Women in Violence and War in Selected Works by Virginia Woolf and Alia Mamdouh

A doctoral thesis presented by Alia Mahmood Salman

University of Manouba/ Tunis 2012


My thesis was a discussion of women in violence and war in the writing of Virginia Woolf and Alia Mamdouh. I in particular focused through a close textual reading to their novels to examine the formation and reconstruction of women identity within these circumstances.  My rational was to ground my reading of the selected novels in their social, historical, cultural and political contexts. While reading for example Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway nearly a century after it was written, and Mamdouh’s the Mothballs, it is understandable to envision a woman‘s position in London in1923 and in Iraq in 1940 as repressed, controlled and dominated by men; but, it is worth remembering that in comparison to any earlier era in London, women had a great deal of freedom. They had just obtained voting rights, had many modern conveniences that allowed them leisure time that earlier generations could hardly have conceived of and, particularly in large cities, also in Iraq,  women were experiencing an empowerment in regard to choices of vocation, lifestyle and independence that was relatively quite extensive; and although Woolf and Mamdouh  strongly advocated women‘s rights in much of their writing, I contend that in many of their works they do not primarily promote a feminist agenda, but more accurately, lay out a text that muddles what would be a logical development of this objective. There are many times when Clarissa or Huda embodies traditionally conceived masculine traits such as control and power, and Septimus or Jamil the male protagonists, along with other male characters, exhibit traditionally feminine ones like romance and surrender. As Jeanette McVicker in Identity and Difference in Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway notes, It is Clarissa, not Septimus, who is moved by thoughts of Empire and strength; it is Clarissa, not Septimus, who needs to be in control of her surroundings and maintain order. On the other hand, it is Septimus, not Clarissa, who pays attention to nature; it is Septimus, not Clarissa, who believes that love must conquer war and death (178).

Both writers recognized and sought to portray how both the private world and external environment constructs identity. No doubt they are deeply concerned with women‘s rights and opportunities. They recognize that women often play roles within their societies, performing, as on stage, scripts written and directed by a patriarchal society Certainly an important theme and one that infuses many of Woolf‘s and Mamdouh’s works and discussion of the concept of self within their works is war. I explored these concepts by putting in mind that Woolf was born into a society whose foundations were built on and shaken by violence; she was affected by structural, institutional, and personal violence; she lived through one world war and struggled through part of another (Mathis 28). Woolf is bound to us in many ways; one of the strongest bonds is our shared birthright of violence; the seeming inevitability of force and coercion as a primary means of establishing and maintaining relations of power, the seeming inevitability of war (ibid 29). A response to this statement might be an acknowledgement of how true this continues to be for citizens of the world today and writers like Alia Mamdouh. The thesis explores how the ideological overlay of war and its effect on relationships with others who have gone through its horrors and trauma are revealed in Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s selected novels. The reality of war is particularly influential on the consciousness becoming of their characters as it is on so many real world lives. Though the two authors belong to different contexts and different epochs, but both deal with the same issue of war and violence, their writing styles and their perceptions are not quite different. The thesis studied the internalization of war effects on the psych of both writers which they reflected on their characters. Both writers benefited from war literature written before them and in their turn influenced many writers. Within the framework of such literature and amidst the social realities and historical circumstances (domestic and international) that greatly influenced Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s upbringing, growth and adulthood, they wrote war novels that portray their experience. Being a female writer in the context of war in a traditional, conservative and most often hostile environment is a traumatic experience. It would either condemn the authors to submission and failure or urge them to transcend and triumph over such hostile environments. Woolf and Mamdouh fought and won, and produced what seems to be an uncompromising war prose. Woolf and Mamdouh are far from war theoreticians in the disciplinary sense, but are war theorists in their own right. The horrible act of war prompted them to act as war denouncers. Like Clausewitz, both of them have their view on “the nature of war”, “the purpose of war” and “the conduct of war”. War literature in the inter-war period has been massive as well expressive of the damage that the two wars inflicted. Woolf, as many other writers like Katherine Mansfield, D.H Lawrence and Storm Jameson denounced war, she is a good representative of the anti-war prose in England. Woolf’s Jacob’s Room (1922) shows her sensitive affection after the death of her nephew and