Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Narrative, authority and the voices of morality: An internextual journey of key themes in “The Thousand Nights and One Night” and Islamic Mirror for Princes
by Allen, Sharon Loree, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2010, 23; 3475542
Abstract (Summary)

Whereas the study of the genre of early Arabic adab literature known as "Mirror for Princes" (Mirror) is usually limited to illuminating political ideas surrounding early leadership in Islamic societies, The Thousand Nights and One Night (Nights ), in comparison, is rarely considered as a source of wisdom or political insight. Adab literature is considered a "high" or "elite" discourse. The didactic narrative style of Mirror texts was typically meant to impart authority as well as instruct young princes on morality and right-rulership. At the same time, Mirror texts defined the ruling elite by separating them from the non-elite, or lower class.

Conversely, Nights can be seen as its antithesis: low discourse for the peasants or non-elite. Interestingly, many maxims, aphorisms, and anecdotes used to reinforce morality, justice and exemplary behavior can be found in both. The polarity between these two discourses can be seen as symbolic of the extremes between the two social classes and genders they are meant to address. When ideas like moral integrity and principled conduct usually associated with high discourse are appropriated by low discourse, the boundaries between these distinct hierarchies shift and at times disappear, or become inverted. Through this inversion of discourse and rhetoric many layers of meaning are revealed. In its attempt to mirror the traditional aims of high discourse, the Nights allow power imbalances to shift.

It is my aim in this study to compare select tales in the Nights with various Mirror works both in terms of their content as well as to uncover a dialogue between two distinct voices: high discourse and low discourse. By applying an intertextual methodology to both Mirror and Nights texts, certain features will illuminate not only their polarity, but also their mutuality. In an intertextual analysis, a web will be woven between the two discourses that reflects polarities of class, gender and rhetoric. The plurality of message and messenger uncover a symbolic narrative that transcends imposed hierarchies. From this transcendence a distinct discourse is revealed that is neither high nor low; but, often inclusive of class, rhetoric and gender.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stanizai, Zaman, Odajnyk, Walter
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle Eastern literature, Folklore, Womens studies, Middle Eastern Studies
Keywords: Adab, Discourse, Folklore, Islam, Medieval Islamic literature, Mirror for Princes, Shahrazad, Thousand Nights and One Night
Publication Number: 3475542
ISBN: 978-1-124-88416-5
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