NEAR E 331 A: Thousand and One Nights

Winter 2023
TTh 5:00pm - 6:20pm / DEN 259
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
NEAR E 531 A , C LIT 360 A , GLITS 311 B
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

NE 331/531 A / C Lit 360 B /GLITS 311 C

The 1001 Nights

in Arabic Literature

Winter Quarter 2023



Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                      Class Location: Hybrid (on                                                                                                      Zoom and in Denny Hall 259)

Office: 246 Denny Hall                                                                   Class Time: TTh 5:00-6:20

Telephone: (206) 543-6184                                                Schedule Line Number: 18406

                                                                                             (Near East 331), 18414 (NE 531)

                                                                                                                 11951(C LIT 360 A)

                                                                                                            15407 (GLITS 311 B)


Office Hours: By appointment (contact Professor DeYoung via her email)

Description of Course: The 1001 Nights tales (also known as The Arabian Nights or Alf Laylah wa-Laylah) have often been called a classic work of world literature. This course will briefly review the history of Arabic prose as a vehicle for literary expression and how this affected the composition of the 1001 Nights. Then it will turn to the development and reception of the Alf Laylah stories in the Arabic-speaking world in the light of recent discoveries about their history. Finally we will analyze in detail the structure of some of its major story cycles, including the frame-story, the Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad, Sindbad the Sailor, and Ala’ al-Din and the Magic Lamp.


Required Text: The Arabian Nights, trans. by Husain Haddawy, ed. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Norton Critical Edition, 2009).


Course Requirements: The grade for this course will be determined through evaluation of the student’s written projects for the course.

Writing Assignments:

                A short position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Monday 16 January 2023 at midnight). The topic of the paper will be either: 1) "What was my first introduction to the 1001 Nights and how has it influenced me"? or  2) "Why I am taking this course and what I hope to learn in it."

This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.


                A second short position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Monday 30 January 2023 at midnight). The topic of the paper will be: “Which video is a better introduction to the study of the 1001 Nights:‘Legends of the Arabian Nights’ or ‘The Thousand and One Nights: A Historical Perspective,’ and why?”

This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.



                A third short position paper (at least 3 pp. long) will be due on Monday 27 February 2023 at midnight). The topic of the paper will be: “Should the 1001 Nights Be Considered a Classic of World Literature or a Classic of Arabic Literature?”

This paper will count for 10% of the final course grade


I prefer the following format for the papers: Doubled-space, Times New Roman, 12 point font. Since these are position papers (not research writings) you do not need to use material from outside the course. If you do refer to an outside source, you do not need to follow a particular reference style (Chicago, MLA or APA are common ones) though you are welcome to do so. You do need, however, to give me enough information about the reference (author, title, web address [if applicable], date, page number) so that I can find it for myself to read it.

If you are dissatisfied with your grade on any of these writing assignments, you may correct the marked passages and comments on the text Prof. DeYoung returns to you, and re-submit the essay for a higher grade. Friday March 17, 2023 at midnight (end of exam week) is the last date on which a re-submitted essay will be accepted.


               Discussion Posts: Two discussion posts will be due after we discuss in class the following two tales: 1) which of Sindbad's voyages reveals most about his character and 2) the death of the magician in Aladdin . These discussion posts will count for 5% each of the final grade.


                A set of Three Questions (see “Sample Questions” handout on Canvas for examples) will be due at the beginning of discussion about each of the following tales required for class reading (“The Second Ladies Tale” (from The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad), the fourth voyage of “Sindbad the Sailor,” and “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp”). The question sets will count for 30% of the total grade.


Exams: There will be one exam, a take-home final exam (tentatively due Friday 17 March 2023, 11:59 PM). Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes) a final paper (about 5-8 pages in length) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due on the same day as the final exam.

The Take-Home Final Exam or Paper will count for 35% of the final grade.



                The remaining 5% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read the “Primary Readings” before coming to class, and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Regular attendance records (according to University Regulations) may not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for “class participation.”


Writing Credit (“W”):

      If students are interested in obtaining “W” (writing) credit for the course, they should contact the instructor as soon as possible. Basically, “W” credit can be awarded for completing all the written assignments for the course (and revising them if necessary) + one 3-5 page extra paper due by the beginning of the eighth week of the course (to allow time for revision). 


For 531 Students:

Those taking this course under the “NE 531” number will be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam. 531 students should make a separate Zoom appointment to talk about their paper with Professor DeYoung by 20 February 2023. This paper will be due on the last day of Finals week.

                In addition, those enrolled in 531 will be required to prepare 1 presentation (about 15 minutes) to be given in class outlining the background of one of the European translators of the 1001 Nights. Alternatively, graduate students may arrange an alternate written assignment instead of the presentation with the instructor. Students enrolled in the 531 section of the course should consult the instructor about this presentation as soon as possible. The presentation will count for 10% of the final grade.


Academic Concerns, Late Assignments and Incompletes

            Failure to turn in any assignments or take any tests on time  without an excuse acceptable to the instructor will result in an automatic .3 deduction in the student’s grade for that assignment or test. New submissions for assignments due during the quarter will not be accepted after Friday March 10, 2023 (the last day of classes). It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.


Per FERPA rules, the instructor cannot discuss grades with students via email. Please make an appointment to talk in person or via Zoom if you have concerns.

Incompletes will be awarded only in accordance with UW policy. In the MELC Department, any awarding of an incomplete grade is subject to the approval of the department chair, and can only be made up the quarter following the date it was granted.

