Translating Exile: Contemporary Francophone Women Writers (MLF2074)

15 credits

This module introduces you to issues of translation and exile in contemporary Francophone women’s writing, looking at two texts in both French and English. You will focus on the relationships between individual and society, author and translator, source text and translated text, and study themes of war, memory, illness, gender, ‘freedom’, and exile.

In the novel Désorientale (Disoriental), Négar Djavadi fictionalises her childhood in Iran and her family’s exile to France. Through her narrator, Kimiâ, Djavadi explores issues of selfhood, sexuality, and (dis)integration: shifting between a modern-day Parisian fertility clinic and a sun-drenched Iranian childhood, Kimiâ details the isolation of being gay in a culture that does not recognise homosexuality, and of integrating a new culture that requires her to “disintegrate” first. Darina Al Joundi’s play, Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing), opens up questions of female ‘freedom’ in war-torn Lebanon: narrated by Noun, who Al Joundi describes as “a part of me”, the monologue exposes the horrors of growing up in wartime and the heavy consequences for a woman who does not obey the rules. To the soundtrack of Nina Simone, Noun tells the story of her childhood in Lebanon: the war, the stranglehold of religion, the weight of prejudice, and her struggle against a society where men are all-powerful and women are denied freedom of speech. Both texts are highly personal, yet offer insights into specific socio-historical contexts in Iran, Lebanon and France.

You will also approach the texts from the perspective of translation, looking at why translation is important for women writers, and what is at stake in translating women, especially those who do not ‘fit into’ mainstream discourses, as well as the differences between translating for publication and translating for performance.

This module may be studied by students of French who have passed MLF1001, or by ex-beginners (who have passed MLF1052). All students will study the texts in both French original and English translation.

Please note that owing to the themes of war and sexual repression. in places the texts depict representations of violence and scenes of a sexual nature.