The Foreign Female Body as a Symbolic Resource in Marina Warner's "Queen of Sheba"

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    Abstract

    Marina Warner contaminates different versions of the Queen of Sheba “story” in which the Queen is specifically “a queen of the South” and in which her otherness is impressed on her dark/black body. Warner juxtaposes various narratives with different orders of corporeal readings that can be visibly condensed in the image of the queen as she crosses a (Mediterranean) border/watercourse raising her dress and showing her legs. This image dominates the exotic versions that have been reworked by Warner even within colonial models. Warner shows how the queen’s body becomes a symbolic resource for an ideological conflict that changes perspectives according to the context but that is always fought out in the arena of her fragmented and hybrid foreign body. The symbolic practice of resorting to her body as a “sign” will be considered by analysing The Legs of the Queen of Sheba (1994) and The Lost Father (1989). The set of corporeal signs meant to define her identity becomes at the very checkpoint of the frontier a crossroads of gender, race, sexuality and nationhood so that the queen’s body can be perceived in terms of “bodyscape” (Mirzoeff). The Lost Father is set in fascist Apulia following the Italian conquest of Abyssinia. In the novel, Warner highlights the colonial female model that emphasises the physical moral and racial perfection of the white European woman or rather she constructs the model by contrasting it with the exotic (indecent) body of the queen. In this way, the “mysterious” body of the female foreigner acts as a resource to position women within national borders in defence of the nation’s moral values and ensuring reproduction of “the children of the Fatherland”.
    Lingua originaleEnglish
    Pagine191-196
    Numero di pagine6
    Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2008

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