For more information on the rules related to incomplete grades, see


                The general policies about plagiarism in force at the University of Washington will be observed in this course (this applies to both 331 and 531 course numbers).

Plagiarism: “Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. This applies to both exams and papers. All policies in place concerning academic honesty at the University of Washington apply to this course.”  It is the student’s responsibility to become fully informed about those policies. Refer to the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478‐120), for more information on the subject, or Search “Student Academic Responsibility” on the University of Washington homepage. 


Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 3.8 (or above) in this course or any other of her upper-division courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions returned to you (with comments), please leave off a hard copy of the exam, with a stamped, self-addressed envelope, in Professor DeYoung’s box in the NELC Main Office (211 Denny), or make arrangements to pick them up in Spring Quarter 2023.


Additional Credits: If a student wants to sign up for additional credits for the class or do independent studies (including senior essays) in other quarters, s/he needs to contact Professor DeYoung as soon as possible. All such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.



For Students With Special Needs: If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 (voice and relay) or or (Links to an external site.) DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.  More information is available at (Links to an external site.)


Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington implemented the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.


Zoom Conferencing and the Course 

You will need to make arrangements to have access to our course Canvas website: C LIT 360 A Wi 23: Topics In Ancient And Medieval Literature ( and to our virtual meeting space which will be conducted via Zoom Video Conferencing . You will also need to have access to a camera and audio on your computer in order to participate in the sessions.

You will be prompted to sign into our Zoom sessions with your UW Net- ID which will allow you to join our online sessions when we begin on 3 January 2023 from TTh 5:00-6:20. Access to both platforms (Canvas and Zoom) will be necessary for completing homework assignments and for earning class participation points.

Zoom sessions will be recorded for this class. Your enrollment in CLit 360 B/NE 331/NE 531 / or GLITS 311C constitutes acceptance of the terms and conditions posted on the UW Zoom site.

Classroom Courtesy: Hydration is important. I myself fainted in class about a decade ago because I did not observe this rule. Please feel free, therefore, to consume beverages in class that will help with hydration.

Since the consumption of food often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, students are requested to avoid this in our Zoom sessions. Your cooperation will be appreciated.

Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through each class lecture. This will be an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the Zoom learning environment



Course Schedule and Readings:

The exact schedule of course readings will be found on the “Assignments” page (posted in the Files section) of the Canvas website for this course (which will be made available the second week of classes).

                “Primary Readings” This section on the Assignments page will identify material to be viewed (primarily on YouTube or through the UW Language Learning Center) before the indicated class meetings. In addition a selection of translated texts or articles will be listed for some weeks of class. These texts will be made available on Canvas or e-mail directly to students during the quarter. If you think you cannot receive texts by through Canvas or by e-mail attachment, please talk to the instructor individually as soon as possible, in order to make suitable arrangements so that you can get access to the texts as quickly as possible.

                ”Recommended Readings” are for the most part available on line or in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library on reserve.

                “Supplementary” and other listed background readings will mostly be found in the Suzzallo/Allen library, either in the Reference area or the stacks. You should see the instructor if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or optional readings.



Background Reading (General):


                There are useful introductions to and articles about Alf Laylah in the Norton Critical Edition of The Arabian Nights that is edited by Daniel Heller-Roazen (the text that is required for this class, and not available in the UW Library). You should plan on reading them sometime during this quarter.

General historical coverage of the period in which 1001 Nights was produced, written in an accessible style, can be found in Hugh’s Kennedy’s When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World (on reserve in Odegaard, Call Number: DS38.6 K46 2005). A recently published work that includes detailed descriptions of major stories and characters in the 1001 Nights is The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia, vols. 1 and 2, ed. Ulrich Marzolph and Richard van Leeuwen (on reserve in Odegaard, Call Number: PJ7737 A73 2004). An older work that contains much of the same material covered (in more detail) in The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia is Mia Gerhardt’s The Art of Storytelling. Call Number: PJ7737 G4 (on reserve in Odegaard). The most authoritative research about The Thousand and One Nights was compiled in 1995 by Muhsin Mahdi (professor emeritus of Islamic philosophy at Harvard University) who made a life-long, groundbreaking study of the Alf Laylah manuscripts. Call Number PJ7737 M32 1995 (on reserve in Odegaard).

 Professor Muhsin al-Musawi (Columbia University) has written a number of studies—starting in the early 2000s—that are very useful in understanding and contextualizing Alf Laylah. A ground-breaking and informative study about Alf Laylah in the Islamic world is his The Islamic Context of the Thousand and One Nights (2009, available online at the UW Suzzallo Library website). This gives crucial context to the role of Alf Layla in Muslim civilization. Another especially notable work he has recently written is The Arabian Nights in Contemporary World Cultures: Global Commodification, Translation and the Culture Industry (2021, available online at the UW Suzzallo Library website). I will be referring to this latter book frequently in class, because I am currently reviewing for Review of Middle East Studies (RoMES) where I am Associate Literature Editor.

An excellent overview of the relationship between “The Thousand and One Nights and the Arabic Novel,” was recently published by Richard van Leeuwen (pages 103-117) in the Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions, ed. by Waïl Hassan. For my review of the entire volume, including extensive comments on van Leeuwen’s entry, see Review of Middle East Studies (December 2019):362-367.

Finally, another useful resource for Arabic literature in general (including a long article on Alf Laylah) is The Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature, ed. Julie Meisami and Paul Starkey (Call Number: PJ7510 E53 1998 in Suzzallo and Odegaard Reference).

GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
May 28, 2024 - 11:41 pm