Upon Reflection // reflecting on Fall 2014 writing

Throughout the course of the semester, I believe that my writing has changed slightly for the better. I notice that I have become more confident with my assertions and tone as well as with parenthetical sarcasm throughout my writing, particularly in my post about Formats, Ursula Rucker, first essay draft, and Barbara Cruikshank.

I like the structure, organization, and flow of my writing. Although it takes some time for my word choice to be exactly the way I want it, I enjoy it as a whole when I’ve completed my work (i.e. post, draft, review). I am particularly proud of my review on Barbara Cruikshank’s lecture because the (advanced) vocabulary I integrated at the last minute (and hopefully I used it right); I’m also proud of that piece because I’m surprised I understood enough of the lecture to be able to write about it.

I would like to improve my ideas and content and their integration into my writing. I feel as though I fail to completely state my ideas and my logic behind them in a coherent manner, making the idea seem underdeveloped. I noticed this in my Nights style story in which the boy’s parents were turned into goats with no explanation or foreshadowing. I had somewhat of a path of clues that I was planning on laying out so the transformation wouldn’t be so abrupt, but I failed in integrating that aspect into my story. I also noticed my affinity for the semi-colon when reading some of my posts, particularly my first essay draft. However, I think I am breaking that habit after both Kelly and Dr. Stein pointed it out as a fairly major concern.

I think that the structure and organization of my writing is the most well wrought aspect. Having come from a strong structure-based writing environment, I retained a sizeable number of organization skills in my transition from high school to college writing. My process of writing still starts with some sort of brainstorming or outline process because I still find it impossible to just start writing, no matter the size of the prompt! I’ve noticed that my outlines aren’t as rigid and detailed as they used to be. In the past, they were essentially my paper in a bulleted format (because of the “intro, example, analysis, next example, analysis” structure of high school essays), so the transition from outline to essay was the easiest part. However, my brainstorming this semester has been much less organized and freer flowing. Before both papers, I annotated the prompt and made a large list (4-5 pages) of possibly applicable quotes for my argument. After meeting with Kelly, I picked out the ones she noticed were the strongest and began writing the body of my paper in a looser format that I had in the past.

I might like to rewrite the Nights style story, one of my papers, or the assignment about formats. I don’t think my current writing expertise can offer that much more to any of my other previous writings, but I know my Nights style story was severely lacking in creativity and execution. I might want to expand on my thoughts about formats because I got good feedback about my initial ideas, and I would like to expand and provide evidence for my thoughts. I think that the formats prompt could make for a strong paper. I also feel like the ideas I developed in my papers were fleshed out, but they could certainly be expanded on if researched thoroughly enough.

“Who’s bad? Sinbad!” // “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas”

On Friday, November 21, 2014, Sam and I watched DreamWorks’ Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003). We noticed many inaccuracies in regard to the history and culture behind the original tale, allusions to orientalist thought, and implications about gender roles in the East.

The movie began with a devious and obviously evil sorceress, who is later revealed to be the Greek Eris, the goddess of chaos. This blatant cultural inaccuracy is not addressed, but yet another is presented later on: Sinbad and Marina must travel to Tartarus, the underworld in Greek folklore. Again, the movie does nothing to address the fact that the legend of Sinbad and Greek mythology are not the same. More European influence can be seen in the main setting of the film: Syracuse, Sicily. By relocating the central town from Baghdad to Italy, the writers attempted to make the movie more relatable for American audiences, who are more in touch with European influences and folklore. As somewhat of a redeeming plot point, Sinbad and his crew end up on an island that happens to be a fish’s back, which is analogous to the occurrence in the original story. The origins of the story are again referenced when Sinbad claims, “A good knife has a thousand and one uses.” While it has been determined that The Story of Sindbad the Sailor was never included in the original manuscript of The Nights, the tale itself remains as an accompanying story to The Nights.

