Much More than 1001 Nights

Series of events on Arabic literature to start on November 25, 2020

No 220/2020 from Nov 20, 2020

A new digital series in Arabic studies under the direction of Beatrice Gründler at Freie Universität Berlin will focus on Arabic-language narrative texts from the pre-modern era in the context of a global, modern consideration of literature. The transdisciplinary event series will start on November 25 with a public online lecture by Ulrich Marzolph, one of the world’s leading researchers on Middle Eastern narrative traditions. Ulrich Marzolph is the author of a recently published book, 101 Middle Eastern Tales and Their Impact on Western Oral Tradition. The title of his lecture will be "The Frame Tale. Potentials and Limitations." The series Framing Narratives. New Perspectives on Premodern Textual Production in Arabic is being held in cooperation between the Cluster of Excellence "Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective" and the project Kal’la and Dimna - AnonymClassic.

Narrative framing is part of both Arabic and European literary traditions. Probably the best-known examples are the stories from the Arabian Nights or the Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. "The Arab tradition is often neglected when discussing literary theoretical approaches," explains Dr. Johannes Stephan, organizer of the series of events. Furthermore, he says it often only serves as an illustrative example in the theoretical debate going on in Germany, while it is actually the linchpin for the global history of frame tales.

This topic is the academic focus of Beatrice Gründler, head of the Institute of Arabic Studies and a member of the Temporal Communities Cluster of Excellence. She stresses, "It has to do with repositioning the Arabic tradition on the map of world literature." This goes hand in hand with visualizing the close connections between different languages. "Both the transmission of Arabic frame narratives and individual internal stories testify to a fascinating dynamic and impressive mobility. As early as the 11th to 13th centuries CE, narrative works such as the wisdom book Kal’la wa-Dimna were translated from Arabic into numerous other languages such as Persian, Hebrew, Greek, Castilian, or Latin and from there they continued wandering through the world over the following centuries," says Gründler.

Johannes Stephan, a postdoctoral researcher in Beatrice Gründler’s Kal’la and Dimna - AnonymClassic project, emphasizes that the continued widespread dissemination of this work undoubtedly makes it the protagonist of a global literary canon and also a prime example of a central literary model. He says, "In frame tales, the narrated world becomes the setting in which new stories are created, and thus telling, listening, and reading stories itself becomes the actual topic."

The Framing Narratives event series aims to set new accents in the history and analysis of frame tales. The aim is to put diverse historical text material at the center of theoretical and literary historical considerations. It is text material that in addition to appearing in Arabic, also circulated in other language traditions, such as Spanish, Hebrew, and Persian.

As part of the series, a closed workshop on the topic will follow on November 26 and 27, 2020. Established experts in the field of Arabic literature and young researchers from universities in eight countries will participate. They intend to present their findings to the public at an international conference in the fall of 2021 and then later in a published anthology.

The transdisciplinary series is being held in cooperation between the Cluster of Excellence 2020 "Temporal Communities: Doing Literature in a Global Perspective" and the project, Kal’la and Dimna - AnonymClassic.

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