as Critic Marina Mackay argues: “…use narrative indirections to diagnose the two problems of patriarchal culture: that it glorifies militaristic and materialistic models of masculinity…and that it renders women complicit in male violence… (124). Mrs. Dalloway is another example that shows Woolf’s steadfastness in her criticism of the atrocity of war. The solution to these two problems, came only with Woolf’s Three Guineas (1938)” as the only antidote to the apparently interminable public violence of men and to the deceptions of  women’s attempts at private disengagement" (Mackay 124). Having gone through an acute depression because of the outbreak of the First World War at the age of thirty-two, Woolf could not help resisting the fatalistic effect of the Second World War and committed suicide. In a letter to her husband Leonard Woolf, she explained the devastating effect of the outbreak of the war. “I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel I can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time” (qted in spartacus.schoolnet) For Woolf, war was but another form of violence and another reservoir of rape. Zewrdling dwells on that in his book Virginia Woolf and the Real World (1987): “She was an instinctive pacifist who found it impossible to imagine a situation that justified the use of force” (297). Though separated by temporal and territorial boundaries, Virginia and Alia have had strikingly similar experiences vis-à-vis of war and violence in society. Both express the impact of war on the psychological, social and economic life of the Iraqi and English individual and her/his surroundings and their anti-war stance is similar in their means and perceptions.Regarding Mamdouh, the impact of both the Iraqi-Iranian war and the US invasion has determined major themes in her fiction. In Iraq, there were two forms of literary resistance: one against the powers of the authoritarian regime and another against Western imperialism. Mamdouh, for our purposes, certainly represented both forms. The war theme in Mamdouh’s novels is prominent and influential. War affects the character psychologically and pushes him to behave or to resort to (exile, sex, crimes, suicide…etc) Mamdouh resorted to exile and left Iraq in despair for she knew that this war is not the last. Many of Her novels represent war scenes and disasters together with the personification of the tormented feelings of the alienated and exiled people as Woolf who kept remembering war in her diaries and wrote in 1920 “our generation is daily scourged by the bloody war” (D, 11, 51).   Although Woolf did not participate in war, she described the suffering of her shocked characters in Mrs. Dalloway. The horrible scenes of war and the loss of Evan affected Septimus psychologically to the extent that he withdraws within himself and build a barrier that shuts him from the war like society. Both writers believe in the meaningless of war. Like Woolf, Mamdouh  does not only mention the “killing machine” and  the bloody scenes and disaster that war left behind but also describes the deep pains and psychological disorders imprinted on the human soul due to war. Mamdouh describes war as a kind of human misery that haunts her soul. She inscribed this misery on her character’s skins. She illustrates the absurdity of death in a free literary style. Both writers go with Freud’s psychological interpretation of aggression. Woolf and Mamdouh offer us a “truth theory” whose significance is revealed only by living war as a civilian and reproducing its effects as a theorist and more so as a fiction writer. There is an obvious similarity between Woolf and Mamdouh’s in their sensibility to the act of war and to their vision of male agency in relation to war. On the artistic level, Woolf explores events and presents reality by fathoming the character’s psychological reception, assimilation and reproduction of objective reality. Mamdouh in her part does not sacrifice literary creativity to political agenda and patriotic propaganda. True, she is rebellion, but in favor of universal values rather than her own people and country. She does not particularize human suffering with a calculated agenda but reveals the ordeal of the Iraqi in order to resist the subjugation of the individual as individual, whether in Iraq or other territories.  The individual, as often portrayed through their characters, should universally be free from colonial subjugation, political indoctrination and patriarchal domination. Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s literary text is inexorably humanist. Their tool in making this approach tenable is “imagination”. Imagination counts because there is no reality out there without imagining it as it is and, equally, as it ought to be (Japer 15).         One of the first conclusions I reached after reading the selected novels for analysis of both writers is that war and violence is a direct factor to women’s estrangement. Violence in the work of both authors is often operated by psychological estrangement which is both a literary device and a literary issue that has to do with depersonalization. In literature, estrangement would also refer to a type of characterization that creates fragmented characters that no longer recognize their bodies in relation to the self and not even vis-à-vis the external world. Estrangement or the loss of the consciousness/knowledge of the self would develop into total misrecognition of the body. Systemic violence of all kinds has played a gigantic role in pushing for the creative writing of twentieth century women in general and anti-war women writers in particular.  