Playing the Second String: The Role of Dinarzade in Eighteenth‐Century English Fiction
Modern commentators have tended to overlook the significance of the role of Dinarzade in The Arabian Nights Entertainments, a significance not lost on earlier readers. To associate the text with enchantment and the pleasures of passive consumption of text is to focus only on the spell Scheherazade casts. This chapter seeks to redress this oversight by looking at a small number of novels by women readers of the Nights: Jane Austen, Sophia Lee, Eliza Fenwick, and Mary Hays—which explore the complicity between narrator and marginal interlocutor, frequently represented as a complicity between sisters, to promote an image of redeeming national identity for burgeoning empire. These novels participate in the ongoing project of shaping an enlightened reader able to exert both sympathy and skeptical discrimination. They also participate in the re-presentation of a myth of western empire as reformed empire: maritime, hybrid, mobile, adaptive and attentive to its environment.
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