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Chapter 7 throws us headlong into a controversial issue that reflects on the first chapter, but also complements every other chapter in that it takes the “Oriental mode” as a problematic that invites deconstruction. Does the connotation of the mode signify the anxieties of the pillars of the Enlightenment? It certainly does, and hence the need to work out an emancipatory discourse from a ruling Western rationality that presents everything, even the theory of the novel or narratology as necessarily Western. The role of philologists since the early nineteenth century in relation to the production of knowledge is more relevant to the study and vogue of the Nights than has been hitherto noticed. Scheherazade’s body, the matter and manner of the Nights is no less the crux of discussion than the visible grouping of language in families, Aryan and Semite. This is why many twentieth-century experimentations are to be read as decolonizing in that they redirect attention to a literary text, not a document.
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.
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