The Bedouin, or ""desert dwellers,"" have a rich cultural heritage often expressed through music and poetry. Here Moneera Al-Ghadeer provides us with the first comparative reading of women's oral poetry from Saudi Arabia. She examines women's lyrics of love, desire, mourning and grievance. We come to understand Bedouin mores and--most significantly--the unique description of a desert that is consistently held to be infinite, evocative, stimulating and an eternal freedom.
As the first English translation and analysis of this poetry, Desert Voices is both a gesture to preserving the oral poetic tradition of Bedouin women and a radical critique addressing the exclusion of their poetry from current academic literary studies. The book provides invaluable material for reflection in the debates around oral culture and women's poetic composition while it translates, presents and critically examines a genre, which opens Arabic poetry and literature to contemporary theory and criticism.
'This is a truly unique book. It presents material and analysis that is highly original in the fields of Bedouin oral literature, not to mention the broader field of Arabic literary studies - One senses at times that one is in the presence of a truly gifted thinker into whose hands this Arabian women's poetry was unbelievably fortunate to fall - In simply taking seriously for the first time ever this magnificent poetry and bringing it, hopefully for good, into the canon of Arab poetry, this book is an important breakthrough. The exquisite translations of this poetry which has never before been translated, or even remarked upon, would in themselves make the book worth publishing; the rich exegesis and interpretation and the philosophical reflections on melancholy, loss and voice that frame the poetry add to the value.' - Lila Abu-Lughod, William B. Ransford Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies, Columbia University; 'Professor Al-Ghadeer draws attention to the much-neglected poetry from the Arabian peninsula created by women; indeed, she goes a long way towards making this largely oral tradition available to an English-speaking audience - In her analysis of these poems in Desert Voices, she makes an incredibly convincing case that Bedouin women's poetry can be brought into conversation with European and American literary theory for the benefit of 'theory' as well as for our own understanding of the poetic corpus she examines. The theoretical tendencies with which Professor Al-Ghadeer is most in conversation with are psychoanalysis and deconstruction - She draws on comparative methods to articulate a model for reading non-Western literatures in a Western context as a kind of translation in conversation with Western theoretical paradigms.' - Jarrod Hayes, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies and Associate Chair, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Michigan