Soffa Lecture: Egyptian author to speak on feminine resurgence amid turmoil

Once upon a time, in the not-so-distant past, the Egyptians cooked a revolution, and the chapters continue to unfold.

Sahar Elmougy, an Egyptian author who writes from a feminist perspective, will offer insights into the ongoing turmoil in her native country in “Resurgence of the Feminine: Transformation of Egyptian Psyche,” as this year’s J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor.

Elmougy will deliver the Soffa Lecture on Thursday, October 31, at 4:30 p.m. in the H.F. DeLuca Forum at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St., on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The lecture, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the UW-Madison Division of International Studies.

The J. Jobe Soffa and Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa Distinguished International Visitor Fund supports regular lectures on contemporary issues of global significance. Marguerite Jacqmin Soffa (BA ’46 in L&S) established this fund to bring renowned women from around the globe to lecture. Speakers have included well-known leaders in the struggle for human rights and understanding.

Sahar Elmougy is a lecturer of English at Cairo University and a presenter with a weekly cultural program on the English Local Service of Radio Cairo that focuses on writing.  She also works as a gender and creative writing trainer, translator and columnist in the Elmasry Elyoum daily.

Sahar Elmougy
Sahar Elmougy

As a role model for many female students and young writers, she writes from a feminist perspective, articulating the conflict between the values of the West and traditional gender roles in the Middle East. She has written four books, two collections of short stories, and three novels.

Elmougy’s most recent novel, Noon (the Arabic character N), explores the challenges and paradoxes facing independent Egyptian women navigating a nation rooted in traditional customs and a growing strand of conservative Islam. The 2007 publication of Noon was accompanied by an unprecedented, high-profile media campaign, and the book’s first print run sold out within a week of its release.

In her lecture, Elmougy will talk about the ongoing transformation of the collective Egyptian psyche. In archetypical terms, she views this as an ongoing battle between the powerful Patriarch, which has fully possessed the psyche for so long, and the Phoenix, the resurrected Feminine element that has come to the fore as an active agent of change.

“We are in the very heart of a story in the making,” she says.  “Within such archetypal context, what is important is not just the presence of women in the squares, but rather the transformations brought about in the psyche by the resurgence of the Feminine, the anima.”

Elmougy adds, “Since we are living in the midst of the battle, one can only speculate about the next chapters of the story placing loads of hopes on a collective psyche in a process of self healing and individuation.”

This year’s Soffa Lecture is being held in conjunction with the Germaine Brée International Symposium on “Poetics of Resistance: Women between Aesthetics and Politics” – sponsored by Institute for Research in the Humanities, with the Anonymous Fund, the Center for Interdisciplinary French Studies, Division of International Studies, and the European Studies Alliance.

The symposium aims to reflect primarily on Arab and African women’s aesthetic and artistic forms of resistance, and to explore the contemporary means of protest they deploy to subvert social constructions and barriers.  For more information about the symposium, go to the event webpage  or contact Névine El Nossery at

-by Kerry G. Hill


Symposium Schedule 

Here is the Friday, November 1 schedule for the symposium, “Poetics of Resistance: Women between Aesthetics and Politics,” in Room 126, Memorial Library, 728 State St. Sessions are free and the public is invited to attend.

Panel I: Bodies and Defiance at Tahrir Square – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.

  • May Telmissany, University of Ottawa, “Documenting Defiance: Women Filmmakers in Tahrir Square”
  • Shereen Abouelnaga, Cairo University, “Women’s Bodies: The Path to Subjectivity”

Panel II: Women, State and Feminism in Africa – 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.

  • Souad Halila, University of Tunisia, “Re-defining Islamic Feminism in Post-revolutionary Tunisia: From Geek to Street Protest”
  • Aili Tripp, UW–Madison, “The Adoption of Women’s Electoral Quotas in the Maghreb”

Movie Screening: The Noise of Cairo, 4:30 p.m., L150 Conrad A. Elvehjem Building. Egypt’s artists are coming out of hiding after decades in the shadows. A documentary about Cairo, Art and Revolution.