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In Neil Gaiman's famous Sandman comic, the author tells the story of the city of Baghdad. The city is at it zenith, overflowing with wealth, wonders, and magic. Its ruler is concerned, worried that the glory cannot last and that the city will be forgotten. He sells the city to the king of dreams in the hopes that the city will not die, but remain etched forever into the minds of those who dream it.

There is no Orient. There are places, peoples, events, and Gods that have come to be imagined as related, synonymous, and dependent, but it is a construction, a fable. In the West, even today, the book Arabian Nights is still most commonly associated with the region. When people think of Egypt, they do not think of political turmoil or Egypt's fabulous movies: they think of pyramids, Genies, and Aladdin. 

Some of the stories within this collection are profoundly ancient. Some of them did not even originate in the Orient, but have since come to be associated with the region. However, all of these stories informed how Orientalists imagined the region, and how we continue to see it today. While there is a danger in succumbing to the exotic, simplifying reality so that it conforms to our expectations, there is no reason that magic should be forgotten, or that these stories should not be read.

The following page showcases a representative sample of the texts that deal with literature:


The entire Cultural Imaginings collection can be accessed here: Cultural Imaginings on DSpace