Tag Archives: Literature

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.

The Reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World

Hubert, Thibaut d’ & Alexandre Papas (eds.). 2018. Jāmī in regional contexts. The reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s works in the Islamicate world, ca. 9th/15th-14th/20th Century (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section One, the Near and Middle East 128). Leiden; Boston: Brill.
Jāmī in Regional Contexts: The Reception of ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World is the first attempt to present in a comprehensive manner how ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 898/1492), a most influential figure in the Persian-speaking world, reshaped the canons of Islamic mysticism, literature and poetry and how, in turn, this new canon prompted the formation of regional traditions. As a result, a renewed geography of intellectual practices emerges as well as questions surrounding authorship and authority in the making of vernacular cultures. Specialists of Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Georgian, Malay, Pashto, Sanskrit, Urdu, Turkish, and Bengali thus provide a unique connected account of the conception and reception of Jāmī’s works throughout the Eurasian continent and maritime Southeast Asia.

Essays on Persian Poetry in Honor of Dick Davis

Seyed-Ghorab, Ali-Asghar (ed.). 2018. The layered heart: Essays on Persian poetry, a celebration in honor of Dick Davis. Washington, D.C: Mage Publishers.
The Layered Heart : Essays on Persian Poetry is published in celebration of the poet and scholar Dick Davis, dubbed “our pre-eminent translator from Persian” by The Washington Post. Edited by Ali-Asghar Seyed-Ghorab, Associate Professor of Persian at Leiden University, the volume includes twenty-one essays about Persian culture and literature, ranging from classical Persian poetry to modern literary topics. Written by foremost scholars in the field, each of the essays is original and ground-breaking either in content or in methodology, while together they encompass a broad sweep of Iranian history, from pre-Islamic times to the present. They offer a fascinating, multi-faceted view of the Persian classics – from poetry in praise of wine, and the portrayal of love in Persian-European medieval romances, to an examination of Ferdowsi’s monumental epic, the Shahnameh, its connection with the Persian oral tradition and its later reception in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Europe. Modern topics include an analysis of Lahuti’s letter poem to Joseph Stalin, published for the first time in Persian and English, the celebrated novel My Uncle Napoleon, and trends in poetry before and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Table of Contents
  • Ehsan Yarshater: “Voyages in Literature”
  • Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak: “Continuity and Creativity: Models of Change in Persian Poetry, Classical and Modern”
  • Saeed Honarmand: “Between the Water and the Wall: The Power of Love in Medieval Persian Romance”
  • Christine van Ruymbeke: “Wretched King Mobad Loses the War of Love”
  • Asghar Seyed-Ghorab: “Of Love and Loyalty: The Middle English Floris and Blancheflour and the Persian Warqa and Golshāh”
  • Kamran Talattof: “What Kind of Wine Did Rudaki Desire? Samanids’ Search for Cultural and National Identity”
  • Paul Losensky: “Song of the Cupbearer by Mohammad Sūfī Māzandarānī”
  • Saghi Gazerani: “Zahhak’s Story and History”
  • H.E. Chehabi: “Wrestling in the Shahnameh and Later Persian Epics”
  • Sunil Sharma: “Heroes, Husbands, and Rhino Hunters: Sekandar and Bahram Gur in the Shahnameh”
  • Abbas Amanat: “Shahnameh-ye Naderi and the Revival of Epic Poetry in Post-Safavid Iran”
  • Reza Shaghaghi Zarghamee: “From Scythia to Sistan: Reconciling the Shahnameh and Herodotus to Discover the Origins of the Rostam Legend”
  • Olga M. Davidson: “On the Sources of the Shahnameh”
  • Franklin Lewis: “Shifting Allegiances: Primordial Relationships and How They Change in the Shahnameh”
  • Charles Melville: “The Shahnameh in India: Tārīkh-i Dilgushā-yi Shamshīr Khānī”
  • Margaret A. Mills:  “Kok Kohzad in Afghanistan: Local Knowledge and Shahnameh Characters”
  • Firuza Melville: “Side-Saddle Tazmin, or, the Post-Shahnameh for Victorian Children”
  • Natalia Chalisova: “Poet and Ruler: The Case of Dāstān-e gol, Lahuti’s Poem for Stalin”
  • Fatemeh Shams: “From Revolution to Silence: The Political and Literary Life of Qaysar Aminpur”
  • Saeedeh Shahnahpur: “Literature Beyond Borders: Modern Persian Novels in English Translation, The Case of Pezeshkzād’s My Uncle Napoleon”
  • John Walbridge: “Astrolabe Hunting in the Punjab”

Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral Texts and Testimony

Stewart, Sarah. 2018. Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral texts and testimony (Part 1: Urban contexts: Kerman, Tehran, Ahwaz, Esfahan, Shiraz), vol. 1. (Iranica, GOF III/NF 17). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Voices from Zoroastrian Iran (Volumes I and II) is the result of an oral studies research project that maps the remaining Zoroastrian communities in Iran and explores what has happened to their religious lives and social structures since the Revolution of 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Interviews included in Volume 1 are with Zoroastrians from the urban centres of Tehrān, Kermān, Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān. Participants refer to community leaders, historical figures, local events, teachers and religious texts that have shaped their views and understanding of the religion. They also address the impact of recent history upon their lives. The religion itself is presented as understood by those interviewed, drawn largely from the interpretations of Iranian scholars and scholar-priests, as opposed to those of predominantly western scholars. A chapter in the book is devoted to a survey of the main Iranian Zoroastrian religious observances as well as some popular customs. As a result of the new Constitution, the return to shari ‘a and the eight-year war with Iraq that followed the Revolution, the relationship between Zoroastrians and the state changed. The new political environment began to shape the religious and social identities of the next generation through Zoroastrian institutions such as the anjomans (councils) as well as those established by the government of the Islamic Republic.
The interviews for this book span a period of living memory that reflects both pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. The views expressed are informed by the changes that took place during that time and throw light on subjects as diverse as education, emigration, conversion and religious reform. The vol. 2 is planed to come out in 2019.
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Background and Context: Religion
  • Chapter 2 Devotional Life: Customs and Observances
  • Chapter 3 Background and Context: Society
  • Chapter 4 Kermān
  • Chapter 5 Tehrān
  • Chapter 6 Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān
  • Conclusions

Read the detailed table of contents here.

Polemical Aspects in an Early Judeo-Persian Bible Exegesis

Haim, Ofir. 2018. Polemical Aspects in an Early Judeo-Persian Bible Exegesis: The Commentary on the Story of  Ḥannah (RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4608). Entangled  Religions 6(Special Issue: Historical Engagements and Interreligious Encounters-Jews and Christians in Premodern and Early Modern Asia and Africa). 163–200.
The article discusses the attitude towards Christians, Muslims, and the “foreign sciences” based on one of the only extant polemical texts written in Early Judeo-Persian—a passage from an unpublished commentary on story of Ḥannah preserved in the National Library of Russia (RNL Yevr.-Arab. I 4608). In addition, the article attempts to define the relation of this commentary to the broader intellectual environment of the medieval Jewish world. A close examination of this passage reveals a possible connection to Karaite exegetical work written in Judeo-Arabic during the tenth century, particularly those of Yefet ben ʿEli. Therefore, the article may serve as a case study of intellectual contact and transmission of knowledge between different Jewish groups in the Islamicate world.

Collected Writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal

Kotwal, Firoze M. 2018. The collected scholarly writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal. Edited by Firoza Punthakey Mistree & Cashmira Vatcha Bengalli. Vol. 1. Mumbai: Parzor Foundation.
For over a thousand years, Zoroastrian priests in India have sustained their belief system and the ritual infrastructure of their faith, by the constant enactment of rituals with exactitude in their religious life.
It is this exactness of practice that High Priest Dastur (Dr.) Firoze M. Kotwal has strived throughout his life to support through his writings. His knowledge of priestly history and of ritual practice is unparallel. His historical insights take one to the core of a tradition well kept and sometimes hidden from even its community members.
His familiarity with Avestan, Pahlavi and old Gujarati, has enabled an understanding of the classical theology and the practices of the faith. His work has helped to sustain the relevance of the ritual tradition in modern times, and his essays illustrate patterns of differences in priestly expressions in rituals, among the priesthood in India. In doing so, he has not shied away from explaining the changes which have taken place and the influence of those who determined these changes.
His work has been published in academic journals, and he is sought after internationally, by scholars wanting to understand the traditions and comprehend the ancient manuscripts of the faith.