The movie included many obvious oriental stereotypes and allusions to blatant orientalist thinking. Within the first couple of minutes of the movie, Sinbad exhibited excellent martial arts skills – notably with a samurai sword. This illustrates the blending of oriental stereotypes into one massive set of labels. The crewmen on Sinbad’s ship were all incredibly muscular, mostly shirtless, and wear vests and baggy pants. This attire is stereotypically “oriental” in nature and was probably extremely popularized by Aladdin’s outfit in Disney’s Aladdin (1992). The crew is an assortment of many Asian men and darker Arabs, and their broad array exhibits a compilation of the views Americans have on Easterners. Sinbad’s dog’s name (“Spike”) is obviously an American name. This was probably to make the film more relatable to American audiences. All the lead characters (notable Sinbad, Proteus, and Marina) exhibit discernible Caucasian characteristics, perhaps in another attempt to make the film more relatable. Also, Marina’s short hair displays her modern, American portrayal. Because of her bluntly cut hair, she is a strong and independent woman with distinctive ideas.

In relation to gender roles and women’s rights, this movie had a lot to say. The first exposure to a woman we get in this film is Eris, the treacherous and evil-for-no-reason villain, who is the epitome of the sexualized and promiscuous nature of women in The Nights. When Marina first boards the ship, she changes her outfit from an elaborate dress to something more “suitable” – aka a pant and shirt. Sinbad then comments, “A ship is no place for a woman.” Both her change in outfit and his comment speak volumes about what the movie’s writers thought (and knew, to an extent) about relationships between men and women in the East. They depict the woman as being submissive and needing to dress like a man in order to be on a ship, which, as Sinbad confidently states, only welcomes men. As the plot progresses, enchanted water women (almost Siren-like) sing and entice the men of the crew towards them, and only Marina appears to be immune. She exasperatedly yells, “MEN!” before saving them all. Her remark and immunity are similar to the other  (parallel) portrayal of women in The Nights; they are empowered, independent, and more than capable of handling themselves. After seeing the damage done to this ship, Sinbad angrily comments, “This is exactly why women shouldn’t drive!” By twisting this statement into having a double meaning (one of which is more contemporary and the children watching might understand), the writers again assert that Eastern cultures have no regard for women in terms of equality.

All in all, I didn’t enjoy Sinbad as much as I thought I would. I think our vague mentions in class and the fact that it was one of the few popular animated movies that I hadn’t seen as a child made me more excited than I should’ve been. I found the animation subpar (especially for 2003), characters offensive, and plot predictable.

*The bolded elements are made so because of their significance in the argument and their relevance to class discussion.

The Arabian Nights: A Play // at the Red Door Play Festival

On Saturday, November 15, 2014, I watched a play entitled “The Arabian Nights” during the annual Red Door Play Festival. Having previously heard that the play had “nothing to do with The Nights,” I tried to keep an open mind. The play started with extremely orientalized music, which irked me; this was probably due to the lengthy discussions we had in class about the concept of Orientalism. Regardless, the plot of the play consisted of the initial meeting between a wealthy, travelling man and a young woman who runs her family’s shop, presumably somewhere in “the Orient.” Their awkward eye contact and casual brushings hinted at a potential romance, and a third (female) character personified the obvious (and quite amusing) subtext of the encounter. After every line spoken by either of the two leads, she would inject a “translation” of what the line actually meant (in more direct terms). For example, when the woman asked if the man was buying a souvenir for himself or for another person, the subtext character said something along the lines of “Are ya single?” Her lines also included calling the man Sinbad and the woman a princess, an obvious reference to the title of the play. Also, she spoke in a flowery manner, somewhat copying the style of The Nights. The repeated translations of “well” and “I” to “a hole in the ground” and “the organ of sight,” respectively, were amusing at first but got old quickly.

[DRAFT]: Lost in Translation // Analysis of Habegger-Conti’s “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights”

There is no doubt that The Arabian Nights is one of the most well known works of literature in the world. From the swashbuckling adventures of Sinbad in DreamWorks’ Sinbad (2003) to the hearty ballad that opens Disney’s Aladdin (1992), the exotic and mysterious East continues to fascinate the Western world. But how did these ancient tales travel from the Middle East to those of European descent? The answer lies in translations. From the time of The Nights’ discovery, Europeans have craved reading about the alluring East, and translations allowed them to do so. However, in ‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights by Jena Habegger-Conti, she asserts that translations cannot duplicate the original text. Regardless of a translator’s intentions, translations of The Arabian Nights will continue to be flawed, and their omissions and modifications further Orientalist thought.

