Bibliographies of A Thousand and One Nights and the Formation of Modern Nationhood: A Study in Comparative Print Culture

Rasoul Aliakbari
This doctoral dissertation examines the print cultures of the Arabian Nights (aka A Thousand and One Nights) in Britain, the US, Egypt, and Iran, variably from the late eighteenth to the twenty first centuries. This examination, by way of textual analysis, contextual and historical scrutiny, and digital bibliographic examination and compilation, demonstrates the various usages of the Arabian Nights in modern nation-formation projects in the above-said contexts, challenges Benedict Anderson's
more » ... edict Anderson's homogenous and solid notion of nation-building, and shows the occurrence of this phenomenon in a heterogeneous modality at the intersection of literary Orientalism, social classes, discourses, gender, and trans-regional dialectics. The chapter on the Arabian Nights in Britain demonstrates how this publication was aimed at non-elite readers to expand bourgeois readership and to bolster the notions of Englishness and Britishness across lower social strata during the nineteenth century. The chapter on US's history of the Arabian Nights documents and examines the re-mediation, trans-mediations, and uses of this story collection in printed materials in designating national American subjectivity while territorial expansionism, technological upsurge, consumerism, political reconfiguration were under way during the antebellum period. In the chapter on Egypt, the renewed significance of the Arabian Nights is explained by reference to female writers' repurposing of its tales in forging modern Arabian and Egyptian role models for their female readers on the emerging national landscape in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Iran's chapter demonstrates the usage of the Arabian Nights by literary and cultural elites, starting from before the midnineteenth century to date, to perpetuate the nationalist discourse of Perso-centrism, and simultaneously shows the Ottoman and Indian grounds via which the Arabian Nights had been taken to Persia/Iran in the nineteenth century. The dissertation brings to light under-documented histories of the Arabian Nights, shows the utilizations of the story collection in nation-formation iii Aliakbari projects in the selected cultures of modernity, challenges Anderson's unnuanced theorization of modernity, and ultimately suggests a new scholarly framework, namely comparative print culture, at the crossroads of print culture and comparative literatures studies for future investigations of print modernities.
doi:10.7939/r34m91q6f fatcat:gqe2dtbgfrh7nbc4zstemgjelq