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Study information

Translating Exile: Contemporary Francophone Women Writers

Module titleTranslating Exile: Contemporary Francophone Women Writers
Module codeMLF2074
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Helen Vassallo (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to issues of translation and exile in contemporary Francophone women’s writing, looking at two texts in both French and English. You will focus on the relationships between individual and society, author and translator, source text and translated text, and study themes of war, memory, illness, gender, ‘freedom’, and exile.

In the novel Désorientale (Disoriental), Négar Djavadi fictionalises her childhood in Iran and her family’s exile to France. Through her narrator, Kimiâ, Djavadi explores issues of selfhood, sexuality, and (dis)integration: shifting between a modern-day Parisian fertility clinic and a sun-drenched Iranian childhood, Kimiâ details the isolation of being gay in a culture that does not recognise homosexuality, and of integrating a new culture that requires her to “disintegrate” first. Darina Al Joundi’s play, Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing), opens up questions of female ‘freedom’ in war-torn Lebanon: narrated by Noun, who Al Joundi describes as “a part of me”, the monologue exposes the horrors of growing up in wartime and the heavy consequences for a woman who does not obey the rules. To the soundtrack of Nina Simone, Noun tells the story of her childhood in Lebanon: the war, the stranglehold of religion, the weight of prejudice, and her struggle against a society where men are all-powerful and women are denied freedom of speech. Both texts are highly personal, yet offer insights into specific socio-historical contexts in Iran, Lebanon and France.

You will also approach the texts from the perspective of translation, looking at why translation is important for women writers, and what is at stake in translating women, especially those who do not ‘fit into’ mainstream discourses, as well as the differences between translating for publication and translating for performance.

This module may be studied by students of French who have passed MLF1001, or by ex-beginners (who have passed MLF1052). All students will study the texts in both French original and English translation.

Please note that owing to the themes of war and sexual repression. in places the texts depict representations of violence and scenes of a sexual nature.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to:

  • introduce you to contemporary Francophone women’s writing
  • offer a broad understanding of the different things ‘French identity’ can mean
  • analyse the importance of gender parity in the publishing industry, and particularly in the translated literature market
  • increase awareness of other cultures and of the social roles of women

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of the chosen texts, relating them to significant elements in their cultural and historical context (specifically: gender, exile, life writing, translation)
  • 2. Evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches (including textual analysis, application of critical theory, and use of interviews and reviews) to the material covered
  • 3. Demonstrate an awareness of the importance of translation in cultural transfer, and the specific issues at stake when translating women across borders

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Present a cogent and sustained written argument in an appropriate register, on a topic chosen from a range of options provided, to a specified length and deadline
  • 5. Locate and identify library and electronic resources on a given topic; Use recommended reference works to support an original analysis and to compile a bibliography

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Undertake independent research on the basis of a taught course, managing learning time and asking for guidance when necessary
  • 7. Demonstrate ability to combine a variety of IT skills in researching and reporting on a topic

Syllabus plan

While the syllabus may vary from year to year, the following is an indicative plan:

  • Introduction to Francophone women’s writing; introduction to gender and translation.
  • Exploring ‘otherness’ through life writing: difference and (be)longing.
  • Désorientale (Disoriental): exile and (dis)integration.
  • Reflections on exile: living in exile from the self.
  • Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing): the ‘free woman’; family and social restrictions.
  • Wounded storytellers: writing pain and trauma.
  • Western restrictions and women’s experience.
  • Translating cultures: crossing borders and claiming identity.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Lectures (in English). Tutor-led presentation of key themes of the module
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Seminars (in English). Student-led discussion facilitated by tutor. Preparation to be given a week in advance
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1End-of-term conclusion hour
Guided Independent Study134Preparation for seminars; reading of set texts; preparation of formative assignment; preparation of summative assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written essay plan/ introduction based on, and working towards, the final course assessment500 words1-7Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Written essay1002500 words1-7Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Written essayWritten essay1-7Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Darina Al Joundi, Le Jour où Nina Simone a cessé de chanter (L’avant-scène théâtre, 2012)
  • Darina Al Joundi, The Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing , tr. Helen Vassallo(Naked Eye Publishing, 2022)
  • Négar Djavadi, Désorientale (Liana Levi Editions, 2016)
  • Négar Djavadi, Disoriental, tr. Tina Kover(Europa Editions, 2018)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

A full bibliography accompanies the course. Recommended reading includes:

  • Carson, Margaret, ‘Gender Parity in Translation: What Are the Barriers Facing Women Writers’, In Other Words 52 (2019), pp. 37-42.
  • Castro, Olga, “Women writers’ work is getting lost in translation.” The Conversation, 21 June 2017. Available online.
  • Castro, Olga and Emek Ergun (eds), Feminist Translation Studies: Local and Transnational Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2017)
  • Cook, Miriam, Arab Women’s Lives Re-told: Exploring Identity Through Writing (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007).
  • Frank, Arthur W., The Wounded Storyteller: body, illness, and ethics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).
  • Kamal, Hala and Luise von Flotow (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Translation and Gender (Routledge, 2019).
  • Said, Edward, Reflections on Exile and other Literary and Cultural Essays (London: Granta, 2001).
  • Smith, Sidonie and Julia Watson, Reading Autobiography: a guide for interpreting life narratives (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).
  • Von Flotow, Luise (ed.), Translating Women: Gender and Translation in the 21st Century (University of Ottawa Press, 2010).

Key words search

Gender, translation, exile, illness, war, memory, women’s writing, Iran, Lebanon 

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

MLF1001 or MLF1052 or equivalent

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date