In the early 1700s, Antoine Galland became the first to translate the stories for Europe. His publication both popularized and exoticized the East. In his eagerness and determination to “compile” all 1001 tales, Galland tweaked the stories of The Nights considerably – even inventing his own. Regardless of their origin, it is curious that “many of these invented tales are those most famous to Western audiences.”[1] This suggests the easily satisfied nature of the European audience in their search of the mysterious and romanticized Middle East. Galland’s notion of a novel as a “symbolic form by which readers could comprehend the Orient”[2] suggests that readers can experience everything the East has to offer simply by reading his book. By adding a conclusion, claiming a single source, altering the style, and adding night breaks, he attempted to Westernize The Nights, putting them into a “coherent, unified, original, authoritative book.”[3] By erasing the culture and ambiguity behind the stories, Galland botched the work, paving the road for many future translators.

Translators tailing Galland either continued to glamorize the “Oriental” nature of the Middle East or attempted to break the stereotypes by translating the most original and authentic Arabic written record of The Nights. In this postcolonial “attempt to de-colonise the Nights” and “further Arab nationalism,” Muhsin Mahdi and Husain Haddawy attempted to “reclaim [the stories] for Arabs.”[4] By using a manuscript of The Nights deemed as both authentic and uncorrupted, Mahdi tried to create a genuine translation of The Arabian Nights. However, Mahdi noticed that his stories “[had] been strung together with some care rather than merely stacked the one next to the other”[5] as they have been written and rewritten in a uniform style. Thus, he is also guilty of attempting to string together a coherent and uniform version of the tales. Haddawy is also at fault for his praise of the Syrian manuscript and belittling of the Egyptian branch, showing an Enlightenmentist attitude towards the transcultural and transnational; Haddawy claims an authority on The Nights because he possesses “an insider’s knowledge of both hemispheres.”[6] While Mahdi and Haddawy felt at liberty to bash Galland because he abridged and omitted as he pleased, many scholars of the text also agree that Mahdi and Haddawy are at fault as well. By pondering the transmission of the tales from India to Egypt to Paris and the existence of a possible author, Mahdi reinforces his critics’ views that an original doesn’t exist, so how can the Syrian text be “of all existing manuscripts the oldest and closest to the original”[7] when an original never existed?

     ***********(I don’t want this many examples lumped together in this paragraph; which do you think are the best?)**** The effects of faulty translations are seen throughout each and every version of The Nights. For example, in “The Story of the Fisherman and the Demon,” the third man’s tale is omitted, and the reader accepts that his story was “even stranger and more amazing than the first two.”[8] This missing anecdote is perhaps due to blunders and inaccuracies in subsequent translations throughout the centuries. In Edward W. Said’s renowned Orientalism, he states that the “Orient” was synonymous with “exotic, mysterious, and profound.”[9] These generalizations about the lifestyle of the East can be attributed to the glorified and highly sexualized nature of the East in the early European translations of The Arabian Nights. Furthermore, Haddawy discusses the sloppiness of translators before him and insists that translation “requires command of the languages involved and of the literary idioms and conventions of both cultures.”[10] His unsurpassed attitude towards the both the Syrian manuscript and Mahdi’s interpretation permits Habegger-Conti’s previously mentioned assertion about the faults of his version as well. Haddawy also criticizes Burton’s translation as being “interested in the exotic” and wanting “to shock [the] prudish sensibility” of Victorian England with the presence of black slaves making love to Shahrayar’s wife and her slaves.[11] This criticism attempts to make his work seem more legitimate and original than the previous translations. Edward W. Lane’s translation is also criticized because of his annotations and illustrations: The Nights is “‘a frivolous text’ manipulated by Europeans to support preconceived notions of Arab character.”[12] Schacker-Mill’s statement encompasses all translations and their failure to truly embody the East without allowing preexisting stereotypes cloud their translation.

