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Gender Dialectics: Hudā Barakāt’s Aesthetics of Androgyny

  • Kifah Hanna
Part of the Literatures and Cultures of the Islamic World book series (LCIW)

Abstract

Like Ghādah al-Sammān and Saḥar Khalīfeh, the Lebanese writer Hudā Barakāt is deeply invested in questions of gender and sexuality during times of war and national crisis in the Levant. Further, she shares their inclination toward unconventional serialization. Recalling al-Sammān’s Beirut tetralogy and Khalīfeh’s West Bank series, her novels Ḥajar al-Ḍaḥik (The Stone of Laughter , 1990), Ahl al-Hawā (Disciples of Passion, 1993), Ḥārith al-Mīyah (The Tiller of Waters, 1998), and Sayyidī wā Ḥabībī (My Master, My Lover, 2004) neither develop linearly nor return to the same characters, yet they constitute a series that cumulatively explores a mutual set of social, political, and cultural themes.1 It is precisely these themes, though, that distinguishes Barakāt from her peers. While on the one hand al-Sammān and Khalīfeh address male identity and subjectivity primarily as a foil to their more pressing emphasis on Levantine women, Barakāt, on the other, chooses to position the male psyche as central to her intricate investigations of the human in response to trauma and violence. Focalized around marginalized male anti-heroes as embodiments of the contradictions of gender and sexuality during the Lebanese civil war, her novels, by necessity of this thematic, employ a surrealist rather than an existentialist or critical realist aesthetic, another distinguishing feature of her work.

Keywords

Sexual Identity Arabic Literature National Crisis Male Protagonist Homosexual Inclination 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
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    I employ “homosocial” here in the terms first articulated by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, as descriptive of “social bonds between persons of the same sex,” but distinct from what might be considered the “sexual bonds” implied by “homosexual.” Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), p. 1. I also acknowledge, and seek to move beyond, what Fedwa Malti-Douglas sees as the tendency among Western critics to read instances of homoso-ciality in Arabic literature as “indexes of latent or overt homosexuality.” In Arab-Islamic culture, she rightly asserts, “homosociality” actually “takes precedence over heterosexuality” on the levels of both “social practice [and] mentalit é s,” and thus must not be reduced to or confused with sexual motive.Google Scholar
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© Kifah Hanna 2016

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