Monthly Archives: November 2014

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),

[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),

[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),

[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),

[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),

[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),

[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),

[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),

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. (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. (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”


*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.