In Beautiful Infidels, Habegger-Conti criticizes both the Galland and Mahdi translations of The Arabian Nights. Galland’s lack of credibility stems from his obvious lack of care for the culture and accuracy of the stories – so much so that he took liberties with editing, adding, and omitting portions of text.  While Mahdi’s version tends to be regarded in a better light, Habegger-Conti dismisses that thought by suggesting that a true original never existed, so the basis of Mahdi’s version cannot be closest to something that is nonexistent. By analyzing The Arabian Nights and their many aspects, it is obvious that no translation can be taken as completely accurate, regardless of the translator’s intentions. The many altered versions of these ancient tales complicate our understanding in many ways – what was the East really like? Can we make any conclusions about the “Orient” based on reading translations of The Nights? While some aspects of translations are simply misinterpretations, others are blatantly inaccurate. ***************(too cliché?) Regardless, we still loosely base our understanding of the East on these dated stereotypes, but each and every translation should be taken with a grain of salt.

****To peer-editors: It would be really helpful if you guys were able to answer specific questions I put with asterisks and in red! Also, I know for the footnotes, I can shorten them all after the first one of the same source, but I’ll do that for the final draft when everything is in order. Thanks!

[1] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[2] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[3] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[4] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[5] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[6] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[7] Jena Habegger-Conti, “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights,” Transnational Literature 4, no.1 (2011), http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/25494/1/Beautiful_infidels.pdf

[8] Husain Haddawy, The Arabian Nights (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990), 36.

[9] Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 51.

[10] Husain Haddawy, The Arabian Nights (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990), xxxi.

[11] Husain Haddawy, The Arabian Nights (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1990), xxvii.

[12] Jennifer Schacker-Mill, “Otherness and Otherworldliness: Edward W. Lane’s Ethnographic Treatment of The Arabian Nights,” Journal of American Folklore 113, no. 448 (2000), http://muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hia&AN=3135403&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Orientalism in Art // Freewrite on “Le charmeur de serpents” by Jean-Léon Gérôme

The blue tiled mosaics on the wall resemble the notion of Orientalism’s view on the architecture of the East. The Arabic characters further “explain” the location of this painting to its European audience. The cluster of older men in colorful rags illustrates Orientalism’s idea of both the color scheme and the wardrobes of the people in the East. The snake charmer is a prime example of Orientalist thought; the snake charmer and his stereotypical flute further orientalizes the painting. The “beardless youth’s” nudity also depicts Orientalist stereotypes of promiscuity, openness, and unabashed sexualization. The tiled floor pattern with crescent moons, circles, and differently shaped pieces shows the Orientalist basis of the painting – their love for astrology and Islam is made clear.

P.S. This is a freewrite, and I’m sorry it’s so bad.

by Jean-Léon Gérôme

// Bibliography for Article Presentation

Al-Rawi, Ahmed K. “The Arabic Ghoul and Its Western Transformation.” Folklore 120, no. 3 (December 2009): 291-306.MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2014).

“Arabian Nights”. In The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide. Abington: Helicon, 2014. https://muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/heliconhe/arabian_nights/0 (accessed November 4, 2014.)

Habegger-Conti, Jena. “‘Beautiful Infidels’ and ‘Poisonous Fruits’: Expressing and Contesting the Transcultural Tradition of the Thousand and One Nights.” Transnational Literature 4, no. 1 (November 2011): MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost(accessed October 30, 2014).

Lundell, Michael. “Dislocating Scheherazade: The 1001 Nights, Paratextuality, and the Illusion of a Static Orientalist Text.”Interdisciplinary Journal For Germanic Linguistics And Semiotic Analysis 18, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 51-85. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2014).

Rastegar, Kamran. Literary Modernity between the Middle East and Europe: Textual Transactions in Nineteenth-Century Arabic, English, and Persian Literatures. London, England: Routledge, 2007. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2014).

Regier, Wills G. “Shahrazad’s New Clothes.” World Literature Today84, no. 2 (March 2010): 30-34. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2014).

Sallis, Eva. Sheherazade through the Looking Glass: The Metamorphosis of the Thousand and One Nights. Richmond, England: Curzon, 1999. MLA International Bibliography, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2014).

Schacker-Mill, Jennifer. “Otherness and Otherworldliness.” Journal Of American Folklore 113, no. 448 (Spring2000 2000): 164.Historical Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed November 5, 2014).

Smith, Wendy. “The Arabian Nights: A New Edition.” Kirkus Reviews 78, no. 6 (March 15, 2010): 218. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed October 30, 2014).

“Thousand and One Nights”. In The Columbia Encyclopedia. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. https://muhlenberg.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/columency/thousand_and_one_nights/0 (accessed November 4, 2014.)

