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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 17 August 2021
Chapter 6 starts with the understanding of the advent of the Nights as “a major event for all European literature,” a point that Borges and others argue passionately. In order to see the impact of this event we need to differentiate the Romantic craze of William Beckford in his Vathek, Episodes, and “Long Story,” his translators, and also his admirers from others. Beckford was phenomenal in working across at least three cultures along with Arabic: French, English, and Jamaican. His infatuation and reproduction of the Nights is unique, but we have to place it in context of a raging discussion run by many, but especially Schlegel, of the grotesque and Arabesque. His writing and personal penchant to challenge everything presents him as a filiate who belongs to a specific genealogy in the Nights. His approach is different for instance from the Brontës whose writings bear the marks of a contained infatuation. They are the bridge for twentieth-century shifts in reading and response. A “murky sensualism” which Maxime Rodinson associates with “the Western bourgeoisie” prepares for the dialectic of rapprochement, engagement, and detachment that present the twentieth century and after as more experimental but also no less involved in substantiating the Nights in architecture, painting, enactment of medieval travels, and the practice of parody and pastiche in a postmodernist anxiety and search for distinction.