• Mythic women reborn: Djebar's Scheherazade & Atwood's Penelope

      Frentzko, Brianna Nicole; Brightwell, Geraldine; Harney, Eileen; Carr, Rich; Johnson, Sara Eliza (2019-05)
      This thesis examines how two modern female writers approach the retelling of stories involving mythic heroines. Assia Djebar's A Sister to Scheherazade repurposes Arabian Nights to reclaim a sisterly solidarity rooted in a pre-colonial Algerian female identity rather than merely colonized liberation. In approaching the oppressive harem through the lens of the bond between Scheherazade and her sister Dinarzade, Djebar allows women to transcend superficial competition and find true freedom in each other. Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad interrogates the idealized wife Penelope from Homer's Odyssey in order to highlight its heroine's complicity in male violence against women. Elevating the disloyal maids whom Odysseus murders, Atwood questions the limitations of sisterhood and the need to provide visibility, voice, and justice for the forgotten victims powerful men have dismissed and destroyed. The two novels signal a shift in feminist philosophy from the need for collective action to the need to recognize individual narratives. Both texts successfully re-appropriate the dominant myths they retell to propose a more nuanced and complicated view of what it means to be "Woman."