 

 

[UPDATED]: “Tell me, princess, now when did you last let your heart decide?” // Outline of Staninger’s “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam”

[UPDATED POST]

*This outline does not reflect my personal ideas or style. It is an outline of Christiane Staninger’s essay entitled “Disney’s Magic Carpet Ride: Aladdin and Women in Islam.”

1. Princess Jasmine as a character and her appeal to American audiences

o   She is a strong, independent woman

  • Not an object of desire as seen in the original story (barely any speaking, Aladdin just wants her because he saw her beauty)

o   Her clothing and speech mimics that of American teenage girls form the eighties/nineties

  • Baggy pants, halter tops, long hair, scrunchies
  • “How dare you! All of you, standing around deciding my future? I am not a prize to be won!” *storms out* (Aladdin 1992)

o   Her faith is not addressed; she has no discernible accent

  • More relatable for Americans because there is no no culture shock/barrier

o   She’s bored of home, so she chooses to run away

  • Typical rebellious American teenager behavior
  • “You’re not free to make your own choices. You’re just — trapped” (Aladdin 1992)
  • “But I can’t stay here and have my life lived for me” (Aladdin 1992)

o   Rich girl (Jasmine) meets poor boy (Aladdin) when disguised

  • Typical American plot (“‘uptown girl’ story with Broadway tunes” (Staninger))

o   She has strong will, determination, and a direct attitude

  • Sassy, rebellious American teenager – knows what she wants

2. Jasmine as a Middle Eastern woman and how non-Middle Easterners perceive Middle Eastern women

o   She encompasses the American ideals of freedom, choice, courage

  • Opposite of the Middle Eastern stereotypes

o   She is beautiful with Caucasian features

  • Her noticeable European qualities whitewash her

o   Her name is Jasmine instead of the original “Badr al-Budur”

  • More whitewashing – make familiar to Americans to prevent cultural isolation

o    Jasmine wants to break free of the “controlling” Islamic conventions

  • Promoting American ideals as better
    • “Archaic” Islamic traditions should be replaced with “better” ones
  • “The law is wrong.” (Aladdin 1992)

o   The main characters are modeled on American celebrities

  • Tom Cruise, Ed Sullivan – further whitewashing

o   American audience didn’t recognize prejudice and stereotyping

  • Americans need to be educated – characters were obviously incorrect

3. Islamic women and their role in the Middle East

o   Women have final say over domestic issues – especially who their son(s) will marry

  • They hold tremendous power over husbands and sons

o   American stereotype: Islamic women are timid and shy; they would never discuss sex

  • Women are open about their sex life with their circle of female friends

o   American stereotype: Islamic women have little schooling as they are forced to drop out before secondary education

  • Young girls are being encouraged to go to school nowadays – albeit as a back-up plan if anything happens to their husband and they need to support a family singlehandedly

o   Western women haven’t come that far in civil/human rights movements (not even 100 years since women got the right to vote!)

  • They should get off their high horse
    • Disparities between the two groups aren’t that different/far behind

o   Ancient scripture was altered/distorted/manipulated by Muhammad’s misogynistic followers

  • Made it seem as though Muhammad viewed women as subservient
    • He had strong wives – proposals, not arranged marriages
    • He gave them the right to inherit money – financially independent

o   “Golden Age”/Abbasid dynasty stripped women of their power and pride (forced to be slaves)

  • This time period is immortalized in The Arabian Nights, fueling the stereotypes

The ironic portrayal of Jasmine as a distinctly American princess belittles the culture and beliefs of the Middle Eastern world as it attempts to prove that the Eastern ideals are “backwards” and in need of being fixed. Staninger recognizes the American ignorance towards Middle Eastern culture. She hopes the reader will attempt to appreciate other cultures – specifically Islamic culture – more after they read her work, perhaps seeking more accurate depictions of the culture than Disney’s Aladdin.

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” -Nelson Mandela // “Can the U.S. Lead on Human Rights in the 21st Century?”

On Monday, October 27, 2014, Caroll Bogert spoke at Muhlenberg College about human rights around the world and the organization she works for, “Human Rights Watch.” I found her to be informative and surprisingly engaging, given that I was expecting a dull lecture-style environment. Bogert’s lack of a prepared PowerPoint both shocked and compelled me. She spoke incredibly passionately about the defending human rights; and that struck me.

