The Influence of the Arabian Nights on Modern Young Adult Literature: Midwinter Blood and in Darkness as Examples

Brahim Bouali


Derrida and Blanchot[1] may be right when they consider genre as an imposition on a text. They seem to agree that a text achieves its singularity status only by “exceeding genre conventions”. They are also compelling when both of them, though in different ways, speak about the death of the author, the omniscient divine figure behind the text. Barthes proposes the name of the “scriptor” to replace the authoritarian authority of the “author”; whereas Blanchot goes deeper and implies that the moment of death of the author is the very moment of his immortality.   Any hint of labeling or categorization limits the text and leaves the door open to the Gramscian notion of hegemony or the Foucauldian concept of power. The endeavor in this small paper, the Influence of the Arabian Nights on Young Adult Literature, is based on Kristeva’s/Barthes’ notion of intertextuality[2] and Foucault’s discourse analysis. Intertextuality in the Barthian sense is based on a triangular relationship between the text, the reader and the potential other texts; whereas Foucault discourse analysis is based on five steps described in depth by Gavin Kendall; Gary Wickham (1999: 42).[3] In this way my comparative analysis is no longer typological (based on category) but rather topological (based on degrees or continuum). In his “the literary mind’, Mark Turner (1996) writes the following: “but not even she, meaning Shahrazad, for all her looking into the future, can know that her performance during the next thousand and one nights will bring her a reputation as the greatest literary mind ever” (P: 8). Turner ‘s compelling insight cannot be taken for granted if the main concern of the writer is to deconstruct  the complex theme of story and projection in the parable from which, according to him, “we have a cognitive basis from which language can originate.”(P: 168). The aim of this paper is to avoid the impressionism that may result from ad hoc personal opinion and consider the whole Arabian nights as a multi-dimensional genre or better canon genre from which artists continue to be inspired. The novelty in this study may be summarized in two points. First, it attempts to consider One Thousand and a Night as a canon genre that in a way proves the limitation of classical genre categorization/nomenclature and pushes us to introduce new terms in genre theory such as the notion of the canon genre and even the concept of anti-genre[4]which will be dealt furtively in this paper. Second, it attempts to study its degree of influence on modern young adult literature represented by Midwinter Blood and in Darkness both Winners, successively, of the 2013 and 2014 Michael L. Printz awards. If we question/deconstruct the discourse in the Foucauldian sense in order to find the absence that is hidden by the presence we may come to the conclusion that Midwinter Blood and In Darkness revolve around a few themes and three major literary techniques.



Canon Genre; Anti-genre; embedded narrative; narratology; Iconicity

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