I take as my point of departure Jane Campbell’s view that Byatt’s “The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye” “exposes the gaps … between the worlds in which twentieth-century women live,” as I situate Byatt’s story within its literary, political, and feminist framework. Viewing “The Djinn” as a condensed pastiche of what Byatt terms “the greatest story ever told,” One Thousand and One Nights, rather than a fairy or wonder tale, I read this tale in relation to Chilla Bulbeck’s insights in Re-orienting Western Feminisms: Women’s Diversity in a Postcolonial World. I argue that in her Arabian Nights’ Tale, Byatt has created a myopic orientalized, first-world feminist point of view that relies heavily on the tenets of liberal feminism, ignoring how gender as “fate” is shaped by national history, religious affiliation and the material conditions of women’s lives. Byatt’s Arabian Nights’ Tale does not fulfill the promise of its antecedent text – that of saving women from death. Instead this Arabian Nights’ tale views third-world women’s lives as coincident with death. Their oppressed lives are hopeless and futile; they appear to be living in a limbo world likened to the world the pre-enlightened medieval Griselda inhabits.

Author Biography

Kathleen Williams Renk is an Assistant Professor of English at Northern Illinois University, where she is also a Women’s Studies Associate. She is the author of Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts: Women’s Writing and Decolonization. (Univ. Press of Virginia, 1999) and numerous critical essays on the work of various British and post-colonial writers, including A.S. Byatt, Jean Rhys, Wilson Harris, Peter Carey. Pauline Melville, and Dionne Brand. She teaches British modernist, post-colonial, and women’s literatures.