College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Modern Languages - Arabic


Nawal El Saadawi, Samiha Khrais, resistance through storytelling, identity and gender, transnational feminism


In this thesis, I examine two novels: Woman at Point Zero (1975) written by Nawal El Saadawi (1931-2021), Egyptian writer, physician, and activist and The Tree Stump: An Arabic Historical Novel (1998) by Samiha Khrais (1956-present), Jordanian writer whose works blur the lines between historiographies and fiction. In doing so, I analyze the ways in which these two writers depict gender and identity. Paying careful attention to El Saadawi and Khrais' use of these concepts within the context of their respective societal milieus and cultural backgrounds (or those of the novels)—the former coming from Egypt's lower class and the latter from an intellectual and politically active Jordanian family—, I first explore the stark differences that emerge in their writing, then demonstrate their fundamental similarity, i.e., resistance against oppression and of advancement of social justice of Arabs, and Arab women in particular via the act of storytelling. Furthermore, I contextualize their views within a broader transnational Arab community and identify the ways in which both writers anchor their ideas within Arabic culture and traditions. As a result, what emerges are responses to (1) the criticisms often leveled at El Saadawi which dismisses her as either Occidentalized or non-representative of 'authentic' Arab societal values, and (2) the supposition of existing contradictions between Khrais' powerful and influential women and culture/tradition of Bedouins/Arabs of Jordan. Apart from using the novels themselves, I will base myself in the insights of transnational feminism, its intersection with an array of other pressing social justice issues, and a recognition of the impacts of colonialism and imperialism on parts of the Arab world. The desired outcome of this comparative literature study will therefore be to provide compelling evidence in reconciling the seemingly disparate ideologies of both writers on identity, gender, and women to pave a clearer understanding of how they are compatible and suitable for potential coalitions between women (and men) across the Arab world.