Tag Archives: Persian

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)

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”

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”

The grammaticalization of progressive aspect in Persian

Davari, Shadi & Mehrdad Naghzguy-Kohan. 2017. The grammaticalization of progressive aspect in Persian. In Kees Hengeveld, Heiko Narrog & Hella Olbertz (eds.), The Grammaticalization of Tense, Aspect, Modality and Evidentiality: A Functional Perspective (Trends in Linguistics Studies and Monographs 311), 163–190. Berlin: De Gruyter.
This paper investigates the development of the Persian lexical verb dâštan ‘have’, which has grammaticalized into an auxiliary verb functioning primarily as a progressive aspect marker in durative situations, and which is currently developing into a prospective marker with achievement verbs. Possessive progressives are a cross-linguistic rarity and deserve attention. We suggest that the progressive function arose through context-induced reinterpretation based on metonymic relations. The resulting reinterpretation of dâštan ‘have’ to ‘ongoingness of a durative event’ represents a conceptual shift, in the form of metaphoric extension, from possessing a physical object to possessing the continuum of an action in a focal point of utterance. We will also illustrate that the progressive’s focus on subjective notions leads to its development as an expression of the speaker’s attitude that does not describe properties of a situation in the extralinguistic world but rather in the subjective conceptualization of the speaker. The auxiliation process of dâštan ‘have’ in Persian will be analyzed based on the Auxiliation Dimensions Model proposed by Davari and Naghzguy-Kohan (forthcoming), which focuses on the force, the source and the degree of auxiliation. We also point out that these changes are in tune with the overall directionality of semantic change in grammaticalization according to Narrog (2012), namely, increase in speaker-orientation.

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.

A Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts

Péri, Benedek. 2018. Catalogue of the Persian manuscripts in the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (Islamic Manuscripts and Books 16). Leiden: Brill.

The Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was established in 1826. Its collection of Persian manuscripts is the most comprehensive set of its kind in Hungary. The volumes were produced in four major cultural centres of the Persianate world, the Ottoman Empire, Iran, Central Asia and India during a span of time that extends from the 14th to the 19th century. Collected mainly by enthusiastic private collectors and acknowledged scholars the manuscripts have preserved several unique texts or otherwise interesting copies of well-known works. Though the bulk of the collection has been part of Library holdings for almost a century, the present volume is the first one to describe these manuscripts in a detailed and systematic way.

Benedek Péri is the head of the Department of Turkic Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. Specialized in the history of classical Persianate literary traditions, he has widely published on various aspects of Persian, Chaghatay and Ottoman literature.

The Persian Dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī

Shavarebi, Ehsan. 2018. The Persian Dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī (Early 11th/17th Century) and its manuscript in the library of the Oriental faculty of St. Petersburg State University (MS.O 174). Manuscripta Orientalia 24 (1). 61–67.

This article aims to study the manuscript of the Persian dictionary Sorme-ye Soleymānī (“The Kohl of Soleymān”) from the collection of the library of St. Petersburg State University (MS.O 174), which is the only known manuscript containing the full text of dictionary. In other available manuscripts of this dictionary, the prologue and epilogue of the text are missing. The importance of this manuscript is inclusion of the date of the dictionary’s composition as a chronogram in the epilogue. In addition to an analysis of the beginning and ending pages of the text, a critical edition of the prologue and epilogue of this manuscript is provided in the appendices.

Persian Interventions

Hyland, John. 2017. Persian interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE. Johns Hopkins University Press.

In Persian Interventions, John O. Hyland challenges earlier studies that assume Persia played Athens against Sparta in a defensive balancing act. He argues instead for a new interpretation of Persian imperialism, one involving long-term efforts to extend diplomatic and economic patronage over Greek clients beyond the northwestern frontier. Achaemenid kings, he asserts, were less interested in Ionia for its own sake than in the accumulation of influence over Athens, Sparta, or both, which allowed them to advertise Persia’s claim to universal power while limiting the necessity of direct military commitment. The slow pace of intervention resulted from logistical constraints and occasional diplomatic blunders, rather than long-term plans to balance and undermine dangerous allies.

John O. Hyland is an associate professor of history at Christopher Newport University.

The book is scheduled to be published in December 2017.