AURAK Investigates the Weaving of Subversive Storytelling

October 17, 2018,

The American University of Ras Al Khaimah’s (AURAK) Reading Club, headed by Professor of English, Arabic, and Translation Studies, Dr. Kamel Abdel-Malek, hosted a lecture featuring Assistant Professor of Translation and Comparative Studies, Dr. Sanaa Benmessaoud, and the Dean of the Office of Academic Support Services, Professor Steven Zani, exploring the subversive storytelling of Arabian Nights.

“No other work of fiction of non-Western origin has had a greater impact on Western culture than the Arabian Nights.” –  Ulrich Marzolph

It has resulted in numerous translations and inspired various classical traditions, and Dr. Sanaa began the lecture pondering the reasoning behind its historical impression.  The compilation of Middle Eastern Folk tales is embedded within the larger framework of a “Sasanian King” who, upon learning of the infidelity of his wife and sister-in-law, decides women are dishonorable and successively marries, executing each bride the next morning.  Scheherazade offers herself as a bride, but on their marriage night begins a story, saving the end for the subsequent night and prolonging her execution until the story’s conclusion with this pattern continuing for 1,001 nights. Through storytelling, the executions of Scheherazade and over a thousand women are thwarted. Dr. Sanaa believes that its Western popularity was founded on the premise that it contained values key for understanding the mysterious Orient. These subversive storytelling traditions have transcended explained Professor Steven, detailing their utilization in Homer’s portrayal of Odysseus and Penelope in “The Odyssey” and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which illustrates gender inequalities in Victorian English Society.

“Events such as these are critical in producing graduates aware of the interconnectedness of the world,” AURAK President, Professor Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim, commented. “It is imperative students acquire a well-rounded education with General Education courses emphasizing these relationships if they are to successfully navigate through and contribute to the global community.”