Thursday, October 29, 2009

Leo Africanus and women

I found the conflicts that developed in the first pages of the book very interesting. "For us, the women of Granada, freedom is a deceitful form of bondage, and slavery a subtle form of freedom" (6). Leo Africanus tells of his mother's struggles with his father; how he only really saw her as his cousin to which he was betrothed from birth, and not as his wife. It goes on to explain that having taken a mistress, the mistress was given freedoms that the wife, herself, did not have and in general the father seemed to care more for the mistress than his own wife.
It's very interesting to compare the literary descriptions of Leo Africanus' mother's life to the rights women are given in modern culture. The slave was able to sing, dance and pour wine because she was a mistress and not a wed women. In our culture, women have much more rights and freedoms than the women of Granada had at the time; simple joys of singing and dancing are performed by women of the U.S. without thought.
Another part of the book that was interesting was the father's joy to understand that he had two births and the possibility of two sons. The ideas of birth have drastically changed over the years; even in the times of the 18th century let alone the 15th, it was ideal to bare a son in order to take on their father's work (be it the throne or what not), but in today's culture birth is seen more as the making of a family rather than the continuation of a family's line and/or inheritance.

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