In this respect, one of Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s basic component of writing is the concept of “outsiderness”, Outsiders, whether as actual people or characters in fiction, often hold a troubled consciousness, a feeling of unimportance and an emotional sense of loss or nostalgia.  The past is often merged with the present or the future in a delicate juxtaposition that gives rise to this sense of inner tension that women outsiders feel. Fear instinct is frequently present.  These outsiders view themselves as somehow excluded from everyday life, or as oppressed and powerless even as they try to come to terms with a better world devoid of frustration and chaos.   Woolf’s portrait of Clarissa in Mrs. Dalloway and Mrs. Ramsay in to The Lighthouse illustrate the traditional and problematic women character. Clarissa does not have a clear and meaningful sense of identity because of the inner conflict inside her.  Woolf contrasts this exterior invisibility with the development of an interior world packed with unpronounced feelings and thoughts. There is self-questioning relates to her awareness of her own circumstances; and the wish to change it and gain a fuller identity. Both writers place overt violence in female world as well as male world. There is an implicit critique of violence and hatred to war by both sexes throughout their text. In Woolf’s plot, violence is located in the world of men who are prone to make violence and can be the victims of its destruction.     The outsider finds the past as the justification of his/her present life. He/she takes refuge in the past and becomes so estranged from the present that he decides to end his/her own life. The evocation of the past sometimes turns fatalistic like Septum’s and Sabiha’s traumatic end. To feel as an outsider means that the gulf between the ideal and the real is huge, and this push the characters to the brink of disaster and suicide. The new system of an ‘Outsider Society’ can also provide women with an escape from oppression, simultaneously freeing men from their own form of enslavement. Both writer’s characters question their own self-worth in the face of oppression, Suheila exclaims: “I find it impossible to believe that I have lived, and I cannot believe all of the seconds that were mine to draw on and all I did was to draw back” (TLO 195)   Like Woolf’s Clarissa, the women in the Mothballs feel invisible and are reduced to inconsequence. They hide behind veils as second-rate people. Both writers outline a view of a women’s society of outsiders that serves as an alternative to the model of submissive wifedom and motherhood. They argue that there must be a new criterion for woman’s life and a change in the status of women through a constructive social mobility. Mamdouh uses the roof in the Mothballs as a refuge for Huda and as a symbol of freedom, just as Woolf’s narrator for the Outsider’s Society who finds hope in the coming change.      One of the interesting conclusions I found that both writers find strength in the solidarity of women as outsiders. The reference to “Loved Ones” is to the women who gather around recollections and who offer each other strength; it is thus how they nurture a sense of dignity amidst the pain despite brutality and infidelity. Mamdouh and Woolf’s message addresses hope through unity and emancipation. Their texts trumpet the failure of gender wars and meaninglessness aggression by pointing beyond them to a society driven by the outsider’s perspective of peace and creativity without distinctions.          Out of the above mentioned consequences of war and violence on the writer’s and their characters psyche, I chose to emphasize ‘anger” as a tool used by the writers to clarify their message through their character’s furious reactions. Psychoanalytically speaking, one is submitted to violence and oppression either of war or home violence.  Hatred and ignorance are reactions to it; yet the most ordinary reaction is anger. Critics consider A Room of One's Own, as Woolf's foremost "feminist manifesto". It contains stirring, provocative lectures that expound, analyze and comment on the changing relationships between women, men, society and literary genres.  Despite the controversial dispute about whether Woolf is using furious language or not, the thesis is with Woolf’s use of anger as a negotiation of a new condition rather than a mere attempt to object to a certain reality. It is anger against “rules” “order” and codes, whether they are in the form of patriotic specters or patriarchal encroachments. Her literary work constitutes a medium for expressing anger, though not in any conventional fashion, but rather in a mockery style. In her work, Woolf, nonetheless, seeks not to ultimately turn anger against patriotic-patriarchal agency, but rather to create equilibrium by which both cultural and gender differences are reduced.          