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CSI Monday Majilis

Yaron Klein

The Poetry of the One Thousand and One Nights

Event details

Yaron Klein
The Poetry of the One Thousand and One Nights

Monday Majlis Online on the 11th of March, 17:00-18:30 (UK time)
Centre for the Study of Islam, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter.
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Abstract: Although the 1001 Nights is one of the most studied literary works in Arabic, the poetry included in it received relatively little scholarly attention. As a unique work that was formed over a span of centuries by a multitude of authors and redactors, it is no surprise that the poetry in the Nights was used for a variety of purposes and functions.
In this talk, I wish to contribute to the discussion of the poetry in the Nights and its interaction with the prose, by exploring a number of these usages through selected case studies. I will argue that a prominent function of poetry in the Nights is to express the unspeakable, at least what is unspeakable in prose ("ordinary speech"). Specifically, in situations in which a direct address is either prohibited or inappropriate. Protagonists in the Nights not only use poetry to criticize their superiors, but also to reveal their innermost thoughts, feelings, and desires. At times, the verses the protagonists recite reveal an inner struggle, and reciting these verses has a cathartic effect on them. Therefore, verse is a unique medium of expression that is unbound by the restrictions of prose and enriches the Nights by allowing for multiple layers of expressions, by both narrators and protagonists.

Bio: Yaron Klein is an Associate Professor of Arabic at Carleton College, where he also chairs the department of Middle Eastern Language and directs the program of Middle East Studies. His research lies at the intersection of literature and music. He has published on the discourse on music in philosophical and Islamic writings, among others in the writings of al-Fārābī and al-Ghazālī, and on ʿAbbāsid poetry. Klein is also a practising musician, teaching and performing on oud and Arab violin.    

In the spirit of the label ‘Majlis’ and also to make the talks even more interesting, our speakers present the topic discussed as embedded in their own journey. You can watch the previous Majlises here, but we don’t record the Q&A in order to keep the discussion free. Please come and enjoy the talks and the discussions : ) If you’d like to be included in the CSI (Centre for the Study of Islam (Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter) mailing list, please contact the CSI Manager: Sarah Wood ( We’ll be happy to welcome you!
István T Kristó-Nagy