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Francophone Women Writing Algeria

Alison Rice

Publication Year: 2012

Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of Algeria's independence, Polygraphies is significant and timely in its focus on autobiographical writings by seven of the most prominent francophone women writers from Algeria today, including Maïssa Bey, Hélène Cixous, Assia Djebar, and Malika Mokeddem. These authors witnessed both the "before" and "after" of the colonial experience in their land, and their fictional and theoretical texts testify to the lasting impact of this history. From a variety of personal perspectives and backgrounds, each writer addresses linguistic, religious, and racial issues of crucial contemporary importance in Algeria. Alison Rice engages their work from a range of disciplines, striving both to heighten our sensitivity to the plurality inherent in their texts and to move beyond a true/false dichotomy to a wealth of possible truths, all communicated in writing.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

With gratitude I wish to acknowledge the many people who provided inspiration and encouragement as I wrote this book. As my dedication indicates, I would like to express special appreciation to Françoise Lionnet, my professor and advisor during my doctoral studies at the University of...

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Introduction. The Witness Stand: Where the Truth Lies

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pp. 1-24

Much of contemporary writing in French by women from Algeria is arguably, and uniquely, autobiographical, but not in a traditional sense. Polygraphies examines the ways in which seven writers subtly insert the self into the text in...

Part I. The Autobiographical Springboard

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1. Le moi à plusieurs reprises: From Confession to Testimony in the Autobiographical Writings of Hélène Cixous and Assia Djebar

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pp. 27-45

Hélène Cixous and Assia Djebar have composed prolific oeuvres that are quite different, but that have in common recurring autobiographical elements. Cixous, in works both theoretical and fictional, repeatedly comes back to personal topics...

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2. La singularité de l’altérité: Self-Portraiture and the Other in Maïssa Bey

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pp. 46-57

In 1993, Maïssa Bey accorded a substantial interview to Martine Marzloff, and their conversation was published as part of a book five years later. The interview came at a critical moment in her life, as Samia Benameur had recently decided to take up a pen name, and take up...

Part II. Takeoff Points

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3. La terre maternelle: Algeria and the Mother in the Work of Marie Cardinal, Hélène Cixous, and Assia Djebar

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pp. 61-85

La terre et la mère—the native land and the mother—arguably constitute the subjects of reflection at the heart of Marie Cardinal’s oeuvre. While homeland and family are central to most autobiographical works, these two themes of predilection are...

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4. ‘‘La célébration d’une terre-mère’’: Albert Camus and Algeria according to Maïssa Bey and Assia Djebar

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pp. 86-96

The quotation that makes up the title of this chapter is from a unique publication by Maïssa Bey, a work initially written for a talk delivered in the heart of Paris, at the Centre Pompidou, on the occasion of a colloquium entitled ‘‘Albert Camus and...

Part III. Embodiments

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5. Écrire les maux: Hélène Cixous and Writing the Body over Time

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pp. 99-108

Hélène Cixous is known in many critical circles for one remarkable text: ‘‘Le rire de la Méduse.’’ In this renowned essay, she incites women to ‘‘write their bodies’’ in an exhortation of what has become a key concept for women’s studies in the...

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6. Sexualités et sensualités: Corporeal Configurations in the Work of Maïssa Bey, Assia Djebar, Malika Mokeddem, and Leïla Sebbar

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pp. 109-125

If Hélène Cixous encourages women to write their bodies with such fervor in ‘‘Le rire de la Méduse,’’ her passion is related to her early experience in Algeria. She states in La Jeune Née (The Newly Born Woman), published in the same year (1975), that what she witnessed...

Part IV. Reverberations

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7. Ruptures intimes: Sentimental Splitting in the Work of Assia Djebar

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pp. 129-139

Much has been written about Assia Djebar’s multiple cultural and linguistic affiliations, and the various separations that have occasioned her many belongings. In this chapter, I explore another aspect of her oeuvre, one that has not yet...

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8. Lourds retours: Coming Back to Algeria in Malika Mokeddem’s L’Interdite

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pp. 140-150

The depiction of male-female love relationships, and their eventual, inevitable endings in Assia Djebar’s recent writings, finds an echo in a recent text by Malika Mokeddem titled Mes hommes (My Men). In this autobiographical work, Mokeddem revisits...

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9. Fille de harki: Relating to the Father, Country, and Religion in the Writing of Zahia Rahmani

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pp. 151-163

Zahia Rahmani’s literary work stems in many senses from a need to testify to a torment that is intense, immense, and inevitably extends beyond expression. It is no accident that she often has recourse to the terminology of the trial in her writing, for she...

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10. Fabulation et imagination: Women, Nation, and Identification in Maïssa Bey’s Cette fille-là

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pp. 164-185

Maïssa Bey’s 2001 novel Cette fille-là is not strictly autobiographical, but its ambiguous status is o√set by the clear personal investment of the writer in the text. While a young woman who is not the author serves as the narrator of this...

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Conclusion. Mass in A Minor: Putting Algeria on the Map

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pp. 186-196

In her autobiographical work of fiction titled Manhattan: Lettres de la préhistoire (Manhattan: Letters from Prehistory), Hélène Cixous recounts the trip of a French scholar to the United States in 1965, nearly forty years before Manhattan appeared in print, in 2002. The young...


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pp. 197-213


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pp. 215-225


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pp. 227-243

E-ISBN-13: 9780813932934
E-ISBN-10: 0813932939
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813932910
Print-ISBN-10: 0813932912

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 811829692
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Polygraphies

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Algerian literature (French) -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women in literature.
  • Postcolonialism in literature.
  • Women authors, Algerian -- Political and social views.
  • Women authors, Arab -- Algeria -- Political and social views.
  • Women and literature -- Algeria -- History -- 20th century.
  • Feminism and literature -- Algeria -- History -- 20th century.
  • Algeria -- In literature.
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