In her part, Mamdouh believes that the female writer might well vent her own anger at the same time when she manages to submit her message to her society. “Let anger and provoca¬tion overcome you as you relate your stories and write your novels" (COAF 66). Like Woolf, Mamdouh tries to grasp and achieve what is out of women’s reach. Both believe that writing is the nutshell of the totality of their thought and the ultimate message capable of change. On her part, Mamdouh escalates her rage against the inhuman face of war by adopting a violent solution. In her novel Layla & the Wolf, she advertently makes the characters go as far as to decide to blow up their oil pipes to avenge the enemy. Mamdouh in particular hardly controls her intense feelings of anger. But her uncontrollable emotions are often tamed by the smoothness of her writing. This is, one would argue, the paradox of a genius. The artistic pronouncement of anger is what renders Mamdouh’s anti-war and anti-patriarchal prose an open-ended field to explore. The paradox of self-estrangement in life is atoned for by the consistency of artistic creativity in her writing. Like Woolf, she has complex sensitivity towards violence. One of my other concerns in this study is to explore the relationship binding the real historic events and the imaginative texts of both authors. Both writers historicize their texts, What I noticed in my analysis of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, to the Lighthouse,  Three Guineas and Mamdouh’s The Loved Ones, Al Gulama and  Passion is their writer’s historical sensibility and use of violence as a powerful backdrop to create their characters, settings, allusions and even narrative structure. Indeed, these novels intersect in exposing from the inside out submerged cases of historical violence (physical, psychological, sexual and cultural) inflicted on women as well as men. I tried to examine the historical facts and the writer’s methods in re-writing their texts in fictional perspective. At the same time, I attempted an analysis of the deep reasons that make both writers overlap history on their texts which violence and war are its most influential instigator.              Then I focused on the most popular results and consequences of violence and war that caused people to resort to exile and alienation.  The thesis studied the complexities especially of the Iraqis expatriation in overall the world as well as those who are alienated in their own home. One of the major results I have come to is that nostalgic perceptions of home can, to a certain extent, empower the migrant to establish a new identity and at the same time foster his/her vulnerable self – perception as an unwelcomed exile. Yet, in the novels under scrutiny in my dissertation, the nostalgia of (Clarissa, Mrs. Ramsay, Suheila, Huda, etc.) to the lovely past places is but wishful thinking.  Despite the un lovable conditions in her exile in Paris, Suheila in the Loved Ones doesn’t return back home, for although her home represents for her the identity that she lacks but home means fire. Suheila is like her writer Mamdouh who breathes the air of Iraq and lives its agony but chooses to live away from its fire (my interview). Sarmad and his lover Alf in Al Tashahi end their narratives before the reader knows what decision Sarmad will take. The allusion stirs from the fear, estrangement and uncertainty that often characterize the migrant and the exiled. Woolf’s and Mamdouh novels reside in the internalization of the effect of war and violence by their respective female characters. The externalization of such an effect often leads to non-self-identification, self-misrecognition, schizophrenic manifestations and suicidal tendencies. Yet, such impacts do not concern all characters, since misrecognition of the self  sometimes manifests itself by the “virtualization of the body” whereby the enfeebled body (culturally and socially) turns into a powerful device and a tool of resistance against the hegemonic manly world. While this seems to be a paradox, both Woolf and Mamdouh have shown in their writing how a woman might gain power through weakness, ability through inability and challenge through submission. While estrangement functions in organic harmony with outsiderness and otherness, it might well create an alternative identity with which the female character braves the violent world responsible for women’s displacement.   As for the other consequences of war and violence, I focused on exile and alienation which differs from one another in several ways. Writing about the experience of being alien or writing about the experience of living with the “other” requires a lot of experience in the exile country and the ability to go inside the writers’ soul and mind (my interview May2011). When in exile, one can never return, and there is a sense of finality in the act. If one is alienated, they may eventually learn to adapt and fit into society. As we found in Mamdouth’s work, exile means that one can never go home and never truly feel at home. Mamdouth would always be Iraqi in thought, in heart and in customs. She explores clearly and explicitly the direct and indirect ruptures in the immigrant-exiled personality, the seen or unseen changes in it, and the tough reality of having to deal with a hostile new environment.  The Iraqi writer expresses the difficulty in adapting to the other’s culture and lifestyle. I focused on “loneliness” as the first and foremost feeling that the immigrant- exiled feels in his new home, which develops into a sense of non-integration with the 'other'. I argued that Woolf reached the status of a feminist rebel due to an alienated childhood as well as a displaced adulthood. The image of Woolf often resembles that of the characters in her novels, as the restless, tormented and slightly insane artist who suffered forced alienation from reality. Woolf failed to tame the death instinct by an open rebellion against the circumstances that pushed her to suicide. I argued that the social violence against Woolf was fatal but that against Mamdouh was less serious. However, having to leave your country and never come back is also as devastating as the effect of