Friday, March 10, 2017

The Arabian Nights in the English Popular Press and the Heterogenization of Nationhood

Rasoul Aliakbari's new article "The Arabian Nights in the English Popular Press and the Heterogenization of Nationhood: A Print Cultural Approach to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities" explores nation-building via Anderson, Edward William Lane, the popular press and The 1001 Nights.

It's a great read and fills some much-needed gaps in terms of popular renditions of the Nights and their relationship with understandings of nation.

If you have academic access you can read it here at Canadian Review of Comparative Literature -

Rasoul Aliakbari is a graduate student at The University of Alberta in Comparative Literature.

I've pasted the abstract/overview below -

I. Aims and Scope

This article investigates the popular print culture of the Arabian Nights1 in nineteenth-century England in order to challenge Benedict Anderson’s standpoints on modern nation-building in his now-classic Imagined Communities. There is a growing body of research on the Nights, its sources, its literary character, its cultural significance, its translations, its adaptations, and its continuing popularity in contemporary cultures throughout the world. Ulrich Marzolph’s website provides an extensive list of representative scholarship on various aspects of the Nights in its various pre-modern, modern, and contemporary contexts (The Arabian Nights Bibliography). However, reviewing the literature of the Nights on his website and elsewhere, one notices a relative lack of scholarship on the uses of print editions of the Nights to converse with theories of print capitalism and modern nation-building. Responding to this lacuna, this article mainly aims to investigate publications of the Nights for lower-class readers in nineteenth-century England, in order to offer a heterogenized picture of the formation of modern English nationhood.2 In particular, I will explore the print circumstances of Edward Lane’s translation of the Nights as well as some reproductions of, and responses to, the Nights in nineteenth-century British cheap popular periodicals, to develop a critical dialogue with Anderson.3 This dialogue includes revisiting, challenging, and complicating some dimensions of Anderson’s discourses on print capitalism, the formation of the modern nation as an imagined community, and official nationalism. By examining the uses of the Nights for and among British lower classes and the expanding bourgeois readership of the time, I will demonstrate that, unlike Anderson’s conception of nationhood as homogeneous, steady, and solid, the formation of modern English nationhood is heterogeneous, porous, borderly, and conditioned at the intersection of social classes and the oriental literariness of the Nights. In other words, rather than arguing for the impact of the Nights on European literary modernity or nation-building, this essay seeks to demonstrate some of the uses of this tale collection in the English enterprise of nation-building, including the dissemination of ‘wholesome’ reading matter and the establishment of British sovereignty over lower-class and mass readership in England during the nineteenth century.