Joyce Lazarus


This essay examines contemporary Algerian women’s condition, as it is articulated in Djebar’s autobiographical novel, Vaste est la prison (1995). After giving an overview of modern Algerian history, I offer a reading of Djebar’s novel that takes account of its potential to produce social change. This essay demonstrates that Djebar blurs the boundaries between autobiography, fiction and history in order to fully utilize the subversive potential of writing. Using the perspective of new historicism, I show how Djebar responds to her country’s unilateralism in language and its exclusion of women by her unique rhetorical strategies, in order to restore women’s rightful place in Algerian history and present-day society. Djebar challenges traditional patriarchal structures by demonstrating how Algerian women throughout history have been agents of change who have transmitted their multilingual cultural heritage from generation to generation.

Author Biography

Joyce B. Lazarus is Professor of Modern Languages at Framingham State College. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in French from Harvard University and her B.A. from Queens College, C.U.N.Y. In addition to numerous articles, she is the author of Parole aux jeunes (Heinle, 1992), Strangers and Sojourners: Jewish Identity in Contemporary Francophone Fiction (Lang, 1999) and In the Shadow of Vichy: the Finaly Affair (Lang, 2008).