death. Alienation of Woolf led to her death, but alienation of Mamdouh condemned her to a lifetime exile. Both Mamdouh and Woolf were feminists in a patriarchal society and wanted freedom from the imposed social structures. One of the important conclusions I reached in examining the selected novels and their writers is that Woolf and Mamdouh share the anti war stance. War and violence have both proponents and opponents. Relatively, each of these thinks he/she represents the truth and stands for a just cause. The warmongers defend battles, killing and blood. The anti-war campaigners condemn the act of war as reductive of humanity. Anti-war women for their part examine and condemn violence as a corollary to war. Violence has always a masculine face in a male-dominated world. Both writers represent such a trend by arguing that men’s violence in the time of war was responsible making women as widows or orphans and others. I adopted Jaque Lacan’s and Sigmund Freud’s analytical approach to  highlight the sense of otherness in one’s self and those with opposing viewpoints. My adoption to Postcolonial approach is inspired firstly by the writer’s active consciousness that they are writing within the Postcolonial particular literary and cultural movement. Secondly, the themes I dealt with in this thesis required that I should rely on key Postcolonial critics to address issues such as identity reconstruction, alienation, exile, otherness, memory, etc. Lacan, like Freud, sees the unconscious mind as active and complex. Lacan considers the unconscious as being structured like language, and if one could learn to decode that language, it would provide clues as to what drives them. Trauma or childhood crisis is said to repress that language (Feratova-Loidolt, M. (2007).  An exploration of Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s work suggests that this was roughly the case.  Freud uses the term “other” to describe the other person that lies within the human psyche. As we have already noted, a sense of “other” implies two different sides, many of which are in opposition to one another. In Freudian analysis, this “other” is not really another person, but is the projection of the ego (Zwerdling, 296). Examining the fantasy world of Woolf gives her readers a glimpse into the inner workings of her inner turmoil. Mamdouh’s work is wholly centered on the production of “me and the other” through war, acculturation (as examined in chapter I) and immigration. The binding and obliging relationship involves an agent (the other) and a subject (Arab). The consequence is the superiority and hegemony of the other. the Arab’s otherness is multiple. It can be studied in class terms but has a more cultural dimension attached to it. The “me and the other” debate gets problematized once we seek to find legitimacy for our departure. Moreover, the negotiation of a new identity is also open to challenge, mainly because the immigrant needs to overcome the feelings of displacement and alienation. In doing so, he/she would seek to integrate in the new society by making concessions as to prejudice.  The sensitive feeling of the immigrant is obvious, somehow like the sensitivity of newborn children. Based on what I have presented in the dissertation, I reached that Mamdouh has expressed in her novels two kinds of relationships with the 'other'. The first is a relationship of good will, integrity and a friendship; the second is a hostile and confrontational relationship. The existence of the 'other' through the self or the (I) or (we) of any kind means the agreement or disagreement with him, and because the 'other' exists in every time and everywhere as long as human beings exist, this means necessarily that difference as agreement is always exist. My other rational was to ground my reading of the examined texts in cultural and gender contexts. As a matter of fact, men’s and particularly women’s writers writing, is largely shaped by the cultural and biological contexts it set to portray. The examination of Orlando and Al Gulama provided the thesis the basis to establish such argumentation. I tried to analyze the theory of being and becoming, and discussed how this theory relates to war and violence in Virginia Woolf’s and Alia Mamdouh’s portrayal of female characters in their novels to attain empowerment. I applied this theory first on the becoming of the writers identity as a writer for the evolution from being to becoming could be very well applied to the literary figures, in order to write one must become a writer; this in itself involves a step-by-step process that involves an evolution from being to becoming. Often, as is the case with Woolf and Mamdouh, writing good fiction involves taking bits and pieces of the writer’s life and evolving it into complex characters that reflect life’s realities in telling ways so that the audience can relate to characters. Being allows one to “become” with time, enabling individuals to realize desirable goals and practices (Lee 97).          War and Violence are direct factors that change the character’s being into other personality. The party empowers Clarissa and gives her the opportunity to shape her identity. ”Her party is for her an existential act by which she deliberately evokes and expresses the identity she has chosen to call her own” (Gelfant 89). She celebrates her new freedom and personality by reasserting the value of experiencing what one likes and emphasizing the importance of the creative gesture. War and violance has freed Mamdouh’s characters from fear and imprisonment and creates another personality that seeks self definition. Huda’s mother (Iqbal) becoming represents the peak of change from being a silenced frustrated woman to becoming self aware. When her husband announces his determination to marry another woman and at the same time calls her to rub his back in the bath, This Violent treatment urges her to become a fierce woman.  