Adapting Shahrazad’s Odyssey

The Female Wanderer and Storyteller in Victorian and Contemporary Middle Eastern Literature

by Eda Dedebas Dundar (Author)
©2015 Monographs 144 Pages
Series: American University Studies , Volume 40


Adapting Shahrazad’s Odyssey: The Female Wanderer and Storyteller in Victorian and Contemporary Middle Eastern Literature focuses on a comparative study of the figure of the female traveler and storyteller in nineteenth-century Victorian literature and contemporary Anglophone Middle Eastern writing. Eda Dedebas Dundar’s cutting-edge study is the first to discover a strong link between traveling texts and the traveling women in fiction, analyzing the ways in which she is molded by her previous exposure to stories. This unique and interdisciplinary book explores the relationship between traveling and writing through the incorporation of various disciplines, including gender studies and postcolonial studies.
Through close analysis, the author illuminates three main concepts: travel as a metaphor for rewriting, the female wanderer as the reworked adaptation of Odysseus and Shahrazad, and the notion of adaptation as a metatextual travel between Victorian and contemporary, nostalgia and progress. Scholars whose areas of expertise include nineteenth- and twentieth-century global Anglophone literature as well as travel writing and gender studies will find this text of particular interest. Moreover, this book further highlights fields of study in the humanities, including literature, gender studies, and civil liberties, aimed at an academic audience interested in travel narratives, women’s writing, postcolonial literature, women’s studies, and human rights. This text will be of special interest in courses such as Victorian women’s writing, Victorian children’s literature, global Anglophone literatures, women writers from the Middle East, and literary adaptation and appropriation.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Victorian Odysseys: The Legacy of Homer as Envisioned by Victorian Women Writers
  • Chapter One: Wandering Epic Hero from a Critical Lens in Olive Schreiner’s The Story of an African Farm
  • Chapter Two: Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses: Heterogeneity of Female Travellers in Victorian Children’s Literature
  • Part II: Traveling across Time and Texts: Rewriting of Travel in Post-Shahrazadic Women’s Writing from the Middle East
  • Chapter Three: Haunted by Past: Spatial, Temporal, and Metatextual Travel in Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love
  • Chapter Four: Juxtaposing East and West, Homer and Shahrazad in Güneli Gün’s On the Road to Baghdad
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited



This book would not have been possible without the guidance and the help of several individuals who contributed and extended their valuable assistance in the preparation and completion of this study. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my dissertation advisor Dr. Margaret R. Higonnet for her continuous support of my graduate study and research, for her patience, motivation, and enthusiasm. It was a privilege to work with an advisor who supported me at my every step in this study and enlightened me with her questions and comments in our discussions. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my professors, Dr. Kerry Bystrom, who has become my role model at graduate school, Dr. Lisa Sanchez-Gonzalez for her insightful comments, Dr. Norma Bouchard for her support and encouragement during my Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut, and Dr. Asli Tekinay for motivating me all through my graduate years at Bogazici University. I am indebted to my colleagues, Core Humanities Director Dr. Greta de Jong and Administrative Assistant Jodie Helman at the University of Nevada, Reno, particularly for their encouragement during my year as a post-doctoral scholar at UNR’s Core Humanities program. I would like to offer my special thanks to Extravio journal director Antonia Cabanilles and Ana Lozano for their permission to reprint an earlier version of Chapter 2, which was published in 2011 with the title “Christina Rossetti’s Speaking Likenesses: Different Forms of ← ix | x → Travel in Victorian Children’s Literature.” I am also thankful to Text and Academic Author Association for its generous Publication Grant.

My special thanks go to my friends Lucia G. Santana, Evra Gunhan, and Asli Olceroglu whose support and enthusiasm made me continue. Needless to say, my most sincere and deepest thanks must go to my parents Asuman Dedebas and Osman Dedebas, who believed in me and supported my enthusiasm for literature when I insisted on studying language and literature as a sixteen-year-old adolescent.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the two most important men in my life. I am so indebted to my best friend and husband Baha Guclu Dundar, for supporting me at every single milestone of this study and my professional life in general. Without his endless encouragement, this book would not have been possible. My deepest gratitude goes to my son Baris Dundar, who was stillborn only a few weeks after my dissertation defense. His short presence and immense patience during the most stressful times of this project will always be remembered. This book is dedicated to his loving memory. ← x | 1 →



The concept of travel, usually considered a male prerogative, signals a sustained movement. It breaches boundaries, makes connections between different settings, time periods, and cultures. Bridging the gap between various places and people, the journey metaphor posits a sense of liminality as it focuses on at least two spaces: home and the new destination. Moreover, the metaphor of travel paves the way for the rewriting of social order by providing a fresh perspective different from the social conventions at home.

