Thursday, November 13, 2008

another Nights phd

From a beliefnet blog comes this news, sounds like an interesting project:

Dr. Oliver's Islam
Saturday October 18, 2008
Categories: Culture

Congratulations to my dear friend and BU colleague Martyn Oliver, who passed his dissertation defense yesterday in Boston. (He's also getting hitched in 3 weeks--not a bad autumn.) I've had the pleasure of reading bits of his dissertation, which is about the literary construction of Islam. Martyn Dr. Oliver tells the story of how the story collection "1001 Nights"--an Arabic text, mind you, not an Islamic one--shaped Western conceptions of the religion of Islam. See: "Aladdin"--the most popular stories we tell about a culture, in some ways, are that culture.

This is, of course, true for Christian culture as well. I'm not sure there is a case quite like "1001 Nights" and its radical displacement of Islam from outside Islam, but certainly there are many texts, extra-biblical texts, which have shaped the cultural imagination about what Christianity is. Dante's Inferno. Milton's Paradise Lost. Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." (Seriously. And no, it has almost nothing to do with Judaism, despite its source.) Any others? Which extra-biblical stories do you think have had a shaping effect on what people believe about Christianity?

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