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Books

Persian Prose

Utas, Bo (ed.). 2021. Persian prose (A history of Persian literature V). London: I.B. Tauris.

Volume V of A History of Persian Literature presents a broad survey of Persian prose: from biographical, historiographical, and didactic prose, to scientific manuals and works of popular prose fiction. It analyzes the rhetorical devices employed by writers in different periods in their philosophical and political discourse; or when their aim is primarily to entertain rather than to instruct , the chapters describe different techniques used to transform old stories and familiar tales into novel versions to entice their audience.

Many of the texts in prose cited in the volume share a wealth of common lore and literary allusions with Persian poetry. Prose and poetry frequently appear on the same page in tandem. In different ways, therefore, this creative interplay demonstrates the perennial significance of intertextuality, from the earliest times to the present; and help us in the process to further our understanding and enhance our enjoyment of Persian literature in its different manifestations throughout history.

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Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition

Orsatti, Paola. 2019. Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition. Two Characters: Farhād and Turandot. Venezia: Ca’ Foscari.

This book gathers together two essays. The first deals with the origins of the character of Farhād, the unlucky lover of Shīrīn, who – in the Persian narrative tradition – digs a route through Mount Bīsutūn and accomplishes other admirable works. The essay suggests that Farhād, as we know him from long narrative poems, historical chronicles, and reports by geographers and travelers, is the issue of a conflation between the legendary character of the Master of Mount Bīsutūn and a historical personage, Farrahān, the general-in-chief of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz’s army (r. 590-628 EC), as this figure was re-elaborated in a number of later legends. 

The second essay identifies a character named ‘Būrān-dukht’ as the prototype from which Turandot, the heroine of the tale well-known in Europe from Puccini’s opera (1926), springs. Two historical personages, both called Būrān or Būrān-dukht, are relevant in this line of development: the first is the daughter of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz (r. 580-628 CE), who was queen of Persia for a short period (630-631 CE); the other is the daughter of Ḥasan b. Sahl, wife of Caliph al-Maʾmūn (813-833 CE).

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Studies in Persian Language and Literature in Honour of Paola Orsatti

Maggi, Mauro, and Mohsen Ashtiany, eds. A turquoise coronet: Studies in Persian language and literature in honour of Paola Orsatti. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2021.

Paola Orsatti is currently professor at La Sapienza University in Rome. In the course of a long and distinguished academic career combined with an impressive record of dedicated teaching, she has made significant contributions to the study of classical Persian poetry, its connections with pre-Islamic traditions, the history of the Persian language, and Islamic manuscripts. Along with a profile of the dedicatee and a comprehensive bibliography of her publications up to 2019, the volume contains eighteen papers by her colleagues, friends, and former students to celebrate her 65th birthday. The papers mirror her diverse research interests. They deal with a variety of themes relating to Persian literature from Middle Persian texts to twentieth-century poetry—approached philologically, historically, and critically—as well as to the history of Middle and New Persian and the dialects of Iran, and include significant Persian literary texts translated and edited for the first time in this volume.

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Books

The Judeo-Persian rendition of the Buddha biographies

Yasharpour, Dalia. 2021. The Prince and the Sufi: the Judeo-Persian rendition of the Buddha biographies (The Brill Reference Library of Judaism 62). Leiden: Brill.

The Prince and the Sufi is the literary composition of the seventeenth-century Judeo-Persian poet Elisha ben Shmūel. In The Prince and the Sufi: The Judeo-Persian Rendition of the Buddha Biographies, Dalia Yasharpour provides a thorough analysis of this popular work to show how the Buddha’s life story has undergone substantial transformation with the use of Jewish, Judeo-Persian and Persian-Islamic sources. The annotated edition of the text and the corresponding English translation are meticulous and insightful. This scholarly study makes available to readers an important branch in the genealogical tree of the Buddha Biographies.

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Books

Moses and Garšāsp

Ehsani Chombeli, Azadeh. 2020. Moses and Garšāsp, Ardašīr and Herod: Narratives of the Babylonian Talmud in their Iranian context (Zoroastrian Studies Series 5). Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers.

This book offers a comparative study between a number of Talmudic and Middle Persian narratives. The present work seeks first and foremost to examine Talmudic narratives in their Iranian context, and secondly to examine the Talmudic background of Iranian narratives where applicable.
The first and second chapters will offer an analysis of the alteration of historical and Biblical figures in the Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud) based on the influence of Iranian mythical and historical figures, while the third chapter will provide an account of how Iranists can learn from Talmudic studies. Here we suggest that a Talmudic narrative may have encouraged Zoroastrian priests to compose an extensive work of religious literature, namely the Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag, an idea which will be further explored in the appendix.

Azadeh Ehsani has a PhD in religion from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada (2018) and an MA in ancient languages and culture of Iran with a focus on Middle Persian (Pahlavi) from Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies University in Tehran, Iran (2005).

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Books

Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism

Kia, Mana. Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020.

For centuries, Persian was the language of power and learning across Central, South, and West Asia, and Persians received a particular basic education through which they understood and engaged with the world. Not everyone who lived in the land of Iran was Persian, and Persians lived in many other lands as well. Thus to be Persian was to be embedded in a set of connections with people we today consider members of different groups. Persianate selfhood encompassed a broader range of possibilities than contemporary nationalist claims to place and origin allow. We cannot grasp these older connections without historicizing our conceptions of difference and affiliation.

