MELC 20033: The 1001 Nights will be offered in Spring 2020 by Professor Li Guo
The Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, is a collection of tales originated in the Arab lands that has become a masterpiece of world literature. These enchanting stories, framed by the tale of Scheherazade (or Shahrazad), have enjoyed a widespread and varied reputation over the centuries and across cultures. It is said that the Thousand and One Nights is the most read (or heard about) book in human history, second only to the Bible. In this class, we will examine these stories from a variety of academic and cultural perspectives, taking advantage of the wealth of material available (both textual and audio-visual). We will examine issues of provenance: where did these stories originate and when? We will study the stories as literary texts as well as historical documents, asking what, if anything, they tell us about the cultures they reflect and the societies in which they are set. We will examine how these tales have been interpreted by later societies, both Arab and Western, and what those interpretations tell us about the interpreters. We will use this class and its content to introduce ourselves to the study of the Middle East, its languages, history, literature, and peoples. We will gain a better understanding of the analytical tools and techniques for the study and appreciation of literature in general.