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Title:Reclaiming, narrating, and reinterpreting aspects of religion in Taos Amrouche, Hélène Cixous, and Assia Djebar
Author(s):Dach, Nicola
Director of Research:Kuntz, Jane; Mall, Laurence
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mall, Laurence
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Kuntz, Jane; Fresco, Alain D.; Hassan, Wail S.
Department / Program:French
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subversive Language
Abstract:This dissertation investigates the ways in which three francophone Algerian women authors, Taos Amrouche, Hélène Cixous, and Assia Djebar, approach their respective religions and portray them in their works. Through textual evidence from their fictional works, I show how the problematic of religion in Algeria – where the three Abrahamic religions have been in tension at different times in recent history – has underpinned these authors’ sense of self and being in the world. I examine how they all redefine religion out of a feeling of exclusion and traumatization and add female and woman-centered voices to a larger conversation on the nature of religiosity. All three of these authors are feminists, yet they embrace religion, all the while defining their own understanding of it. In order to do this, they reread the original texts of their religions, as well as the cultural texts surrounding them. Taos Amrouche, caught between the European culture to which she is drawn because of her family’s Catholicism, and the Muslim-Berber culture of her ancestors, expresses a constant feeling of alienation, and portrays a trauma that she attempts to heal through the use of autobiographical writing. Competing cultural influences and hurtful encounters with a racist French Catholicism lead her to elaborate an alternate concept of Christianity. She recreates herself as the alternative messianic figure of a mystical, sensual, and inclusive religion. Hélène Cixous suffers from a similar situation of exclusion, although she is a member of a religious group that situates her in the colonial crossfire, between Muslims and Europeans. She engages in a process of dismantling and reconstructing religion in a style that is characteristically subversive and highly challenging. With the aid of a language that, according to her, has divine qualities, she mocks established religion, highlights the human, bi-gendered qualities of God, and calls for a religion of love and inclusion. Assia Djebar insists on placing her rereading of religion in its historical context, one that has made religion a wounding experience for her, but that also provides examples of strong Muslim women engaging in exegesis. Emphasizing her use of the original scriptural sources, she breaks down androcentric interpretations of religion and condemns fundamentalist violence, and reinterprets Islam with an emphasis on female corporality, women’s solidarity, dialogue, and inter-religious tolerance. Although these authors employ different strategies to proffer a new understanding of their respective religion, all three agree that a religion welcoming to women should be genuinely dialogic, inclusive, and conducive to personal, mystical, and/or sensual experiences. Having been placed at the cultural crossroads of Algeria by history, they all show an awareness of the necessity to creatively unite disparate elements, textual and cultural, in order to construct a conception of religion that is not only acceptable, but also enriching for them as women.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Nicola Dach
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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