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Scheherazade’s Daughters

The Power of Storytelling in Ecofeminist Change


Barbara Bennett

Scheherazade, the storyteller of 1001 Arabian Nights, recounts stories literally to save her people, and in Scheherazade’s Daughters, Barbara Bennett explores how contemporary female authors attempt to save their own world by telling compelling stories that disseminate ideas of justice and equality for all living things, a philosophy called ecofeminism. Bennett examines how ecofeminism works in works by Margaret Atwood ( Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Oryx & Crake), Barbara Kingsolver ( Animal Dreams, The Poisonwood Bible, and Prodigal Summer), and Ruth Ozeki ( My Year of Meats and All over Creation).
Bennett also analyzes ecofeminism in autobiography and memoir in Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge, Janisse Ray’s Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream. Lastly through Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits, Ana Castillo’s So Far from God, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Bennett investigates how magical realism can spread the positive ideas of ecofeminism.
This groundbreaking book dissects the power of literature to convert minds and hearts in a direction that has the potential, like Scheherazade’s stories, to change our world for the better.


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Conclusion 183


aCHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need but not for some people’s greed.” (Ghandi) The authors and books explored in this book are representative, of course, not inclusive. So many other works and artists can be read through the ecofeminist stance, readings that can add depth and breadth to a story’s meaning. This particular lens is not meant to replace any of the standard literary theories but instead to add to those readings by enriching them. And although the works analyzed here are all contemporary works, the meanings of older works can also be expanded by looking at them through an ecofeminist eye. Take for example Nathanial Hawthorne’s classic short story “The Birth-Mark.” Just as it is possible to do a Freudian reading of the story—despite the fact that those theories had not been conceived when Hawthorne wrote the tale—it is possible to read Hawthorne with an ecofeminist theoretical stance. The story of a young husband’s obsession with the birthmark on the face of his wife to the point that he is willing to risk her life in order to remove it, therefore fitting her into his definition of perfection, is ripe for a discussion of male dominance, hierarchical power, and the beauty of untouched nature in contrast to a scientific “fix.” Other 19th century and early 20th century works that might be analyzed this way include Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Stephen Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow...

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