Type of Document Thesis Author Coppinger, Kristyn Nicole URN etd-04282006-134629 Title The Arabian Nights in British Romantic Children's Literature Degree Master of Arts Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Eric Walker Committee Chair Dennis Moore Committee Member James O'Rourke Committee Member Keywords
- Children's Literature
- Arabian Nights
Date of Defense 2006-04-26 Availability unrestricted AbstractABSTRACT
Children’s literature emerged as a new genre in the eighteenth century. In order to break away from the unrealistic and non-educational fiction available and attractive to children, writers began to create rational tales. John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) and, later, Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Emile (1762) both heavily influenced the rational tale trend. Writers composed rational stories of children learning moral lessons without the imaginative elements associated with the potentially detrimental genre of fairy tales. The children’s book market was popular with the middle class who had money and a desire to acquire status symbols, even for their children.
Antoine Galland’s publication of Les Mille et Une Nuits in 1704 introduced Europe to the Arabian Nights. English versions of the Nights circulated immediately, primarily in chapbook form; however, self-proclaimed translations appeared later in the century, such as Richard Johnson’s The Oriental Moralist (1790).
Alan Richardson in his book, Literature, Education, and Romanticism: Reading as Social Practice, 1780-1832, outlines the methods used by rational tale writers to incorporate fantastic elements into their stories. Writers exploited the appeal of imaginative literature by utilizing the plot structures, settings, and themes to enhance their moral fiction. As the rational tale trend took control of the book market, the Nights became a text to use for didactic means. Writers revised and rewrote elements of the Nights tales to be appropriate for a young audience. The rational tales produced in the eighteenth century reflect the consumer presence of the middle class. The Nights tales, tales of merchants and traders, offered an ideal foundation for middle class ideals, such as industry, virtue, and social mobility.
In this thesis, I demonstrate the presence of the Arabian Nights in the children’s literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In addition, I examine the link between middle class values and the Nights in my selected readings. My primary sources for information on children’s literature of the eighteenth century include Alan Richardson, M.O. Grenby’s article “Tame Fairies Make Good Teachers: The Popularity of Early British Fairy Tales,” and Geoffrey Summerfield’s book Fantasy and Reason: Children’s Literature in the Eighteenth Century. The children’s texts I discuss in this thesis include “Princess Hebe” (1749) from Sarah Fielding’s The Governess; The Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor (1805); a self-proclaimed translation by Richard Johnson, The Oriental Moralist (1790); “Traveller’s Wonders” and “The Travelled Ant” (1794-8) from John Aikin and Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s Evenings at Home; “Murad the Unlucky” (1804) from Maria Edgeworth’s Popular Tales; The History of Abou Casem (1825); “The Sea-Voyage” and “The Young Mahometan” (1809) from Charles and Mary Lamb’s Mrs. Leicester’s School.
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