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Arabian Aesthetics in European Modernism

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This article focuses on one aspect of the impact of the Arabian Nights on Western literature that has been rarely addressed, namely its impact on modernism. Modernism is almost always viewed as a quintessentially European movement, self-generated between the first and second World Wars. From there it spread to the rest of the world. Despite its global diffusion, the imperial project has remained to be viewed in terms of the impact of the colonial powers over the colonized. My contention is that the cultural traffic was not one-way, but two-way. By considering the cultural traffic as going two ways, we instil an understanding of Modernism as a World Movement and recognize the constitutive part that Arabic poetics played in European Modernism. This article thus detects how the narrative logic of the most famous Arabian tales structured the works of the two pillars of High Modernism, Marcel Proust and James Joyce.

Affiliations: 1: The American University in Cairo


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