These tiny miracles and illuminations help her characters to become clearer, sophisticated beings than they ever were before. When searching for grand and greater truths, ultimately each woman had become lost in a sea of transgression. By focusing on just one or two small epiphanies however, each young lady was transformed into a beautiful new being. I concluded that “Being” is the state into which natural man is born; one might say it is a phenomenon that is as much chance as it is anything else. “Becoming” is a much more complex process that involves experiences, both good and bad. “Being and becoming” is also an biological art as reflected in the characters of Virginia Woolf in her Orlando and Mamdouh’s Al Gulama. Then I investigated the profound influence of Simone de Beauvoir’s theory” One is not Born but Rather Becomes a Woman” on the development of the feminist concept and how she provides a theoretical key for literary critics, theologian, scholars and philosophers to investigate and elaborate on the concept concerning the social construction of gender. Woolf and Mamdouh transcend the concept of gender from its biological range and establishe an identity other than the fixed one. I discussed this theme through Judith Butler’s theory and Wittig’s in her essay “One is Not Born a Woman” (1981) that assert Beauvoir’s formulation on the concept of making distinction between sex and gender and asserted the demolition of putting gender into political categories. Both writers used their bisexual characters as a rebellion against the congealed norms that see woman as second sex. My thesis does not focused on just the similarities in Woolf’s and Mamdouh’s themes but   investigate also the differences in tackling issues such as sex which  is a crucial character to deal with in their fiction due to the fact of the un crossable constraints in their society besides it is a taboo. I showed that although cultural and social constrains are not very different in the writers milieu, the writers are different in tackling the sexual subjects. I illustrated Woolf’s artistic talent in using imagery and symbols to describe the intimate feelings of her characters. The thesis argued Quentin Bell’s theorization in his biography that Woolf’s personal life is sexless due to her weak health and that the sexual inclinations mentioned in her fiction specially Mrs. Dalloway and Jacob’s Room are very limited and narrow in horizon compared with other writers. The thesis furthered the argument by presenting comparative analysis from Mamdouh’s portrayal of the same theme and reached to what  Harold theorized that what Bell Quentin means by describing Woolf’s novel by “sexless” and lacking “vital juice”, is that they lack the overt “love making” scenes found in the conventional novels. The thesis showed Woolf as an experimental writer who introduces a new criteria in writing fiction away from the traditional and putting in mind that this subject is very sensitive in her time especially if it is presented by a woman writer, thus she referred and  presented it metaphorically. I concluded that it is but the outcome of oppressed and limited self, yet it proved the authentic spirit to voice the sexuality in her time. Regarding Alia Mamdouh, a daring and innovative Arab woman writer, I surveyed the selected novels which the subject of sex is present but not in a filthy way and reach a conclusion that she focused on presenting sexuality as influential factor   shaping the Arab male and female world. Sexuality in Mamdouh’s work is used as a weapon to degrade men and women in particular. Mamdouh’s presentation of sexuality in her fiction is related to violence and struggle. She wants through it to expose the validity of such themes in society and to establish a new sexual identity for the male and female. This is clearly manifested through rape, homosexuality and sexual exploitation that results in illegitimate children and psychological instability. In her novels, Mamdouh intends to show the interplay among the following trilogy: political power, the rigid social norms and sex. Sex in her novels comes to recall symbols and issues beyond the limits of the body and its desires and does not stir up the reader’s instincts. Mamdouh uses sexual stereotypes and social gender roles to show how social and cultural tradition affect men- women relationships. I also showed how Woolf and Mamdouh tackle other sensitive subjects as homosexuality to deconstruct the taboo each writer tackles it in her own way and according to her own psychological personality and social norms of her time. Homosexuality is presented as a symbol of rebellion and resistance to the patriarchal taboo and restrains. the term sex and sexuality become a controversial  debate,  for as George Battaille theorizes, transgression and taboo are two mutual concepts that neither subverts the other nor denies it, “Transgression on the contrary it completes and reinforces the taboo”(Battaille 63). Homosexuality stands as a counterpart to normal sexuality; Rich regards lesbianism as a form of resistance (Palmer 18). Through the years, sex developed to be a social strategy and has its rules. A rational and scientific discourse is created aiming to classify the sexual practices and delimits the use of sex into male and female that is traditionally accepted and historically constructed. Both writers’ literary work asserts resistance and rebellion as the only possibility to gain hope and love, but lack the appropriate tool to reach fulfillment.The writer’s respective conceptualizations of sex express their respective cultural, social, and intellectual reality and the customs and traditions governing their societies.       