The Arabian Nights, Then and Now

Exploration of Arabian Nights, a classic of world literature. Topics include antecedents, themes and later prose, and graphic and film adaptations.

Also NELC 201, LITR 318, NELC  601.

The medieval Arabic cycle of stories known as The Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights is a classic of world literature. The course is divided into two components: in one, we read the Nights and discuss both its dominant themes—inter alia deceit, love, sex, revenge, violence, and justice—and its storytelling contexts and antecedents (e.g. the the Middle Persian Tales of Bidpai); and in the other, we explore the ways in which its themes and tales have been adapted and appropriated by later authors (e.g. Barth, Gaiman, and Poe in English, Borges in Spanish, Potocki in French and Polish, and Naguib Mahfouz in Arabic); and by filmmakers such as Korda, Pasolini and Barron.


* Liking to read (admittedly fun material)
* 12 (twelve) informal weekly reaction essays (3 pages each), due Tuesdays
* Final project (comparative 10-15-page paper)
* Attending three outside talks

Required texts

The Arabian Nights, trans. Husain Haddawy
Sindbad and other stories from the Arabian Nights, tr. Haddawy
Daniel Heller-Roazen, The Arabian Nights (Norton Critical)
Naguib Mahfouz, Arabian Nights and Days
Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Shusha Guppy, The Secret of Laughter
Robert Louis Stevenson, New Arabian Nights [online]
Mary Zimmerman, The Arabian Nights: A Play
Jin-seok Jeon, SeungHee Han, One Thousand and One Nights (v. 1)
Neil Gaiman, Sandman: Fables & Reflections (v. 6)
G. Willow Wilson, Alif The Unseen


‘Croire, imaginer, penser,’ ‘Public and Private Life: The Muslim Town,’ (2001), dir. Philippe Calderon
‘Thief of Baghdad’ (1940), dir. Alexander Korda et al
[Disney’s] ‘Aladdin’ (1992) (dir. Ron Clements)
‘Arabian Nights’ (2000), dir. Steven Barron
‘Arabian Nights’ (1970), dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini [Note: contains nudity and is therefore entirely optional]


The Arabian Nights, vols 1–3, trans. Malcolm Lyons
John Barth, Chimera
Robert Louis Stevenson, New Arabian Nights
Amina Shah, Tales from the Bazaars of Arabia
Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
Marina Warner, Strange Magic

Undergraduate Course #: 
TTh 2.30pm-3.45pm
WR, Hu