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The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures
Global Commodification, Translation, and the Culture Industry

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  • Date Published: August 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108474856

$ 39.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • The stories in the Thousand and One Nights, or the Arabian Nights, are familiar to many of us: from the tales of Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and his forty thieves, to the framing story of Scheherazade telling these stories to her homicidal husband, Shahrayar. This book offers a rich and wide-ranging analysis of the power of this collection of tales that penetrates so many cultures and appeals to such a variety of predilections and tastes. It also explores areas that were left untouched, like the decolonization of the Arabian Nights, and its archaeologies. Unique in its excavation into inroads of perception and reception, Muhsin J. al-Musawi's book unearths means of connection with common publics and learned societies. Al-Musawi shows, as never before, how the Arabian Nights has been translated, appropriated, and authenticated or abused over time, and how its reach is so expansive as to draw the attention of poets, painters, illustrators, translators, editors, musicians, political scientists like Leo Strauss, and novelists like Michel Butor, James Joyce and Marcel Proust amongst others. Making use of documentaries, films, paintings, novels and novellas, poetry, digital forums and political jargon, this book offers nuanced understanding of the perennial charm and power of this collection.

    • A comprehensive and multi-disciplinary study of the Arabian Nights in world cultures
    • Uses social science and literary theory to account for the celebration, appropriation, and translation of the book over three hundred years
    • Analyses a wide variety of sources including documentaries, films, paintings, novels and novellas, poetry, digital forums, and political jargon
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    • Winner, 2022 Sheikh Zayed Book Award, Arabic Culture in Other Languages Category

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘This is a work of incredible erudition. Al-Musawi tells the story of the Nights, orientalism, world literature, and structuralism simultaneously, revealing a network of readings, influences, and critical practices that allow us to see literature in a new light.’ Tarek El-Ariss, Dartmouth College

    ‘A scholarly study of magisterial magnitude in both theoretical and textual terms. Briefly stated, few can compose so wizardly and converse so enchantingly, indeed so Shahrazadingly, about Alf Layla wa-Layla as a cherished world literary treasure and a prized global cultural commodity as al-Musawi. One is impressed but never surprised.’ Nizar F. Hermes, The University of Virginia

    ‘Al-Musawi brings a lifetime of Arabian Nights’ scholarship to bear on his expansive new study of its generative role in the Western and Global literary and cultural imagination from the 18th century to the present. Ranging from Romanticism through Modernism to Post-Modernism, al-Musawi compellingly demonstrates how this protean Arabic story collection has shaped the novel, music, fine arts, and film.’ Suzanne Stetkevych, Georgetown University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2021
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108474856
    • length: 344 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 29 mm
    • weight: 0.771kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: the stunning growth of a constellation
    1. The Arabian Nights: a European legacy?
    2. The Scheherazade factor
    3. Engagements in narrative
    4. The 'hostile dynasty': rewriting the Arabian Nights
    5. The archaeology of A Thousand and One Nights
    6. Signatures and affiliates
    7. Decolonizing the Arabian Nights?
    8. Invitation to discourse
    Appendix A. Editions worldwide
    Appendix B. Selections from a comparative study between Grub Street translation of Galland (reprinted in Novelist magazine), and Haddawy's translation of Muhsin Mahdi's edition of Galland's original Arabic manuscript of Galland.

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    The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures

    Muhsin J. al-Musawi

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  • Author

    Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Columbia University, New York
    Muhsin J. al-Musawi is Professor of classical and modern Arabic literature, comparative and cultural studies at Columbia University in New York. He is the editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature and the recipient of the Owais Award in Literary Criticism in 2002, and the Kuwait Prize in Arabic language and literature in 2018. He is the author and editor of numerous books including, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence (2003), Arabic Poetry: Trajectories of Modernity and Tradition (2006), Reading Iraq: Culture and Power in Conflict (2006), Arabic Literary Thresholds: Sites of Rhetorical Turn in Contemporary Scholarship (2009), The Islamic Context of the Thousand and One Nights, The Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters: Arabic Knowledge Construction, and Islam on the Street: Religion in Arabic Literature (2009), winner of 'Choice' Outstanding Academic Title in 2010.


    • Winner, 2022 Sheikh Zayed Book Award, Arabic Culture in Other Languages Category

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