I focused on another factor that resembles the core of my thesis; I revealed how oppressive, cultural and traditional concepts mark the patriarchal societies that helped in the retardation of society in general and women in particular. Patriarchal rigid norms are the second factor that leads women to live a war like life. I argued also that war and violence are a direct cause for the failure of marriage relations and complicated parent-children relationships. I argued that these same factors help promote feminism and other social improvements as a highly relevant issue of individual freedom and identity of women in society. I argued that the writing of Virginia Woolf and Alia Mamdouh do not always reflect marginalization and degradation of women, rather it represents rigorous socio-historical and cultural contexts that enrich the cross cultural studies and shows the diversity of English Iraqi society. Both writers refuse to be defined as feminist and they use in their work like Three Guineas and Al Gulama a cynical and ironic style as artistic strategy to ridicule everything, man's tyranny, power, education and tradition as a whole as well as women's submissiveness and weakness. Both writers call for universality. The writer's major concern is to show the hidden, unequal, frustrated and ambiguous ties that relate people to each other. As for Mamdouh, she uses the horrible nature that war brings of pain and destruction to rebuild a healthier social setting than had previously been the norm.  This ability to grow from any circumstance, such as patriarchal injustice, however blind, is an invaluable tool in personal and social amelioration.  In her novels, Mamdouh criticizes the typical masculine exploits and habits that have led to her present anxieties and half-hearted repressed fears. Likewise, Woolf embarks on that essential aspect of feminism that attempts to better life for all people, and not just women.  She does not only submit the opportunity to people to improve their everyday lives, but she also introduce the experience of her predecessors “thanks to the toils of those obscure women in the past” that give hope to individuals who do not know how social “evils are in a way to be bettered” In this regard, there is similarity between Woolf and Alia Mamdouh. Both writers use their imagination and mix it with real facts to introduce their literary work. Woolf didn’t suffer from poverty and had a kind of education that her father allowed her to obtain as he was a man of intellect. Nevertheless, she writes about deprivation, illiteracy and subjection of women. Mamdouh also writes about women who were exposed to molestation, humiliation, and marginalization. She mixes them with political and historical incidents that make the reader questions whether they are real or imaginative. Her novel Al Gulama,shows how the novelist enact ways in which the political and social are mediated, lived, performed and experienced through the personal. The authority interferes and degrades people; the decision of the authority to wage war dramatizes the characters’ lives and causes destruction to all their principals. In A Room of Ones Own, Woolf's technique in range between cynical, mockery, direct and indirect style mixed with imaginary characters that caused confusion in interpreting her work as feminist or not. Woolf felt the weak status of women in her time whether those of upper class or worker class. She always addresses them with 'failure', 'outlaws' and 'outsiders'. She also addresses herself as such. In her essay ''Professions for Women’’, she says: "as a failure, then, I speak to you who are also failures'' (125). I reached a conclusion that no one can deny our writer’s important contribution in enlightening women and men to their status. Their work is accepted for the charm and wit that they addressed it. In the last chapter of my dissertation I summed up how both writers deliver their (societal, sexual, political traditional, etc,) message through the stream of consciousness and narrative technique, thus let critic’s and reader’s controversy about their being feminist or not open. I focused on particular on how the flow of thoughts serves to deconstruct patriarchal ideology and war theory to foreground woman's subjectivity. The dissertation illustrated how Virginia Woolf and Alia Mamdouh use their protagonists’ fluid state of mind to reveal their own feelings towards the political, religious and social violence. Christopher Herbert in Mrs. Dalloway, the Dictator, and the Relativity Paradox, suggests that Woolf‘s main goal, via the whole of her text, is to present an antipode to empirical and militaristic thinking through her commitment to the principle of relativity, the principle, that "nothing is one thing.  The character’s thought are not fixed in certain time or in fixed place, to show the multiplicity of its universe and defy the codes of realist/ readily conventions. Mamdouh like Woolf disrupted the logic of narration and her perspective in the novels is quite challenging.In reading the Loved Ones, one finds difficulty to get acquainted with the numerous characters and places that Nader mentions during his trip to Paris. Her aim is to reflect the feelings of disorientation and chaos experienced by people in real life at that time, as their world was rapidly changing due to the compounded war that disturbed and literally shattered the universal values which held society together.   