Honors Projects


Though scholars have examined The 1001 Nights’ Entertainments or The Arabian Nights, few have thoroughly explored the function of Shahrazad’s tales as they relate to her position as a woman. Closely reading the stories of the Nights reveals that there are chiefly two types of female characters who emerge in her stories: the heroic, who have no apparent autonomy, and the villainous, who have overflowing autonomy. These depictions of women are problematic from the viewpoint of present-day feminism, but are understandable, and even genuinely subversive, in Shahrazad’s context. Although some scholars have dismissed questions about the function of the tales based on allegations of disunity in the Nights, Part I reveals that there is a unity among the stories and that a feature of this unity is the limited ways that women are portrayed. Then, in Part II, I explore what the limited portraits of women are using a sampling of stories. Part III examines how these portraits of women function to push against Shahrazad’s husband’s understanding of women and how Shahrazad is able subvert norms about women with her life. Ultimately, Shahrazad, in context, is revealed to be a radically subversive figure who stands up to power as a vanguard for good against all odds.





First Advisor

Stephannie Gearhart

First Advisor Department


Second Advisor

Julie Haught

Second Advisor Department

Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies

Publication Date

Fall 12-12-2016