chamkhi
Biographical information, synopsis of texts and narrative voices
The protagonists’ ‘retournement’ – Shame
The protagonists’ ‘retournement’ – Punishment
The contribution to a subaltern counterpublic in Tunisia by Zouari and Chamkhi

“Not Literature, Only “Almost” Literature”: Essay Writing in Une force qui demeure by Hélé Béji and in Les Arabes, les femmes, la liberté by Sophie Bessis
Unsettling the modernity vs. tradition debate
The challenging of persistent traditional gender norms by Béji and Bessis
The contribution to a subaltern counterpublic in Tunisia by Béji and Bessis

The Personal is political: Old Adage, New Media. Blog Writing in A Tunisian Girl by Lina Ben Mhenni and in Nadia from Tunis by ‘Nadia’
Definition of genre: the blog or modern day diary
The intimate dimension of blog writing
The political dimension of blog writing
The contribution to a subaltern counterpublic in Tunisia by Ben Mhenni and Nadia

Conclusion: Debunking the Myth of the Subservient ‘Arab Woman’
Overview of chapters
Project limitations and directions for future research
The authors’ contribution to a subaltern counterpublic in Tunisia

Works Cited

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