The thesis analyzes the use of imagination in two autobiographical works by two women authors, a Chinese-American and an Egyptian-Arab, respectively: Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior, and May El Telmissany's Dunyazad. A definition of autobiography as a literary genre is explored through the critical debate between different scholars. In this debate, the fundamental nature of autobiography and its parameters are central issues. Several questions are posed-such as the degree of importance that truth has in determining how autobiographical a specific work is.

Both The Woman Warrior ( 1976) and Dunyazad ( 1997) are introduced

within the framework of this debate. However, Kingston's work is at first approached through the controversy that it inspired. Several issues are raised by this discourse, including the role of minority authors, and how much license a writer can enjoy in expressing lived experience. Moving from this discussion, the thesis then explores the use of imagination as a wish­mirror in The Woman Warrior, in the different imaginative episodes in the work. While the narrator, Maxine, wishes to be like the characters in her imagined world, these characters can also be seen as reflecting Maxine herself. However, the relationship between the wish-mirror and imagination

in the book is not that simple, and is often complicated by the narrator's own analysis of the imaginative episodes. May El Telmissany's Dunyazad, however, was generally received enthusiastically by critics. In this work, imagination plays a therapeutic role. The narrator uses her imagination and surrealistic dreams to come to terms with a stillbirth. Through this medium, the narrator explores the stillbirth itself and re-enters the world of the living. Through imaginative replay of the trauma, she is able to overcome the grief of her experience and engage once more, in the act of creation, both by writing the book and by conceiving a new baby.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


English & Comparative Literature Department

Degree Name

MA in English & Comparative Literature

Date of Award


Online Submission Date


First Advisor

Ferial Ghazoul

Committee Member 1

Doris Shoukri

Committee Member 2

James Stone

Document Type



58 leaves

Library of Congress Subject Heading 1


Library of Congress Subject Heading 2

Autobiography in literature.


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Call Number

Thesis 2001/33