ervad Firoze M. Kotwal, after his initiation as a Zoroastrian Priest

The biographical note in the volume covers his life as a pious priest and reveals his early childhood, immersed in the warmth of priestly life in Navsari. His rise as a learned high priest, his position in the world of academia and the value his guidance and directives have brought to disputes and controversies that have mired the community over the last forty years, form part of the biography. As one of the foremost Bhagaria priest in Mumbai, his declarations on issues that matter within the community, have shaped decision making and have illumined the core of what the Parsis consider sacred and inviolable.

For priests, lay-people and academics, this volume provides a resource for the future study of the faith. Its exploration both in time span and in its detail reveals the choices that lie ahead for the community, which Zarathushtra so pertinently articulated in the Gathas, three thousand five hundred years ago – the clear choice which is to be made between good and evil and between the better and the best.
List of Contents of Vol. 1:
  • Zoroastrian Bāj and Drōn-I, co-author Mary Boyce
  • Zoroastrian Bāj and Drōn-II, co-author Mary Boyce
  • Some Notes on the Parsi Bāj of Mihragān, co-author James W. Boyd
  • The Zoroastrian Paragnā Ritual, co-author James W. Boyd
  • To Praise the Souls of the Deceased and the Immortal Spirits of the Righteous Ones: The Staomi or Stūm Ritual’s History and Functions, co-author Jamsheed K. Choksy
  • A Link with the Spiritual World: The Stum Ritual
  • The Jashan and its Main Religious Service: The Āfrīnagān
  • The Zoroastrian Nirangdin Ritual and an Old Pahlavi Text with Transcription and Translation
  • Initiation into the Zoroastrian Priesthood: Present Parsi Practice and An Old Pahlavi Text
  • The Parsi Dakhma : Its History and Consecration
  • Two Ritual Terms in Pahlavi: The datuš and the frāgām
  • Some Notes on the Pahlavi Visperad
  • Select Ritual Aspects of the Gāthās and their Continuity in the Later Tradition
  • Prayer, co-author Philip G. Kreyenbroek
  • Continuity, Controversy and Change: A Study of the Ritual Practice of the Bhagariā Priests of Navsari
  • The Divine and Exalted Status of the Consecrated Fire in Zoroastrianism
  • An Ancient Irani Ritual for tending Fire
  • Gãthũ Bhārvānī Kriyā: The Ritual of Preserving a Burning Knotted Billet below the Fire-Ash
  • The Ritual of Shifting the Sacred  tash Bahrām Fire from the Qibla to its Temporary Qibla

The Jews of Iran

Yeroushalmi, David. 2017. The Jews of Iran: Chapters in their history and cultural heritage (Bibliotheca Iranica : Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Studies Series 4). Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers.
The present work provides a historical overview of Jews living on Iranian soil and offers studies dealing with specific facets of their centuries old cultural heritage. Divided into two separate but closely related parts, the book consists of eight chapters. Part one, History and Community, includes four chapters that throw light on the history of Iran’s Jewish minority from the 8th-century BCE through the 20th century. The second part, Cultural Heritage, investigates some specific features of Jewish culture and tradition in Iran. These include Judeo-Persian literature and poetry, a typical Judeo-Persian treatment of a Jewish canonical text, and the character of Jewish education in pre-modern Iran.
Contents:

PART ONE: HISTORY AND COMMUNITY

  • Chapter 1: Jews on Iranian Soil: From the 8th Century B.C.E. through the Mongol Period in the 13th- 14th Centuries C.E.
  • Chapter 2: Iranian Jews in the Course of the 16th-20th Centuries
  • Chapter 3: The Jewish Communities of Iran at the Turn of the 20th Century
  • Chapter 4: Iranian Jews in Palestine-Israel: History and Communal Aspects

PART TWO: CULTURAL HERITAGE

  • Chapter 5: Judeo-Persian Literature
  • Chapter 6: The 15th-16th Century Poet ‘Emrani
  • Chapter 7: The Mishnah in Judeo-Persian Literature: The Case of the Tractate Abot
  • Chapter 8: Jewish Education in Pre-Modern Iran According to Contemporary Sources

The Qalandar in the Persianate World

Portrait of a Qalandar wearing a primitive fur. Inscription in Persian. First quarter of the 17th century, Deccan. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Dahlén, Ashk P. 2018. The Qalandar in the Persianate world: The case of Fakhrod-din ʿAraqi. In Albrecht Berger & Sergey Ivanov (eds.), Holy fools and divine madmen: Sacred insanity through ages and cultures (Münchener Arbeiten zur Byzantinstik 2), 125–153. Neuried: Ars Una.

The mystical poetry of Fakhrod-din ʿAraqi (d. 1289) has been considered to be unparalleled and he has been celebrated as the most eloquent spokesman of divine love in the history of Persian literature. His literary production is above all distinguished by the depth and audacity of its unbridled esoteric speculations and the intensity and brilliant color of its religious expression. The aim the present article is to examine the Qalandari phenomenon, its spiritual doctrine and practice, in the context of medieval Persia with specific reference to ‛Araqi’s lyrical poetry.

On the evidence of his biography and religious teachings, there can be no doubt about the importance of the Qalandari doctrine for ‛Araqi himself. Reliable information concerning his life reveals that he considered social respect as one of the most dangerous pitfalls on the spiritual path. The quintessence of his notion of piety is man’s absolute nothingness before God and ultimate annihilation in the divine attributes. ‛Araqi’s criticism of conventional piety and excuse of scandalous behavior constitute the central tenet of antinomian Qalandari mysticism: outwardly he behaved in a foolish manner according to the conventional standards of society, but inwardly he pursued a religious ideal, inspired by experience of God’s beauty and majesty. In fact, he is probably the most outspoken poet of the qalandariyāt genre and his poetry is traversed through and through by its paradoxes. Marked by a unique blend of antinomian thematic features and a rich symbolic imagery, his poems preserve a subtle harmony between the possibilities of transcendental and profane allusions. In this respect, he became a perfect model for Persian literature, influencing Hāfez and Sa‛di, undisputed masters of the ghazal, and inspiring many other writers of the following centuries.

Cosmic, cultic and social spaces in Early Zoroastrianism

Rezania, Kianoosh. 2017. Raumkonzeptionen im früheren Zoroastrismus. Kosmische, kultische und soziale Räume (Iranica, GOF III/NF 14). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Space, like time, is one of the basic categories of our thinking. Their concepts do not remain constant in different cultures or in changing periods, which is why dealing with a historical cultural phenomenon always requires a review of these categories in their specific culture and time. Based on the oldest linguistic and architectural evidence of Iran from the 12th to the 4th century BC, for the first time Kianoosh Rezania offers a comprehensive study of space concepts in Zoroastrianism in ancient Iran.
Based on current and historical theories of space, the Zoroastrian spaces are divided into cosmic, cultic and social spaces. The depiction of the cosmic spaces describes spatial abstractions in ancient Iranian languages as well as Zoroastrian boundary principles. Rezania examines the coordinate systems that ancient Iranians used for orientation in space and how they transformed their cognitive maps into text. This also includes the portrayal of the Zoroastrian worldview according to their older texts. At the intersection of cosmic and cultural spaces, there are transcendent spaces that contain, on the one hand, utopian spaces for communication with gods, some of which are written by poets. Since the study does not rule out dynamics and change processes in the ritual domain, reconstructions of Zoroastrian ritual surfaces in the Avestan period are presented without the inclusion of recent materials. In addition, the spatially represented social structure of the Avestan society and their spatial symbolic orders are presented.
For the table of contents of this volume visit here.