Veiled, secluded, submissive, oppressed—the "odalisque" image has held sway over Western representations of Muslim women since the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. Yet during medieval and Renaissance times, European writers portrayed Muslim women in exactly the opposite way, as forceful queens of wanton and intimidating sexuality.
In this illuminating study, Mohja Kahf traces the process through which the "termagant" became an "odalisque" in Western representations of Muslim women. Drawing examples from medieval chanson de geste and romance, Renaissance drama, Enlightenment prose, and Romantic poetry, she links the changing images of Muslim women to changes in European relations with the Islamic world, as well as to changing gender dynamics within Western societies.
Mohja Kahf is a professor in the English department and the Middle Eastern Studies Program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
An insightful and provocative book. With an impressive knowledge of European literature from the medieval period to the mid-nineteenth century and in command of literary and feminist criticisms as well as Islamic history, Mohja Kahf unearths and revives conveniently forgotten images of Muslim women. This fascinating genealogy—relegated to oblivion, pushed in the footnotes, forced into invisibility—reveals the evolving images of the Muslim women in the West.
Two. The Muslim Woman in Medieval Texts. "Dame, ne parlez tant!"
Three. The Muslim Woman in Renaissance Texts. "Una mujer a la morisca vestida"
Four. The Muslim Woman from Enlightenment to Romanticism. "Je la fis entrer dans les appartements secrets"
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