I found the information about Human Rights Watch fascinating. Their detailed procedure for investigating with extensive interviews and eyewitness accounts shocked me. I always thought that the people who did that sort of work were with the government, and they only did a subpar job. But the fact that an organization outside of the government (all their funds are privately raised!) was working on improving global human rights definitely made me look at the issue with a different perspective. The intensity of the research that goes into the research was also astounding – how can they possibly tell apart the liars and exaggerators from the truth? And who specifically is responsible for the crimes committed? The exposition process also intrigued me. I figured that Human Rights Watch would want to get the story out everywhere, regardless of the anticipated audience. However, Bogert’s explanation of how they go about getting the information in the hands of people at the government was eye-opening. Finally, the change process: using the information to charge persecutors.

By mentioning specific recent examples of human rights violations across the world, she gave the discussion to a contemporary feel. Instead of talking about age-old crimes such as those in Iraq and Bosnia, she mentioned lesser-known, more recent abuses to emphasize the point that few of us know about these things…and that’s a problem. From the Central African Republic to Bahrain, the US has actively made a decision to either help or not, but how many of these involvements has the average American heard about on the “world” news? My bet is very few because they’re all too worried about contracting Ebola.

Bogert quickly shifted gears to talk about human rights violations on a domestic scale – including immigration and torture of prisoners. I was glad that she didn’t praise the United States for setting a glowing example for the rest of the world, because that’s just not true. America has blood on its hands too, and if it continues denying it, things will only get worse. The first step in making the United States a leader in human rights in the 21st century is admitting to our crimes and taking the necessary cleansing precautions (i.e. firing the higher up government officials that approved torture on Guantanamo Bay prisoners) that every other country would take. Just because we’re one of the most powerful countries in the world doesn’t mean we’re exempt from international laws and treaties. Then, and only then, will the United States be a leader and set a proper example for the rest of the world in their struggle to abide by human rights laws.

Translations and interpretations, and adaptations! Oh, my! // formats of The Arabian Nights

The Arabian Nights has been translated and adapted into many different varieties and formats throughout the course of its extensive (known) existence. It is understandable that there are many discrepancies among the innumerable versions of the stories but there are also a considerable number of similarities to be noted.

The first format of the Nights that we read was Haddawy’s translation, The Arabian Nights. His seamless blending of the natural and supernatural characterized his rendition on these age-old tales. Also, the introduction to his translation asks that his version be considered a true translation – not word-for-word, but adapting the Arabic sayings and colloquialisms into what would be expressed in English. However, Mary Zimmerman’s The Arabian Nights: A Play did not address the omnipresent nature of the supernatural. Her conscious decision to include a vast majority of stories with no magical or supernatural elements could possibly have been to make the adaptation more relatable for outside audiences.

Both films we watched pertaining to The Arabian Nights included very similar cinematography; from their color schemes to architecture, they could be confused for bring the exact same movie (except one is animated and the other is live action). Perhaps the reason why The Thief of Baghdad and Aladdin’s architectural elements and color palettes mirror each is because the producers of Thief of Baghdad travelled to the Middle East to get inspiration in an attempt to be as culturally accurate as possible. Aladdin contains extremely similar elements because Disney based the landscape of the film on that of Thief of Baghdad.

All the formats of The Arabian Nights that we have discussed in class include mention of Islamic law and/or violence in the Middle East. Haddawy’s translation includes frequent mentions of beatings and murder, as they seem to happen in virtually every other tale. This is illustrated in the merchant’s beating of his wife in “The Tale of the Ox and the Donkey” and a woman’s cruel abuse towards her husband in “The Tale of the Enchanted King.” Aladdin also depicts the violent punishment that lawbreakers face; when Princess Jasmine takes an apple from a stand in the marketplace to give to a poor little boy, the shopkeeper immediately threatens (and gets ready) to chop off her hand as penalty for her crime.