Mana Kia sketches the contours of a larger Persianate world, historicizing place, origin, and selfhood through its tradition of proper form: adab. In this shared culture, proximities and similarities constituted a logic that distinguished between people while simultaneously accommodating plurality. Adab was the basis of cohesion for self and community over the turbulent eighteenth century, as populations dispersed and centers of power shifted, disrupting the circulations that linked Persianate regions. Challenging the bases of protonationalist community, Persianate Selves seeks to make sense of an earlier transregional Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.

About the author

Mana Kia is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University.

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Books

Persian Lyric Poetry

Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). 2019. Persian lyric poetry in the classical era, 800-1500: Ghazals, panegyrics and quatrains (A History of Persian Literature 2). London: I.B. Tauris.

The second volume in this series presents the reader with an extensive study of some major genres of Persian poetry from the first centuries after the rise of Islam to the end of the Timurid era and the inauguration of Safavid rule in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The authors explore the development of poetic genres, from the panegyric (qaside), to short lyrical poems (ghazal), and the quatrains (roba’i), tracing the stylistic evolution of Persian poetry up to 1500 and examine the vital role of these poetic forms within the rich landscape of Persian literature.

A History of Persian Literature is a 20-volume authoritative survey reflects the stature and significance of Persian literature as the single most important accomplishment of the Iranian experience. It includes extensive, revealing examples with contributions by prominent scholars who bring a fresh critical approach to bear on this important topic.

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Books

The Empires of the Near East and India

Khafipour, Hani. 2019. The empires of the Near East and India: Source studies of the Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal literate communities. New York: Columbia University Press.

In the early modern world, the Safavid, Ottoman, and Mughal empires sprawled across a vast swath of the earth, stretching from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The diverse and overlapping literate communities that flourished in these three empires left a lasting legacy on the political, religious, and cultural landscape of the Near East and India. This volume is a comprehensive sourcebook of newly translated texts that shed light on the intertwined histories and cultures of these communities, presenting a wide range of source material spanning literature, philosophy, religion, politics, mysticism, and visual art in thematically organized chapters. Scholarly essays by leading researchers provide historical context for closer analyses of a lesser-known era and a framework for further research and debate. The volume aims to provide a new model for the study and teaching of the region’s early modern history that stands in contrast to the prevailing trend of examining this interconnected past in isolation.

Source: The Empires of the Near East and India | Columbia University Press
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Articles

Becoming Zarathustra

Kellens, Jean. 2018. Becoming Zarathustra. In Hugh B. Urban & Greg Johnson (eds.), Irreverence and the sacred: Critical studies in the history of religions, 185–193. New York: Oxford University Press.

This chapter examines the role of ritual and sacrifice in the most sacred Zoroastrian literature, the Gâthâs in order to explore the complex relationship between the figure of Zarathustra and the human ritual officiant. The chapter presents a very Lincoln-ian sort of history of the field of Zoroastrian studies itself, interrogating the contexts and biases of particular scholars in their various readings and misreadings of the tradition. At the same time, it offers a new way of thinking about the figure of Zarathustra himself, who is best understood not as the semi-historical “founder” of Zoroastrianism but rather as the mythical personality into which the human officiant is himself transfigured through the ritual operations.

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Articles

Ritual Formulae, Structures, and Activities in Vedic and Avestan Liturgies

Sadovski, Velizar. 2018. Ritual formulae, structures, and activities in Vedic and Avestan liturgies. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 71/1. 81134.

Die Arbeit präsentiert Untersuchungen zu einer Reihe von Begriffen aus dem Bereich des indoiranischen Kultus bzw. Rituals einerseits in ihrem Kontext innerhalb der vedischen und avestischen Ritualdichtung und -praxis und andererseits vom Standpunkt ihrer mythologischen Relevanz, insbesondere in Bezug auf ihre Rolle für die „Mythopoia“ in den Sakraltexten von Indern und Iraniern. So werden einerseits Personifikationen bzw. Deifikationen derartiger Kultbegriffe geschildert, andererseits verschiedene Mechanismen ihrer Kombinatorik auf syntagmatischer, intra-textueller Ebene (innerhalb des Kontexts eines liturgischen Hymnus/Vorgangs) bzw. auf inter-textueller Ebene, im Rahmen des Hypertexts der aus zahlreichen einzelnen Litaneien bestehenden Ritualhymnen und in den aus ganzen solchen Einzelliturgien bestehenden Ritualkomplexen dargestellt. – Der vorliegende Aufsatz entwickelt dabei die Idee über die fundamentale Rolle von Katalogen, Listen und Enumerationen als poetische, aber auch als mythologische und kosmologische Form: Basierend auf mehreren früheren Studien des Verfassers, die das Funktionieren solcher intertextuell verbundenen Textcorpora in der indoiranischen Ritualdichtung vor allem textlinguistisch, vom formalen, kompositionellen und kognitiven Standpunkt behandeln, gibt nun das Thema „Ritus im Mythos“ die Gelegenheit, die katalogisch aufgebauten Formen von Litaneien und Liturgien in den vedischen Sakraltexten vom RV an (insbesondere in den RV-Khilas und dem Yajurveda) und in der ‚Langen Liturgie‘ des Avesta sowie ihre Bedeutung sowohl zur rituellen „Wieder-Erschaffung des Universums“ mit jedem Kultakt und -text als auch zur Mythologisierung entsprechender Begriffe mit rituellem Inhalt zu untersuchen.