Year of Graduation
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Restricted Access Thesis
Department or Program
Romance Languages and Literatures
This Honors Project examines the ways in which the literature of the Algerian author Maïssa Bey serves as a testimony that explores the trauma and violence of wars in Algeria. My overarching question was “What is the fragmented and polyphonic writing of Maïssa Bey reflective of?” Although Bey is positioned in the littérature d’urgence, a journalistic literary movement that developed during the Algerian civil war, I show that the ways in which she represents violence and trauma differ from the representations of her contemporaries. I explore the ideas of fragmentation and polyphony through the work of Gérard Genette, Mikhail Bakhtin, psychiatrists, and intellectuals in the field of trauma studies. I turn to three novels written during and after the Algerian civil war and show that Maïssa Bey’s use of fragmentation portrays the instability experienced by Algerians during wartime. Her fragmented writing also nuances the different forms of violence experienced by Algerians, focusing particularly on the physical and psychological forms of violence. The polyphonic narratives she constructs ensure that she includes marginalized and silenced voices, which are often excluded from historiography. Her use of polyphony allows her to reiterate the importance of literature and stories as a cathartic medium to address and overcome political violence. Bey’s writing is particularly important for Algerian literature, trauma studies, and postcolonial literature. Ultimately, Maïssa Bey’s writing favors the act of storytelling to shape communities that can collectively address and overcome the trauma and violence experienced by Algerians during the war of Independence and the civil war.
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