Adapting Shahrazad’s Odyssey: The Female Wanderer and Storyteller in Victorian and Contemporary Middle Eastern Literature
Date of Completion
travel, adaptation, Homer, 1001 Nights, female traveler
Margaret R. Higonnet
Field of Study
Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
This project traces connections between the concepts of travel and rewriting in women’s fiction in nineteenth-century Victorian literature and in Anglophone Middle Eastern writing. This study is the first to discover a strong link between travelling texts and the travelling women in fiction and to analyze the ways in which the travelling woman is molded by her previous exposure to stories. In this comparative project, I argue that travel can be understood as a metaphor for rewriting and the female wanderer as the reworked adaptation of Odysseus and Shahrazad figures and that the concept of adaptation can be read as a metatextual travel between past and present, Victorian and contemporary, nostalgia and progress. Moreover, I explore the ways in which rewriting empowers women writers who are traditionally considered outside of both the male canon and the travel experience in general. The first part focuses on two Victorian women writers, Olive Schreiner and Christina G. Rossetti, and their feminist responses to the Victorian admiration for ancient Greek culture. The figure of the fictional voyager within the Victorian tradition of masculine, colonial adventure stories merges with the protagonist of the female novel of development in The Story of an African Farm (1883) and Speaking Likenesses (1874). The second part discusses two Anglophone Middle Eastern novels, Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love (1999) and Güneli Gün’s On the Road to Baghdad (1991), which fuse the Western tradition of the Homeric epic with the story-telling tradition of One Thousand and One Nights.
Dedebas Dundar, Eda, "Adapting Shahrazad’s Odyssey: The Female Wanderer and Storyteller in Victorian and Contemporary Middle Eastern Literature" (2013). Doctoral Dissertations. 24.