Women Moving Across Cultures: The Representation of Zahra’s Character in the English Version of Hanan Al-Shaykh’s The Story of Zahra

Patricia Zaylah, Hoda Hilal, Lea Yahchouchi


Given the central role language plays in promoting social justice, feminist translation calls for the adoption of a specific approach of language to highlight women’s issues and subvert patriarchal ideologies. However, the application of this approach varies among local and international contexts that hold different views of feminism. This study evaluates the translation of Ḥikāyat Zahrah (1995) (literally, Zahra’s Tale), written by Lebanese author Hanan Al-Shaykh (1986) and translated by Peter Ford, from a feminist translation perspective. The aim of this paper is to analyze the representation of the female protagonist in the English version as compared to the Arabic one. It examines how Zahra’s character was transferred, studying her experiences, feelings, and thoughts, and evaluating whether the translator’s interventions altered her image in the English version. The paper seeks to answer the following questions: How is Zahra’s character affected as she moves from the Arab culture to a Western one? Does the translation reinforce, mitigate, or disregard the feminist issues raised through Zahra’s character? Did the translator Peter Ford apply feminist translation strategies? To that end, a corpus-based comparative analysis was conducted where translation examples were analyzed to determine whether the translator’s interventions serve the novel’s feminist message. The results show that only 21% of the examples illustrate the feminist translation approach, while the rest overlook the feminist nuances of the text. It can be concluded that the translator produced a culturally and ideologically accepted version of the novel that fits Western stereotypes rather than foregrounding Arab women’s issues and experiences.


Feminist Translation, Arab Women, Feminism, Women’s Issues, Hanan Al-Shaykh

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijclts.v.9n.4p.1


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