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Lecture in London: Goethe and 1001 Nights

Professor Katharina MommsenLecture in London by Professor Katharina Mommsen of Stanford University

3 December 2008
7:00 pm
Lecture hall G3 (ground floor)
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
10 Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

SOAS Near & Middle Eastern Department and Iran Heritage Foundation

It has been rightly said that, with the exception of the Bible, few books exist which have so widely circulated through the Western world since the 18th century as the collection of narratives from the Near and Middle East known under the name of 1001 Nights. A substantial part of the tales in the 1001 Nights can be traced back to Sassanian and Pahlavi sources like Hezar Afsan. Hardly anyone in the Western world has not at least once in life read these stories with pleasure and interest and is indebted to them for a host of many colored, fairy-like impressions. The 1001 Nights had also indirect effect through Western writers because its narrative power and incomparable abundance of motifs and figures of fantasy influenced their writings. For centuries, numerous writers of Western nations have received inspiration from this Eastern collection of narratives and have borrowed thematic materials for their novels, dramas, operas, poetic works, screen plays, movies, ballets, and TV shows. Thus the 1001 Nights have become one of the inexhaustible fountain-heads of the arts. There is still a lot of comparative literary work to be done to reveal the immense impact of the Eastern art of story telling on Western writers through this collection which was translated in almost every language. Here a fertile field for research still exists. Katharina Mommsen's lecture will give an example of the creative influence which the 1001 Nights exercised upon Germany's greatest poet and writer Goethe (1749-1832), particularly on the 2nd part of his best known masterpiece Faust.

About the speaker:
Katharina Mommsen is Professor emerita (Endowed Chair of Literature) at Stanford University, California. She was born in Berlin and educated at the Universities of Berlin, Freiburg, Mainz, and Tübingen where she received her PhD in 1956. She began her academic career at the age of 24 as a Goethe researcher at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin and started her teaching career at the Free University of Berlin in 1962, held guest professorships at the University of Gießen, the Technische Universität Berlin, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the University of California at San Diego. She received, among other awards, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, a Research Prize of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, an Order of Merit First Class of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Golden Goethe Medal of the International Goethe Society in Weimar. She is an Honorary Member of the American Association of Teachers of German, Honorary Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Association of America, a Corresponding Member of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung in Darmstadt, of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, the Berliner Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft, and the University of London School of Advanced Study, Katharina Mommsen is the author of over 120 publications, including a dozen books about Goethe (including Goethe und 1001 Nacht, Goethe und die arabische Welt, Goethe und der Islam)


Date and Time:
3 December 2008, 7:00 pm

Lecture hall G3 (ground floor)
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
10 Thornhaugh Street
London WC1H 0XG

Dr Nima Mina,

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