Laylá Ba‘albakī and feminism throughout her fiction
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A number of Lebanese women writers of the period of 1950s and 1960s have received considerable attention by scholars. This is not the case, however, for Laylá Ba‘albakī, whom the field has failed to address in any substantive manner. In not paying sufficient attention to Laylá Ba‘albakī, the field has failed to appreciate the distinctly feminist dimension of her work. To date, most scholars have only repeated commonly held views about her and her fiction. By addressing Ba‘albakī’s biography and fiction, this thesis hopes to contribute to a fuller understanding of Lebanese women writers of 1950s and 1960s. It shows that Ba‘albakī joined the group Shi‘r, but none of the Lebanese or Syrian political parties; and that she faced conflict not only with her parents, community and the state, but also, unexpectedly, with the Lebanese women’s groups. This study discusses the reasons why Ba‘albakī was brought before the courts, supporting the view that the underlying reason was political, not moral; and it further explores the reasons why the writer ceased publishing. It now seems probable that she will soon release a new work, after a long hiatus, which may be controversial within Muslim and Arab society. Moreover, this thesis shows that throughout her novels and short stories there is diversity in styles and techniques, and the use of poetic and figurative language which displays the influence of several Arab and Western poets (including her father’s own zajal poetry). Furthermore, the study focuses in particular on feminist themes in her work, and the various literary devices she employs for advancing her feminist agenda. The study of these devices further supports the claim that the court case against her was motivated by politics, not ethics. This thesis opens the doors for new discussions such as the impacts of her being Shiite as and when sources become available.