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Composing EgyptReading, Writing, and the Emergence of a Modern Nation, 1870-1930$
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Hoda A. Yousef

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804797115

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804797115.001.0001

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Literacies of Exclusion

Literacies of Exclusion

Mistresses of the Pen

(p.49) 2 Literacies of Exclusion
Composing Egypt

Hoda A. Yousef

Stanford University Press

This chapter examines the exclusions created by gendered literacies that mediated both participation in and visibility to various publics, often along class lines. Despite the noble rhetoric of literacy promotion, reading and writing were each associated with different kinds of public interactions and, ultimately, societal hazards. To consume potentially dangerous texts or become “visible” through the written word was associated with disruptive social and economic consequences for historically unlettered segments of Egyptian society. Nevertheless, several female writers active in the early Egyptian feminist movement sought to access these visible publics through writing and, in the process, renegotiated and redefined this transgression as a complement to their domestic roles. Just as they could be modern, respectable, and productive “mistresses of the home,” they would now become “mistresses of the pen.”

Keywords:   gender, women, domestic, girls’ education, feminists, visibility, class, women’s movement, mistresses of the pen, publics

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