The Thousand and One Nights and the Roots of Fabulism (LIT2565.01)

Zoe Tuck

Our primary text for this class will be Yasmine Seale’s The Annotated Arabian Nights, which we will open in the spirit of pleasure and curiosity. Seale’s annotated edition makes de- orientalizing gestures while also mapping many of the instances in which this corpus of stories has inspired other works of art and literature.

’Alf Laylah wa-Laylah, known in English as the Thousand and One Nights or the Arabian Nights Tales, is a fascinating work that models nesting frame narratives and plumbs ethical questions related to literature (the Shahrazadian question: can story reform the femicidal king?). It also has a fascinatingly messy history of translation and adaptatation. For some of it’s stories, there are scholarly questions around whether it’s a classical Arabic tale or later French insertion? Is it an archetypal instance of orientalism or a more complicated instance of what Mary Louise Pratt calls a contact zone?

To answer questions around classical Arabic literature and the religious content of the text, we’ll look at work by Robert Irwin. We’ll dive into Edward Said’s Orientalism, and consider Jalal Toufic’s text The Withdrawal of Tradition Past a Surpassing Disaster, in which he considers why Western writers feel such license to adapt from the Nights and why it feels withdrawn from
circulation to Toufic as an Arab writer.

Learning Outcomes:
To situate the text within its historical and religious context(s).
To learn about fabulism and narrative structure.
To begin to complicate the idea of authorship.
To introduce issues in the history of translation.
To start to introduce various modes of critical reading.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 4
M/Th 1:40PM - 3:30PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 2000 , All courses , Four Credit , Fully In-Person , Literature , New Courses , Updates