Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, public debates about Islam and the veil have become increasingly divisive. Yet few acknowledge that this fascination with veiling goes back more than three centuries.
In Veiled Figures, Teresa Heffernan explores how the clash of civilizations is perpetuated by the rhetoric of veiling and unveiling. Drawing on travel narratives, harem literature, and other stories, Heffernan argues that women’s bodies have been used to exacerbate the divide between religion and reason in the eighteenth century, the Islamic umma and the Western nation in the nineteenth, and Islamism and global capitalism in the contemporary period.
Through the study of the writings of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Anna Bowman Dodd, Demetra Vaka Brown, Zeyneb Hanoum, and others, Heffernan’s book demonstrates the ways in which these works complicate and interrupt these divides, opening up new opportunities for a more constructive dialogue between East and West.
About the author
Teresa Heffernan is a professor in the Department of English at St. Mary’s University.
‘Veiled Figures is an important read for those who seek examinations of the veil’s role in the contemporary context that present a hopeful alternative to the common narrative.’
Journal of Religion and Culture vol 27:01:2017
"Teresa Heffernan’s timely and powerful Veiled Figures: Women, Modernity, and the Spectres of Orientalism is a significant entry into the discussions that have ensued from Edward Said’s 1978 Orientalism… In framing the (un)veiled woman in historical, global debates, interrogating voices of compliance and resistance, and documenting the troubling new iterations of this trope in the present day, Heffernan follows Said’s model in crossing disciplinary boundaries and revealing cross-cultural dialogues."
University of Toronto Quarterly, vol 87 3, Summer 2018
‘Veiled Figures is a compelling work that presents an original and well-documented argument by a scholar well versed in the field of women’s and gender studies in Middle Eastern studies.
Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature vol 36:02:2017