Objects in the orient: women’s bodies and the construction of identity in recent books of expatriate experience in Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Rathwell, Selena M. A. (2020). Objects in the orient: women’s bodies and the construction of identity in recent books of expatriate experience in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis defines a micro-movement of literature characterised by a period of hopeful curiosity that occurred in western novels of expatriate experience set within Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and published from 2012-2014. The micromovement, which begins with the optimism of the Arab Spring, closes with the rise of ISIS. The thesis explains how the five texts under consideration: Dave Eggers’s A Hologram for the King, Joseph O’Neill’s The Dog, Garry Craig Powell’s Stoning the Devil, Kim Barnes’s In The Kingdom of Men, and Keija Parssinen’s The Ruins of Us contain specific commonalities. Namely, each work has a dissatisfied narrator who is seeking purpose. Adrift in a foreign landscape, each expatriate narrator uses the bodies of women as a kind of anchor. The women’s bodies become sites of identity making, either as mirrors to reflect back the enlarged figure of the protagonist or as a window through which to explore gender identity. This is done through sexual objectification in The Dog. The authors of A Hologram for a King, Stoning the Devil, and In the Kingdom of Men consciously or unconsciously present Orientalist attitudes as an attempt to bolster their own identity. When these attempts at female subjugation falter, as in The Dog, A Hologram for the King, The Ruins of Us, and Stoning the Devil, the narrators experience minor epiphanies. In the Kingdom of Men sees the male gaze appropriated by a female narrator and applied to other women in a queer reading of the text, or reflexively on to self. The thesis argues that the micro-movement is defined by the attitudes each author demonstrates about the Gulf, that it is a site for the exploration of gender identity.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and Creative Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11055


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