A Cultural Median: One Thousand Nights and a Night before 1700


  • Soha El-Samad The Lebanese University




Borrowing, Culture, Folklore, Orientalism, Reception


With tales that date as far back as the ninth century, One Thousand Nights and a Night is one of the earliest seminal texts to first expose the West to Eastern life and culture. Following their translation, their extensive influence upon eighteenth century French and British travel literature and nineteenth century European and American literature, became an established fact. However, this has hardly been the case among the Arab literary tradition, where the tales have been initially neglected in both their oral and written forms. This paper traces the reception and impact of The Nights on European narrative, poetic, and dramatic productions even before transaltion to highlight its significance as a cultural median and, in the process, elaborates upon its Arab neglect. Such an exposition serves to subvert the claim that the texts translation was an act of exploitation by the west. Indeed, its early impact upon the literature and imagination of the West indicates a reception that precedes and runs parallel to the West's material and politically oriented imperial influence.

Author Biography

Soha El-Samad, The Lebanese University

Associate-professor and Head of The English Department at the Lebanese University, Third Branch.


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