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Rabeb Ben Hania

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin


2016-present PhD Candidate at the Graduate School of North American Studies, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin
2010-2013 MA, American Literature, University of Sousse, Tunisia
2007-2010 BA in English language, literature and civilization, University of Sousse, Tunisia

Professional Experience

2015-2016 Fulbright Research Visiting Scholar at The College of Arts and Sciences, American University, Washington D.C.
2014-2015 English language moderator in Delta Center, Tunisia
2013-2015 Teaching assistantship in the Institute of Applied Sciences and Technology of Mahdia, Tunisia
2012- 2013 Teaching assistantship at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of Sousse, Tunisia

The Paradoxes of Intimacy in Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Rachel Cusk’s Outline Trilogy, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, and Marilynne Robinson’s Lila (Dissertation Project)

Dissertation in Literature

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulla Haselstein
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. James Dorson
Third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Alison Gibbon

The Paradoxes of Intimacy explores the formal and narrative possibilities and limitations of writing about intimate human relationships in the second decade of the twenty-first century. In an age of so-called globalization, growing social and environmental insecurities, and intensification of capitalist markets (Jeffrey Nealon), the ways we bond with each other have come under increasing scrutiny in scientific research -not least for its links to problems of alienation, solipsism, and social disintegration. Recent sociological research on intimacy has attested to a crisis in the subject describing contemporary forms of close relationships as dramatically cooling (Eva Illouz), unbinding (Zygmunt Baumann), and even eroding (Byung-Chul Han). The emergence of new forms of intimate bonding, such as same-sex relationships, the Metoo social movement against sexual abuse and its publicizing of women’s individual stories of harassment, the growth of emotion-aware technologies, and the sentimentalization of capitalist markets have radically transformed the ways intimacies are created and experienced both in actual life and in artful practices. While the subject is well-researched in sociological and philosophical disciplines, it is still understudied in literary scholarship, where intimacy is used interchangeably with love to refer to either romantic or erotic relationships.

Performing a cross-generic analysis of Rachel Cusk’s The Outline Trilogy, Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, and Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, The Paradoxes of Intimacy argues that different aesthetics of writing about intimate relationships, which go beyond the stale and confined structures of romantic and confessional narratives, are manifest in fiction. Investigating the emergent forms of literary intimacies as they are problematized and re-invented in women’s postmillennial fiction writing, it critically addresses the question of how literature navigates the liminal spaces of (textual and narrative) encounters and temporalities (of imagined futures and old forms) to dismantle the fictional representation of intimacy as a private matter. While literary intimacies are usually predicated upon an individualized point of view where the interiority of the narrator or a character is deeply filtered or rendered, contemporary women’s fiction uses interior monologues and indirect style not to deliver the depth of characters, but to pinpoint the sociality and paradoxicality of their intimate relationships. They provide one way of thinking about intimate bonds in postmillennial literature amid its underlying paradoxes and emerge accordingly as a response to the postmodernist literature of solipsism, alienation, and loss of faith in language’s capacity to communicate and connect. In their attempts to map this transformation and maintain connections through the medium of fiction writing, they incorporate distance and withdrawal to let the other flourish and to fill the gaps of the dissolving closeness.

Beyond the reductive opposition between old and new, the argument traces the emergent aesthetics of writing intimacy, following the negotiations with residual and dominant forms while exploring their intersections with other postmillennial social and cultural discourses (Raymond Williams). By doing so, it not only illuminates continuities between contemporary modes of intimacy and ways of writing about them, but it further depicts a fervor for exploring the creative artistic inroads that these intimate experiences can create.

“Narcissistic Narrative: The Narrative and its Diegetic and Linguistic Masks”. International Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies (IJHCS) ISSN 2356-5926


Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft