All posts by Shervin Farridnejad

The Shahnameh: the Persian epic in world literature

Dabashi, Hamid. 2019. The Shahnameh: the Persian epic in world literature. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Shahnameh, an epic poem recounting the foundation of Iran across mythical, heroic, and historical ages, is the beating heart of Persian literature and culture. Composed by Abu al-Qasem Ferdowsi over a thirty-year period and completed in the year 1010, the epic has entertained generations of readers and profoundly shaped Persian culture, society, and politics. For a millennium, Iranian and Persian-speaking people around the globe have read, memorized, discussed, performed, adapted, and loved the poem.

In this book, Hamid Dabashi brings the Shahnameh to renewed global attention, encapsulating a lifetime of learning and teaching the Persian epic for a new generation of readers. Dabashi insightfully traces the epic’s history, authorship, poetic significance, complicated legacy of political uses and abuses, and enduring significance in colonial and postcolonial contexts. In addition to explaining and celebrating what makes the Shahnameh such a distinctive literary work, he also considers the poem in the context of other epics, such as the Aeneid and the Odyssey, and critical debates about the concept of world literature. Arguing that Ferdowsi’s epic and its reception broached this idea long before nineteenth-century Western literary criticism, Dabashi makes a powerful case that we need to rethink the very notion of “world literature” in light of his reading of the Persian epic.

About the Author

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He is a founding member of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. Among his most recent books are The World of Persian Literary Humanism (2015) and Persophilia: Persian Culture on the Global Scene (2016).

Persian Literature from Outside Iran

Perry, John (ed.). 2018. Persian Literature from Outside Iran: The Indian Subcontinent, Anatolia, Central Asia, and in Judeo-Persian (History of Persian Literature IX). London: I.B. Tauris.

After the fall of the Sassanian Empire and with it the gradual decline of Middle Persian as a literary language, New Persian literature emerged in Transoxiana, beyond the frontiers of present-day Iran, and was written and read in India even before it became firmly established in cities such as Isfahan on the Iranian plateau. Over the course of a millennium (ca. 900-1900 CE), Persian established itself as a contact vernacular and an international literary language from Sarajevo to Madras, with Persian poetry serving as a universal cultural cachet for literati both Muslim and non-Muslim. The role of Persian, beyond its early habitat of Iran and other Islamic lands, has long been recognized: European scholars first came to Persian via Turkey and British orientalists via India. Yet the universal popularity of poets such as Sa’di and Hafez of Shiraz and the ultimate rise of Iran to claim the centre of Persian writing and scholarship led to a relative neglect of the Persianate periphery until recently. This volume contributes to the scholarship of the Persianate fringe with the aid of the abundant material (notably in Tajik, Uzbek and Russian) long neglected by Western scholars and the perspectives of a new generation on this complex and important aspect of Persian literature.

Table of contents

Introduction: Persian Language and Literature Beyond Iran and Islam (J. R. Perry)

PART 1: PERSIAN LITERATURE IN THE INDIAN SUB-CONTINENT

  • Chapter 1: Establishment of Centers of Indo-Persian Court Poetry (Alyssa Gabbay)
  • Chapter 2: Teaching Of Persian In South Asia (T. Rahman)
  • Chapter 3: The Persian Language Sciences in India (J. R. Perry)
  • Chapter 4: Persian Historiography in India (B. Auer)
  • Chapter 5: Persian Literature of the Parsis in India (J. K. Choksy)
  • Chapter 6: Ismaili Literature in Persian in Central and South Asia (F. Daftary)
  • Chapter 7: Persian Medical Literature in South Asia (F. Speziale)
  • Chapter 8: Inscriptions and Art-Historical Writing (Y. Porter)

PART 2: PERSIAN LITERATURE IN ANATOLIA AND THE OTTOMAN REALMS, POST-TIMURID CENTRAL ASIA, TAJIKISTAN, MODERN AFGHANISTAN; JUDEO-PERSIAN LITERATURE

  • Chapter 9: Persian Literature in Anatolia and the Ottoman Realms (S. Kim)
  • Chapter 10: Persian Literature in Central Asia under Uzbek Rule (Ertugrul Ökten)
  • Chapter 11: Tajik Literature (K. Hitchins)
  • Chapter 12: Persian Literature in Modern Afghanistan (R. Farhadi And J. R. Perry)
  • Chapter 13: Judeo-Persian Literature (Vera Basch Moreen)

Rivalry and conflicts between Christians and Zoroastrians

Hutter, Manfred. 2018. Rivalität und Konflikte zwischen Christen und Zoroastriern. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 91–104.

The encounter of Christianity with Zoroastrianism in the Sasanian Empire started already in the 3rd century. But it was only since the 5th century that a sizable number of Zoroastrians, mostly from the upper classes, converted to Christianity. This led to reactions by the Zoroastrian clergy against the adherents of the agdēn, the «false» or «bad» religion, as this religion was seen as unfitting to Iranian culture. Thus, Middle Persian texts discuss the necessity to avoid contacts with members of agdēn. This term is not restricted to Christianity, but can also be applied to other religions. It is only from the early Islamic period in Iran that two Middle Persian texts, the Dēnkard and the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, discuss (and refute) Christian teachings more systematically. The reason for this theological discussion about Christianity can be seen in the minority situation which Zoroastrianism faced in the Islamic period.

Hanns-Peter Schmidt (1930-2017) Gedenkschrift

The 6th volume of DABIR is a Gedenkschrift to honour Hanns-Peter Schmidt (1930-2017), an excellent German scholar of Indo-Iranian studies, who mainly worked on the Vedas and the Gāθās, as well as Indian mythology and the Zoroastrian religion.

You can download the whole issue here.

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Anti-christological Zoroastrian polemics. Mechanisms of deconstruction (ŠGW 15)

Timuş, Mihaela. 2018. Polémique mazdéenne anti-christologique: Mécanismes de déconstruction (ŠGW 15). Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 105–122.

The present article proposes the analysis of some of the anti-christological arguments to be found at the beginning of the 15th chapter (namely the paragraphs 18–30) of the Zoroastrian polemical treatise Škand Gumānīg Wizār (The Doubt-dispelling Explanation, E. W. West 1887). This treatise was originally written in Middle Persian, but its first version was lost. Nowadays, one works mainly with the reconstruction after the Pāzand (Middle Persian in Avestan characters) version of the text. The article has two parts. On the one hand, the article upholds the hypothesis which states that Zoroastrian anti-christological polemics was done case by case, referring to three groups of Oriental Christians: the Melkites, the Jacobites and the Nestorians respectively. Three main arguments are brought forward. On the other hand, the article provides a description of the logical structure of this polemical attack. It appears that the reasoning follows a syllogism-likpattern, which betrays the influence of Greek logic. It is still a matter of debate whether such influence dates from the Sasanian period and was then passed on to the later Mazdeic exegesis during the first centuries of the Islamic period, or whether it took place after the Arab conquest by the transmission of Muslim theologies and philosophies (eg. the mu’tazilites).

Ancient Chorasmia, Central Asia and the Steppes

Minardi, Michele & Askold I. Ivantchik (eds.). 2018. Ancient Chorasmia, Central Asia and the Steppes (Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 24). Vol. 1–2. Leiden: Brill.

Table of Contents:

  • Claude Rapin: “Aux origines de la cartographie: L’empire achéménide sous Darius I et Xerxès”
  • Frantz Grenet: “Was Zoroastrian Art Invented in Chorasmia?”
  • Michele Minardi: “The Oxus Route toward the South: Persian Legacy and Hellenistic Innovations in Central Asia”
  • Fabrizio Sinisi: “Exchanges in Royal Imagery across the Iranian World, 3rd Century BC – 3rd Century AD: Chorasmia between Arsacid Parthia and Kushan Bactria”
  • Gairatdin Khozhaniyazov: “‘Long Walls’ in Ancient Chorasmia and Central Asia”
  • Alison V.G. Betts, Gairatdin Khozhaniyazov, Alison Weisskopf(†) and George Willcox: “Fire Features at Akchakhan-kala and Tash-k’irman-tepe”
  • Fiona J. Kidd: “Rulership and Sovereignty at Akchakhan-kala in Chorasmia”
  • Pavel B. Lurje: “Some New Readings of Chorasmian Inscriptions on Silver Vessels and Their Relevance to the Chorasmian Era”
  • Gian Luca Bonora: “A General Revision of the Chronology of the Tagisken North Burial Ground”
  • Johanna Lhuillier and Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento: “Central Asia and the Interaction between the Iranian Plateau and the Steppes in Late First Millennium BC: Case Study from Ulug-depe in Turkmenistan”
  • Laurianne Martinez-Sève: “Antique Samarkand or Afrasiab II and III: Differentiation, Chronology and Interpretation”
  • Barbara Kaim: “Storage Practices in the Merv and Serakhs Oases of the Partho-Sasanian Period”
  • Irina Arzhantseva and Svetlana Gorshenina: “The Patrimonial Project of Dzhankent: Constructing a National Symbol in the longue durée”

A Grammar of Pahlavi

Asha, Raham. 2017. Pārsīg Language (The so-called Pahlavi). Parts of Speech, Word Formation, and Phonology. Tehran: Sade Publication.

The present book is, in the first place, a descriptive grammar of the Pārsīg language as far as we have it. It includes morphology and phonology; but it gives no syntax. Whereas the first two parts of the book concern morphology, the last deals with phonology. The book intends to be accessible to those who wish to study the Pārsīg texts as well as those specializing in the study of Perso-Aryan languages.
A forthcoming compendious dictionary will complete this work.

New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq

Pregill, Michael (ed.). 2018. New perspectives on late antique Iran and Iraq. Mizan. Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations 3(1).

Aramaic incantation bowl from Sasanian Babylonia, 4th-7th c., currently held in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (B2945; courtesy Penn Museum Blog)

This volume of the peer-reviewed, open access Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations presents several articles (and a provocative postscript) centering on the theme of “New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq.” The articles featured here originated with a pair of conference panels convened in 2016. The first was held during the summer of 2016 at the Eleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference at the University of Vienna, August 2–5, 2016; the second followed in the fall of that year, convened during the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association held in Boston, November 17–20, 2016.

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– Touraj Daryaee: “How the Sasanians Saw the Late Antique World: A Persianate View of the Interconnectedness of Eurasia”
– Isabel Toral-Niehoff: “Al-Ḥīra: An Arab Late Antique Metropolis in Sasanian Iraq”
– Shai Secunda: “East LA: Margin and Center in Late Antiquity Studies and the New Irano-Talmudica”
– Teresa Bernheimer: “The Revolt of Qaṭarī b. al-Fujāʿa (d. 79/698) and the Kharijite Revolts of Early Islamic Iran: Social Change between Late Antiquity and Early Islam”
– Rahim Shayegan: “On Diachrony in Sasanian Studies”
– Jason Mokhtarian: “Religious Polemics in Sasanian Writings”
– Thomas Carlson: “The Long Shadow of Sasanian Christianity: The Limits of Iraqi Islamization to 950”
– Mimi Hanaoka: “Authority and Identity in Early Medieval Persianate Islamic Historiography: Methologies for Reading Hybrid Identities and Imagined Histories”

Islamic Transformations of the Classical Past

Casagrande-Kim, Roberta, Samuel Thrope & Julia Rubanovich (eds.). 2018. Romance and reason: Islamic transformations of the classical past. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Within a century of the Arab Muslim conquest of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam became the inheritor of the intellectual legacy of classical antiquity. In an epochal cultural transformation between the eighth and tenth centuries CE, most of what survived in classical Greek literature and thought was translated from Greek into Arabic. This translation movement, sponsored by the ruling Abbasid dynasty, swiftly blossomed into the creative expansion and reimagining of classical ideas that were now integral parts of the Islamic tradition.

Romance and Reason, a lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, explores the breadth and depth of Islamic engagement with ancient Greek thought. Drawing on manuscripts and artifacts from the collections of the National Library of Israel and prominent American institutions, the catalogue’s essays focus on the portrayal of Alexander the Great as ideal ruler, mystic, lover, and philosopher in Persian poetry and art, and how Islamic medicine, philosophy, and science contended with and developed the classical tradition.

Contributors include Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Leigh Chipman, Steven Harvey, Y. Tzvi Langermann, Rachel Milstein, Julia Rubanovich, Samuel Thrope, and Raquel Ukeles.

Trends in Iranian and Persian Linguistics

Korangy, Alireza & Corey Miller (eds.). 2018. Trends in Iranian and Persian linguistics (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 313). Berlin: De Gruyter.
This set of essays highlights the state of the art in the linguistics of Iranian languages. The contributions span the full range of linguistic inquiry, including pragmatics, syntax, semantics, phonology/phonetics, lexicography, historical linguistics and poetics and covering a wide set of Iranian languages including Persian, Balochi, Kurdish and Ossetian. This book will engage both the active scholar in the field as well as linguists from other fields seeking to assess the latest developments in Iranian linguistics.
See the table of contents here.
  • Toon van Hal: “The alleged Persian-Germanic connection: A remarkable chapter in the study of Persian from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries”
  • Shinji Ido: “Huihuiguan zazi: A New Persian glossary compiled in Ming China”
  • Adriano V. Rossi: “Glimpses of Balochi lexicography: Some iconyms for the landscape and their motivation”
  • Martin Schwartz: “On some Iranian secret vocabularies, as evidenced by a fourteenth-century Persian manuscript”
  • Agnès Lenepveu-Hotz: “Specialization of an ancient object marker in the New Persian of the fifteenth century”
  • Lutz Rzehak: “Fillers, emphasizers, and other adjuncts in spoken Dari and Pashto”
  • Youli Ioannesyan: “The historically unmotivated majhul vowel as a significant areal dialectological feature”
  • Zohreh R. Eslami, Mohammad Abdolhosseini, and Shadi Dini: Variability in Persian forms of address as represented in the works of Iranian playwrights”
  • Hooman Saeli and Corey Miller: “Some linguistic indicators of sociocultural formality in Persian”
  • Behrooz Mahmoodi-Bakhtiari: WSpoken vs. written Persian: Is Persian diglossic?”
  • Lewis Gebhardt: “Accounting for *yek ta in Persian”
  • Jila Ghomeshi: “The associative plural and related constructions in Persian”
  • Shahrzad Mahootian and Lewis Gebhardt: “Revisiting the status of -eš in Persian”
  • Arseniy Vydrin: “‘Difficult’ and ‘easy’ in Ossetic”
  • Z. A. Yusupova: “Possessive construction in Kurdish”
  • Carina Jahani: “To bring the distant near: On deixis in Iranian oral literature”
  • Katarzyna Marszalek-Kowalewska: “Extracting semantic similarity from Persian texts”