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Enchantments in the Arabian Nights, or, The Life of the Jinn

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A lecture by Marina Warner (Literature and Creative Writing, Essex University) as part of the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas 2011.

Jinn – or genies – are the agents of the drama in the stories of the Arabian Nights. They are angelic – and demonic. Made of fire and wind, they fly unaided and wingless through time and space. They are everywhere, invisible and visible, can tower to the skies or shrink into a bottle, marry humans and have children with them, wreak vengeance, turn into animals, and conjure vast fortunes into existence. Their presence charms ordinary things. Solomon commands thousands of those who have repented, but others remain obdurate in their rebellion.

Why did stories featuring such capricious powers from the medieval Arabic literature of aja’ib (astonishing things) attract readers and audiences in the eighteenth century, the era of Enlightenment, when the Arabian Nights first appeared in print in translation?

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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