Woolf’s structure of her novels makes use of shared memories as a means of invisibly connecting isolated individuals and moments. Simple past incidents are remembered by many characters, and through the remembrance of the same past incidents, the isolated characters are in actuality connected beneath the surface. I elaborated on the same theme by focusing on another literary tool and stated that Woolf connects wave imagery with a character’s transitive and substantive thoughts. The motion of the waves is equated with whether the thought being experienced by a character is substantive or transitive. James’s “The Stream of Thought.” discusses how transitive or passing thoughts resemble those of a bird in flight because they are more difficult to see (243). Perches, or substantive thoughts, are clearly formed conclusions. For example, Mrs. Ramsay’s vision of “waves of pure lemon” leads her to come to the substantive conclusion of “It is enough!” (297-298). Woolf connects the waves of lemon to Mrs. Ramsay’s thoughts, “waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind,” which supports the connection present between James’s theory to Woolf’s literary application. The wave imagery provides a framework which helps the reader to pay close attention to the thoughts of the characters in a lyrical type of way. Looking for these moments which interrupt the flow of character’s thoughts allows the critics to chart the variations of waves in Woolf’s narratives. These moments that act like shocks in the lives of Mrs. Ramsay, Lily Bricosoe, and Cllarissa Dalloway are significant because they help to peel away the layers of each character’s personality. Woolf makes very clear the connection between the character’s thoughts and wave imagery by using metaphorical language to describe how the words in the character’s mind “toss their crests, and fall and rise” (The Waves 675). Through this language, Woolf is suggesting that the words in the character’s mind are powerful and long to come out and it is difficult to say what one means, and how, if one does not measure exactly how to represent cognition verbally. (Time) and (Place) are another tool in our writer’s stratechy, As Dalsimer, in Virginia Woolf: Becoming a writer exclaims that Woolf nurtured an “invisible presence” according to some, which allowed her to go backwards and forwards in time, in her personal writings and elsewhere, to be creative and imaginative in her writing (Dalsimer 2002).    Writing for both writers is a weapon that they use metaphorically to defend their independence, freedom and their entire existence in response to dehumanization, torture, inequality and false morals of the patriarchal society. The condemnation of silence in a hostile male world makes Mamdouh’s characters act in total disregard of the social codes and constraints. By the same token, Woolf revealed the disconnectedness between her characters' inner lives and their public lives in order to reveal much more the personal philosophical rift. Clearly, Woolf's and Mamdouh’s works do straightforwardly challenge the expectations of traditional narration in fiction. Picking any of their works, we find that we have entered a special world where we simply do not have our feet planted solidly on the ground of traditional narration, and we are forced to alter our own consciousness in order to tune into what is going on in the novel, in its form, and in the narration. The research work suggests that literary writing is not just a way for Woolf and Mamdouh to heal their wounds, but a weapon against the ugly war and the oppression of society. Their dilemma is translated into words that turn into the power that pervades their characters and forms a new female identity. Woolf and Mamdouh represent the ideals of society and those who have been marginalized by it. Their ideals were revolutionary and expressed directly through their works, but many of them are hidden in the psyches and dialogues of their characters. In order to get to know the real writers, one has to get to know their characters intimately and examine discourse that lies at the heart of “otherness”, alienation and what it is like to be marginalized and violated. Indeed, the texts I explored in my dissertation on the context of comparative study are very little known for the larger reading public. Apart from few novels of Woolf like Mrs. Dalloway, the other texts I analyzed and especially Mamdouh’s are most probably known to specialists in the field of Arab women writers and to few readers for Mamdouh’s work was forbidden in Iraq because of her direct criticism to the social and political status of her country. As a matter of fact, the comparative literary corpus I selected for examination is both recent and very little studied in the public and academic circles and even in my country. Thus, I felt that this dissertation will bring my modest contribution on a study that is not “saturated” at the level of critical attention, besides, the study accomplishes little of what I wanted to transmit to the scholars’ and readers from Tunisia of the experience that I underwent during the war.   Yet, this dissertation is another attempt at the universe of a giant English writer as Virginia Woolf and a great Iraqi writer as Alia Mamdouh.