Finally, all the formats of The Arabian Nights that we discussed in class included some sort of frame tale in their rendition of the stories. Haddawy includes his frame tale in the traditional way – Shahrazad tells stories to a vicious king to prevent him from killing her the next morning. Zimmerman also includes Shahrazad, but because her adaptation is meant to take place on a stage, Shahrazad’s words often overlapped with the actions and spoken words of those inside the story she is telling. This produced an extremely intriguing effect on the viewer (or reader, in this case). Aladdin’s frame tale begins with the infamous “Arabian Nights” ballad that opens the movie; a haggard old man attempting to sell some of his goods lures the audience in with a story about how a particular lamp changed a young boy’s life forever. The Thief of Baghdad also contains a frame tale in that Ahmad recounted the events of his life leading up to his present condition when he is unknowingly sitting inside the evil Jaffar’s palace.

While the many interpretations and adaptations of The Arabian Nights are characterized by their differences, we should not forget that they all stem (albeit very loosely) from the same original premise.

“We’ve got some work to do now” // “Scooby Doo! in Arabian Nights”

On Thursday, October 16, 2014, Danielle, Sam, and I watched the television special, “Scooby Doo! in Arabian Nights.” It began with Shaggy and Scooby up to their usual shenanigans. They accepted jobs as royal food-testers when a young Caliph offered. After they eat all the food in the palace, the guards chased them until Shaggy disguised himself as a young woman. The prince is enchanted by the “girl’s” beauty and immediately proposed to her. Hoping to make the Caliph fall asleep, Shaggy began telling two “classic” Arabian Nights stories. This is similar to Shahrazad’s storytelling that frames The Arabian Nights.

The first story was about Aliyah-Din (basically a female Aladdin) and her magic lamp in her quest to marry the prince of the land. Aliyah-Din had enormous purple eyes and extremely fair skin, thus making her features noticeably Caucasian. Her name as well sounds extremely similar to the American name, “Ali,” to make her more relatable to American audiences. When the town was depicted, a crowd of gossiping women was shown in see-through veils; they had extremely thick, voluminous lips that would stereotypically be associated with gossiping women. Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo Bear played the genie and his genie-in-training to make the concept less exotic and more relatable. When Aliyah-Din asked for the prince’s (the villain in disguise at this point) hand in marriage, she presented herself with a large dowry to make her candidacy more appealing in comparison to the other suitable females. After being thrown in the dungeon with the real prince, Aliyah-Din prayed to “our lord” in an extremely Christian prayer that begged for salvation; it contained no mention of Allah or anything vaguely Islamic. This was again to make the plot more relatable for an American audience. In a poor attempt to prove the legitimacy of the story, a mention of falafel is included. Aliyah-Din and the prince’s meeting/longing search with a scarf was vaguely reminiscent to that of Cinderella, another noticeable European element. In the end, the rich boy and poor girl fell in love and married despite all odds; this plot structure is extremely American in origin and embodies American ideals of freedom and choice.

The second tale was a parody of Sinbad the Sailor who was played by Magilla Gorilla to again make the story more relatable. The mention and importance of the “runk’s” egg (relating back to the original story’s “roc’s” egg) added some much-needed legitimacy to the elaborate tale. The jewels Sinbad and the captain discovered were football-shaped; this is again to make the story much more relatable for the American audience. Also worth noting, it was slightly confusing to include American tourists from the 21st century in the background of an ancient story, but this was probably to make the story more present-day and not as dry as Americans would’ve expected. The inclusion of modern technology such as doorbells, autoqueues, and toothbrushes furthered the attempt to make the story more contemporarily Western. The supremacy roles of the West and East were touched upon when the obviously classy European (French? English?) cyclops had Middle Eastern servants. Finally, towards the end of the story, Sinbad and the captain mistook the back of a fish to be an island, which was almost directly taken from the original story.

At the conclusion of the Sinbad story, Shaggy and Scooby tried to sneak out of the palace, but before they could, they were caught and recognized by the prince’s guards. However, the prince liked Shaggy’s stories so much that they are asked to become the royal storytellers (as well as food-tasters).

I don’t believe that this rendition of The Arabian Nights was attempting to be accurate, but blatant cultural inaccuracies due to ignorance and typecasts can be the most visible in the entertainment meant for the youth of the “other” culture. The ingraining of the stereotypes into the minds of our youth is one of the most powerful ways of propagating the archaic judgment that we place upon other cultures.

*The bolded elements were made so because they were mentioned in class discussions.