I Am Not Good at Any of This: Playing with Homoeroticism in The Arabian Nights

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Abstract

The story collection known in the West as The Arabian Nights or One Thousand and One Nights, is famous, among other things, for its erotic playfulness. This eroticism was (and is) one of the key reasons for its continuous popularity after Antoine Galland’s French translation in 1704. The Arabian Nights includes, besides traditional, heterosexual acts, play, and desires, examples of homoerotic playfulness—even though we must tread lightly when using such Western concepts with an oriental text body such as this one. The homoerotic playfulness of The Arabian Nights is the subject of this article. By making use of a text-immanent analysis of two of the Nights’ stories—of Qamar and Budûr and of Alî Shâr and Zumurrud—the author of this article focuses on the reversal of common gender roles, acts of cross-dressing, and, of course, homoerotic play. He will argue that these stories provide a narrative safe environment in which the reader is encouraged to “experiment” with non-normative sexual and gender orientations, leaving the dominant status quo effectively and ultimately unchallenged, thus preventing the (self-proclaimed) defenders of that status quo from feeling threatened enough to actively counter-act the experiment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number480
Number of pages15
JournalReligions
Volume12
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Keywords

  • Arabian nights
  • Homoeroticism
  • Homosexuality
  • Orientalism

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