The Arab Intellectual as a Woman: The Writings of Ghada Samman

Alammar, Layla (2022) The Arab Intellectual as a Woman: The Writings of Ghada Samman. In: Bearing Untold Stories, 2022-05-312022-06-01, Lancaster University.

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Ghada Samman (b. 1942) is a prominent literary figure with an established legacy across the Arabic-speaking world. Through her widely-acclaimed writings, the Syrian author, journalist, and critic occupies a unique position in Arab intellectual circles as a woman who combines a commitment to the peoples’ causes with an innovative literary style vividly capturing the estrangement faced by the modern Arab subject. Samman has spent her life in exile, first in Beirut and eventually settling in Paris when the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) escalated. She has published 10 poetry books, 6 short story collections, 5 novels, and 20 collections of essays. However, despite her influential writings, Samman is relatively unknown outside of the Arabic-speaking world and a negligible portion of her corpus has been translated into English. My presentation posits the reason for this exclusion being that the Anglophone world does not know where to place Samman as she refuses the mould of “women’s writing” to which the Western academy is accustomed. Hers is the broad, interdisciplinary concern of the intellectual, writing on themes of exile, diatribes against capitalism and classism, the liberation of sexuality from prescribed norms, as well as how patriarchal hegemonies victimise both men and women. Even in the Arabic-speaking world she has pushed back against reductive labelling of her work, writing in a 1987 article: ‘My allegiance is to my freedom and my faith in a woman’s ability to write great human literature. There’s no need to call it “feminist” when its defence of women is part and parcel of its defence of all who are oppressed in Arab societies.’ My presentation will explore the life and work of Ghada Samman from the position of an Arab intellectual rather than a limited (and expected) reading of her as a woman writer exclusively concerned with “women’s issues”.

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Bearing Untold Stories
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06 Dec 2022 15:15
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06 Dec 2022 15:15