Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Rabia Redouane

Committee Member

Kathleen Loysen

Committee Member

Elizabeth Emery


Patriarchy, which literally means the rule of a patriarch, is defined as a form of social organization in which political, religious and economic powers are held by a male to the detriment of a woman. In this male-dominated system, women are oppressed and discriminated. Such practices, which are no longer acceptable nowadays, are the main characteristic of the Arabic-Muslim societies of the Maghreb. The denunciation of the patriarchal ideology, as well as calling into question of the conservative structures of the society is some of the essential themes of French language literature in the Maghreb.

The main purpose of my thesis is to analyze the denunciation of patriarchy and women oppression through the Maghrebian French language literature. In fact, I chose as a source of reference / ’Enfant de sable, novel of the well-known Moroccan author, Tahar Ben Jelloun. Through the person of Ahmed whose destiny was diverted from its normal course according to the willingness of the family’s dominant male, Tahar Ben Jelloun depicts the women’s condition in North Africa, showing how archaic customs and religious precepts cause harmful effects to woman life. Without going to the extreme of saying that the maghrebian world has the monopoly of the patriarchy, I show how this ideology affects the whole society to the point that it arouses indignation of some progressive thinkers. Moreover, L ’Enfant de sable is the expression of Ben Jelloun’s indignation in front of the subjugation women face in Maghreb.

My essay consists of three substantive parts. First, I provide a historical view of the Francophone Maghrebian literature written by Algerians, Moroccans, and Tunisians in order to illustrate its key aspects. How did this literature start? Why did Maghrebian novelists choose to write in French instead of Arabic? How has this literature emancipated from the French colonial literature of the time? How does this literature depict the theme of the patriarchy among others in the Maghreb? These are some of the main questions raised and discussed in the first part of this essay.

In the second part, I review the life and work of Tahar Ben Jelloun in order to show how he fits into this new aesthetic. In the case of L ’Enfant de sable, I focus on Ben Jelloun’s conviction and belief that literature and fiction are able to reach more people than any another means of a r t . It is why this book may be viewed as a pretext for the author to set his account to the chauvinist and patriarchal societies of the Maghreb that use Islam as means of oppressing women.

Finally, in the last and third part, I analyze the religious foundations whether proven or not of the patriarchy. A careful reading of The Koran and the works of a certain Islamic scholars lead to the conclusion that the argument of religious foundations of patriarchy does not stand up to analysis. This is why my work underlines the need for a new hermeneutics in order to emancipate women from all forms of subjugation maintained by a literal and biased interpretation of Koran. The institutional reforms have no doubt contributed to improving the status of women in the Maghreb, and yet a lot remains to be done.

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