University of Leicester
2018AlHarbyNAMPhD.pdf (1.36 MB)

Veiled Pearls: Women in Saudi Arabia in Contemporary Fiction

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posted on 2018-06-15, 14:36 authored by Nesreen Abdullah Al-Harby
In comparison to other Arab/Muslim women, Saudi women are underexamined and/or often misrepresented. This thesis resists Saudi women’s obscurity and sheds light on their struggle to overcome domination and achieve emancipation. It analyses Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), Rajaa Alsanea’s Girls of Riyadh (2008), Zoe Ferraris’s trilogy, Finding Nouf (2009), City of Veils (2011), and Kingdom of Strangers (2012), and Alys Einion’s Inshallah (2014). The thesis examines the significance of pre- and post-9/11 political and social contexts of representations of women in Saudi Arabia, compares depictions of Western (English, Welsh, and American) and Saudi women, and scrutinizes the effect of genre (the Gothic, the thriller, detective fiction and Chick Lit) on representations of women in a Saudi context. It draws on Arab/Muslim feminism to assess the degree to which the novels reproduce or challenge prevailing discourses of gender and Orientalism. This thesis argues that, through their employment of genre, the writers examined highlight women’s injustices. It contends that, although the novels analysed indicate that white women are not less oppressed than Saudi women, they provide an Orientalist representation of Saudi Arabia as a fearful space. Finally, this thesis demonstrates that Alsanea is the only writer that provides Saudi self-representation. However, she falls into self-Orientalism by restricting her depiction of Saudi women to the social elite. This thesis sheds light on Western representations of women in Saudi Arabia, broadens the very limited number of feminist studies of Saudi women, paves the road for more studies of gender in Saudi Arabia and provides much-needed material for international scholars interested in investigating the lives of women in Saudi Arabia.



Parker, Emma

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD


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