The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: From Galland to Burton

Friday, October 21, 2005–Saturday, October 22, 2005
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Saree Makdisi, University of California, Los Angeles, and Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles

In 1789 Horace Walpole remarked on the narrative power of The Arabian Nights: “Read Sindbad the Sailor’s voyages, and you will be sick of Aeneas’s.” The appearance of Antoine Galland’s twelve-volume Mille et une nuits in English translation (1704–1717) constituted a significant cultural event. The Arabian Nights (known as Alf layla wa-layla in some Arabic versions), told by Sheherazade to King Shahiryar to prevent her murder, presented a coherent, evocative way of imagining the Muslim East. The collection of tales was widely serialized, adapted, and abridged: by 1800 there were eighty English versions. In addition to Arabic, French, and English editions, Bengali, Dutch, Danish, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Urdu, and Yiddish translations appeared. Later editors included Edward Lane (1839–41), John Payne (1882–84), and most notably Richard Burton (1885–86) who also translated the Kama Sutra. The tales were also re-imagined in children’s books. In short, The Arabian Nights offers a fascinating window into Europe’s understanding of the “East” over two centuries.

Session 1: Literary Aspects
Chair: Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles

Robert L. Mack, University of Exeter
“Cultivating the Garden: The Fate of Galland’s Arabian Nights in the Later Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”

Khalid Bekkaoui, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University, Fez, Morocco
“White Women and Moorish Fancy in Eighteenth-Century Fiction”

Ros Ballaster, Mansfield College, Oxford University
“Playing the Second String: The Role of Dinarzade in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction”

Session 2: Adaptations
Chair: Saree Makdisi, University of California, Los Angeles

Madeleine Dobie, Columbia University
“Translation and the Contact Zone: Galland’s Mille et une nuits

Bridget Orr, Vanderbilt University
“Scheherezade on Stage: The Arabian Nights and English Theater in the Eighteenth-Century”

Nasser Al-Taee, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
“Under the Spell of Magic: The Oriental Tale in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

Session 3: Contemporary Resonances
Chairs: Saree Makdisi, University of California, Los Angeles, and Felicity Nussbaum, University of California, Los Angeles

Srinivas Aravamudan, Duke University
“Oriental Adventure: From Narratology to Political Critique”

Nabil Matar, Florida Institute of Technology
“The People of the Book and the People without a Book in The Arabian Nights

Maher Jarrar, American University of Beirut
“The Reception of The Arabian Nights in the Modern Arabic Novel”