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A Missing Link in a Thousand and One Nights Scholarship: A Narrative Grammar for the Frame Tale?

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
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  • 1 Professor of Classical and Modern Arabic Literature, Comparative and Cultural Studies, Columbia UniversityNew York, NYUSA
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Abstract

This article argues that scholarship has been missing the pre-Scheherazade dynamic scenes that set the stage for further action and narrative. These preludinal sites function as the stepping stone for action, a series of encounters that initiate and perpetuate instability and disequilibrium. It draws attention to the unnamed queens as prototypes for Scheherazade, the abducted bride, the three ladies of Baghdad, and many other women in unfolding varieties of rebellion or compromise. As there is little talk and more voyeurism in this prelude with its focus on the bedroom and garden scenes, readers and kings are spectators, and the spectacle unfolds as in cinematic close-ups. Hence, this significant turn to the spectacle contravenes common approaches to the frame tale as only an enveloping framework that accommodates an ongoing marvelous story-machine. Although cursorily passed on in scholarship, the bedroom and garden scenes offer us not only a powerful incitement for action, but also a sweeping challenge to authority which the named kings could hardly overcome. The discussion re-situates sites of trial and defiance in context of a flowing narrative. The article proposes therefore to come up with a narrative grammar that engages with current narratology.

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