Sexuality, Eroticism and Language in One Thousand and One Nights

Author: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah (University of Asia Pacific, Bangladesh)
Speaker: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah
Topic: Language, gender, sexuality
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


One Thousand and One Nights, which can be traced back to as early as the 9th century, is probably the greatest introduction to Arabic culture through literature. This colossal and diverse book has drawn the attention of scholars, researchers and students to classic Arabic literature as well as influenced many prominent authors and filmmakers. It is not just a book of careless and unconnected stories but rather a piece of esteemed literature which has been read and analysed in many countries all over the world. However, it is also true that this book has been criticised for its sexual promiscuity and degraded portrayal of women.

The aim of the presentation is to prove that underneath the clumsy and seemingly funny structures of One Thousand and One Nights, there is a description of overflowing sexuality. Through the sexualised or erotic description of female bodies, the book gives agency to women but at the same time depicts them derogatively, and thus fulfils the naked desire of the then patriarchal society. The presentation will highlight how the sexual promiscuity or the fathomless female sexual craving is portrayed through different figurative and grammatical language, which objectifies the female characters but at the same time enables them to be playful with the male characters, and thus turns them more powerful than the male. Last but not least, the presentation will focus on language or narrative as an act of survival from the perspectives of the female characters, which is most evident in the case of Scheherazade who saved not only her life but also lives of countless maidens by her mesmerizing storytelling talent.

Keywords: overflowing sexuality, promiscuity, language game, story-telling