The idea of voyage presents an in-between, a liminal situation in which the voyager usually belongs to neither place and to both at the same time. It represents a position between a feeling of nostalgia for the point of departure and a sense of yearning for the destination to-be-reached. This ambiguity locates the concept of travel between a stasis of a nostalgic past and an adventurous, forward-looking present and future. Such liminality on the part of the traveller can be observed in one of the greatest travellers of literary history: Homer’s Odysseus, an epic hero who meanders between his feeling of nostos (nostalgia and homecoming) and kleos (aiming for glory and adventure).1 As an epic hero, he is caught between his positions as the head of a household and a kingdom (his past) and as the warrior who is ready to win more glory after the Trojan War (the possibility of glorious deeds during his wanderings). Odysseus represents in-between travellers in general and poses an example for future explorers. Mimicking the case of Odysseus, travel ← 1 | 2 → literature displays a similar sense of simultaneity of retrospective and prospective aspects. While travellers move forward to the new destination, they also need to carry the feeling of nostalgia with them. The concept of home and the feeling of nostalgia stand out as the necessary companions of a voyage.

In line with this liminal position between past and present, home and away, nostos and kleos, the concept of travel is linked to the tasks of revisiting the existing social order at home and readdressing the new destination. As the travellers go to explore a new land, they engage in a metaphorical rewriting of the spaces traveled. Voyage gives us a redefinition of the traveled destination and a reworking of social rules at home upon encountering a new culture. In Framing the Sign, Jonathan Culler argues that when tourists look for “authenticity” as they travel, they adore authenticity markers precisely because no such thing as authenticity in the new land exists (5). Likewise, in the distance traveled, there is no longer a discovery for the traveller since the new destination has already been visited by many other travellers. What a wanderer defines or experiences is a personal redefinition of the destination, the rewriting of the culture from a different perspective. In Questions of Travel: Postmodern Discourses of Displacement, Caren Kaplan states that travellers are prone to “the mythologized narrativizations of displacement” (2). Her emphasis on narration and the mythologizing aspects of travel further strengthens the task of the traveller to reconceptualize the places traveled while the traveller creates mythologized narrativizations just as a storyteller engages in a journey. A storyteller not only travels between previous stories and the contemporary ones she recounts but also takes her readers on a metaphorical journey of make-believe. Similar to Odysseus’s power of storytelling, Shahrazad, the legendary protagonist of The Arabian Nights, takes her readers, Shahriyar and Dinarzad, on a journey through a fictional world. Both Odysseus and Shahrazad are literary tropes for the interrelation of the journey metaphor and the act of storytelling. Just like the rewriting of texts, then, the act of traveling is a palimpsest. The experience of wandering resembles the process of rewriting since rewriting occupies a liminal space between the source text and its adaptation. In addition to the redefinition of the new destination, wandering enables the traveller to look back at home from this new perspective, the new experience which he or she gains through the expedition. Home is no longer the place that the traveller has left behind. Due to “the mythologized narrativization” process that Caren Kaplan theorizes, it has now become a new place for the traveller experiencing his or her nostos.

To turn this idea around, rewriting in literary texts functions in a similar way to the idea of voyage. An adaptation of a canonical text produces a personal point of view on the text rewritten. Similar to the concept of travel, intertextuality posits a liminal space. It not only displays a new—and usually a critical—view of the ← 2 | 3 → source text but also enables us to look at the source text with different eyes. An adaptation of a canonical work, then, wanders between its home-text and the new text that it has traveled to. As in the case of a journey, the adaptation can never be regarded as a brand new discovery made by the writer but rather as a text that conveys one way of rereading the source text, the home. What makes an adaptation unique is that it presents another perspective and that it adds to the definition of the source-text.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (July)
The map of love Homer Güneli Gün African Rarm Road to Baghdad
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. X, 144 pp.

Biographical notes

Eda Dedebas Dundar (Author)

Eda Dedebas Dundar is a visiting scholar at University of Washington, Seattle and a former postdoctoral fellow at University of Nevada, Reno. She received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Connecticut. She holds a BA and an MA in English from Bogazici University. Her research interests include Victorian literature, women writers from the Middle East, contemporary Anglophone literature, and travel writing. Her publications have appeared in peer-reviewed journals such as Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Journal of Commonwealth and Post-colonial Studies.


Title: Adapting Shahrazad’s Odyssey