Date of Submission

Spring 2020

Academic Program

Literature; Middle Eastern Studies

Project Advisor 1

Marina Van Zuylen

Project Advisor 2

Ziad Dallal

Abstract/Artist's Statement

This project focuses on French language novels by two Moroccan authors, Love in Two Languages by Abdelkebir Khatibi and With Downcast Eyes by Tahar Ben Jelloun. Both these novels were written in the 1980s. In Love in Two Languages, which is a novel with a deconstructed plot, the narrator deals with the struggles of having a French lover while being Moroccan, ie. from a country that was colonized by France, as well as his strained relationship with the French language. Ben Jelloun’s book, With Downcast Eyes, is about a young Moroccan girl who moves to France with her family and her struggles to learn French, while also feeling in a constant middle space between Morocco and France. How do both create a new linguistic space, one that is anti-colonial, while also writing in French? How are they reconfiguring the French language and creating a poetics of relation, moving away from a linear colonial conception of poetics? This project examines how these books create a liminal literary space, one that questions its own use of language and does not take French for granted. It is a space which reexamines its relation to the Other, with a capital O.

Firstly, this thesis looks at the ways in which muddled narrative structures, character movements and the blurring of geographical settings all work to create a nonlinear literary space, in other words a space that refuses to adopt trajectories of colonialism. The second chapter of this project examines the ways in which the narrators deal with colonial trauma. The chapter focuses on both narrative and linguistic moments of friction and conflict in the texts, which at once shows the need for new literary spaces but also the constant tension in which these spaces exist.

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Open Access

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