As Rumi Travels along the Silk Road in Feminist Costume: Shafak's The Forty Rules of Love

  • Published : 2019.06.15


Transnational exchange has been an inseparable part of both the ancient and modern Silk Road. This paper shows how Rumi (1207-1273), a famous Persian Sufi poet, travels along the Silk Road in the $21^{st}$ century. With the birth of a Rumi phenomenon in the West, Silk Road artists have rediscovered and adapted him for different purposes. Elif Shafak, the Turkish-British novelist and women's rights activist, espouses feminist beliefs in her bestseller, The Forty Rules of Love (2010). Benefiting from the views of feminist theorists like Woolf, de Beauvoir and Friedan, this paper reveals how Shafak appropriates Rumi for her feminist purposes. Forty Rules of Love's protagonist, Ella Rubinstein is analyzed, compared and contrasted with her former literary counterparts Pinhan and Zeliha, heroines of Shafak's previous novels. By adapting Rumi's definition of equality, Shafak shows how egalitarianism must pervade the relationship between women and men. The adaptation of Rumi's ideas regarding the equality of sexes finds a different dimension when Shafak reveals that all humanity possesses femininity and masculinity at the same time. By means of ideas prevalent in the ancient Silk Road, the five classical elements theory, and the yin and yang principle, Shafak portrays unity within contradictions. It is concluded that although individuals might belong to different typologies of the five symbolic elements of nature, they can at the same time complement one another's inharmonious personalities peacefully. The process of integration of female and male sexes can be expedited by opening up one's heart to a universal love.


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