Magic Realism as an Agent of Women’s Empowerment in Raja Alem’s My Thousand & One Nights: A Novel of Mecca

Abstract:

Within Saudi Arabian discourse, the traditional patriarchal hierarchy of the sexes applies in almost every aspect of life except in realms where the discourse transcends the borders of the real and tangible world into the fantastic world of magic and unseen beings. My thesis discusses the use of magic realism as a subversive means to honor the voice of women in a patriarchal society. The research focuses on magic realism as an agent that contributes to the empowerment of women in Saudi and, specifically, Hijazi literature through analyzing My Thousand & One Nights: A Novel of Mecca, a fictional work written first in Arabic by critically acclaimed Saudi author Raja Alem and translated collaboratively by Tim McDonough and Raja Alem. This novel features a female-centered community in which women participate in redefining the historical discourse of the holy land of Mecca through the use of fantastical elements unique to the region. Alongside the discussion of definitions, elements, and theories involving magic realism and its use in Alem’s novel, I analyze the utilization of magic realism as a tool of empowerment that female characters make use of to attain personal development.

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