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Title: The Wiles of Women in Ottoman and Azeri Texts
Authors: Sayers, David Selim
Advisors: Hanioglu, Sükrü
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: Islam
Subjects: Middle Eastern literature
Gender studies
Islamic culture
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The wiles of women are a literary theme that has been treated from ancient Egyptian narratives to twenty-first-century TV series. The theme reached its greatest flowering in literatures of the Islamicate world, beginning with Surat Yusuf of the Qur'an and inspiring entire literary traditions in Arabic (<italic>Kayd al-Nisa'</italic>), Persian (<italic>Makr-e Zan[an]</italic>), and Turkish (<italic>Mekr-i Zenan</italic>). While some scholarly work exists on the Arabic and Persian traditions, the Turkish tradition has not received significant scholarly attention to date. The present study aims to fill this gap. In so doing, the study presents, transliterates, and translates into English seventeen hitherto-unexamined prose stories on the wiles of women in Ottoman and Azeri Turkish. The first part of the study establishes a morphology for the stories and proposes a definition of the literary genre they represent. Both the morphology and the genre definition are designed to accommodate future additions to the corpus. The second part of the study engages in an in-depth analysis of the genre's treatment of the wiles-of-women theme, extrapolating a broader worldview from this treatment. The proposed morphology divides the genre into three main categories which present a wide spectrum on the treatment of the theme. For instance, stories may view the wiles of women as evil and dangerous; as frivolous and amusing; or as thoughtful and instructive. Still, the categories all share the a priori assumption that women are intrinsically and incorrigibly guileful. The same does not hold for men, whom the stories grant moral agency and the capacity to learn from their mistakes. Story arcs in <italic>Mekr-i Zenan</italic> often feature men falling for the wiles of women, suffering as a result, and learning a lesson in the end. Women, in contrast, showcase no personal development. What emerges is a view of the world as a moral testing ground for men, and of women as a divinely ordained obstacle/mediator between men and a morally upright life. Nevertheless, many <italic>Mekr-i Zenan</italic> stories employ humor and ambiguity, for instance by casting men in the guileful role, to enable a more nuanced view of social and gender relations than generic conventions suggest.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

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