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


Other title
Comparative Literature
comparative print culture
book history
literary modernity
A Thousand and One Nights
Print culture
Arabian Nights
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Aliakbari, Rasoul
Supervisor and department
Varsava, Jerry (English and Film Studies, and Comparative Literature)
Mahdavi, Mojtaba (Political Science)
Kelly, Gary (English and Film Studies and Comparative Literature)
Examining committee member and department
Marzolph, Ulrich (Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies)
Bishop, Ted (English and Film Studies)
Smith-Prei, Carrie (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Mannani, Manijeh (English, and Comparative Literature)
Comparative Literature

Date accepted
Graduation date
2017-11:Fall 2017
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
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 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 the early nineteenth 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 projects in the selected cultures of modernity, challenges Anderson’s unnuanced theorization of modern nation-formation, 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.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
Citation for previous publication
“The Arabian Nights in the English Popular Press and the Heterogenization of Nationhood: A Print Cultural Approach to Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, vol. 43, no. 3, 2016.“American Aladdins and Sinbads: Critical Bibliographic Examination of the Arabian Nights for Antebellum Nationhood.” Forthcoming in Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-tale Studies, vol. 31, no. 2 (Fall 2017).“Iranian Literary Modernity, Critical Regionalism, and the Print Culture of A Thousand and One Nights.” Unsettling Colonial Modernity: Islamicate Contexts in Focus, edited by Siavash Saffari, et al. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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