Reconstructing urban space: Twentieth-century women writers of French expression
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examines the importance of urban space in the works of feminist writers from France, Quebec, the Maghreb and Francophone West Africa. Each author writes women as subjects of their own experience in the city, identifies the representations of power and gender in urban landscapes, restores a feminist voice to the polis and supports women's claim to enfranchisement in urban space. My analysis is based upon the fundamental premise that urban space reflects power dynamics and is, like gender, a social and political construction borne of a dominant patriarchal ideology. The urban type of the female flaneuse, or ambulant heroine, is prevalent in several of the texts. These are women whose personal trajectories through the metropolis serve as a common referant to define their identity. Exploitation, disciplinary surveillance and disillusion characterize (1) Claire Etcherelli's urban dystopia in Elise ou la vraie vie. (2) Annie Ernaux's observations of life in the periphery of Paris in the Journal du dehors are centered on the market economy of the city and women's status as commodity. The deviant behavior of (3) Andree Chedid's virtually homeless, elderly heroine in La cite fertile thinly veils a provocative inquiry into the notion of urban identity. (4) Christine de Pizan and the Quebecoise writer, (5) Nicole Brossard both employ the metaphor of construction--architectural and textual--and share utopian visions of women's writing as the site for feminist praxis and cultural transformation. (6) Nina Bouraoui's cloistered Algerian heroine in La Voyeuse interdite and the women in (7) Assia Djebar's novels dare to defy and transgress the boundaries which exclude women from the urban realm in the Maghreb. (8) Calixthe Beyala's novels depict young African women struggling with issues of identity and survival in metropolises dominated by a repressive, patriarchal mentality. Throughout the texts, the city appears in multiple guises: as a text, a body, a marketplace, and a prison. For these authors, writing on the city constitutes a feminist act asserting women's right to claim a voice in that space. These works situate the city as a locus of cultural and political critique, whose spatial configurations reflect the social constructions of gender.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
French and Italian