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The Layered Heart: Essays on Persian Poetry, A Celebration in Honor of Dick Davis

Published Date: November 2, 2017

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6.1 x 9.2

About the Book

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.


This volume assembled in honor of Dick Davis, the distinguished scholar and translator of Persian literature, is a major contribution to literary scholarship. His festschriftis not a collection of miscellanea but contains lengthy chapters of original and occasionally innovative research. Dick Davis, who received his primary academic formation in English literature, has intertwined his gifts and training as an Anglophone poet and literary scholar with a love for and an intimate knowledge of Persian literature,a combination that has produced exceptional insights into Iranian culture. The initial approach of this poet-scholar was translation, an intellectual activity that is regrettably marginalized in today’s concepts of academic research. Davis’ scholarly works display a thorough understanding of the source texts that springs from intense linguistic and cultural engagement characteristic of the translation process. . . .


The papers collected in this volume offer a representative image of the high standard of studies on Persian literature, corroborated by the extensive integrated bibliography at the end of the book. The diversity of approaches realized in studies on motifs, textual history, literary variations and reflections, historical settings and political implications, performative aspects, biographical conjunctions, and the theoretical reflections inherent to these topics, present a vibrant panorama of literary scholarship in Iranian studies.


Roxane Haag-Higuchi, Journal of the Association of Iranian Studies






Voyages in Literature, 21

Ehsan Yarshater (Columbia University)



Continuity and Creativity: Models of Change in Persian Poetry, Classical and Modern, 25

Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak (University of Maryland)


Between the Water and the Wall: The Power of Love in Medieval Persian Romance, 55

Saeed Honarmand (Columbia University)


Wretched King Mobad Loses the War of Love, 81

Christine van Ruymbeke, (University of Cambridge)


Of Love and Loyalty: The Middle English Floris and Blancheflour and the Persian Warqa and Golshāh, 99

Asghar Seyed-Ghorab (Leiden University)


What Kind of Wine Did Rudaki Desire? Samanids’ Search for Cultural and National Identity, 127

Kamran Talattof (University of Arizona)


Song of the Cupbearer by Mohammad Sūfī Māzandarānī, 173

Paul Losensky (Indiana University)



Zahhak’s Story and History, 199

Saghi Gazerani (Ohio State University)


Wrestling in the Shahnameh and Later Persian Epics, 237

H.E. Chehabi (Boston University)


Heroes, Husbands, and Rhino Hunters: Sekandar and Bahram Gur in the Shahnameh, 283

Sunil Sharma (Boston University)


Shahnameh-ye Naderi and the Revival of Epic Poetry in Post-Safavid Iran, 295

Abbas Amanat (Yale University)


From Scythia to Sistan: Reconciling the Shahnameh and Herodotus to Discover the Origins of the Rostam Legend, 319

Reza Shaghaghi Zarghamee (University of St Andrews)


On the Sources of the Shahnameh, 353

Olga M. Davidson (Boston University)


Shifting Allegiances: Primordial Relationships and How They Change in the Shahnameh, 363

Franklin Lewis (The University of Chicago)


The Shahnameh in India: Tārīkh-i Dilgushā-yi Shamshīr Khānī, 411

Charles Melville (University of Cambridge)


Kok Kohzad in Afghanistan: Local Knowledge and Shahnameh Characters, 443

Margaret A. Mills (Ohio State University)


Side-Saddle Tazmin, or, the Post-Shahnameh for Victorian Children, 473

Firuza Melville (University of Cambridge)



Poet and Ruler: The Case of Dāstān-e gol, Lahuti’s Poem for Stalin, 523

Natalia Chalisova (Russian State University of Moscow) and Leyla Lahuti (Russian State University of Moscow)


From Revolution to Silence: The Political and Literary Life of Qaysar Aminpur, 551

Fatemeh Shams (University of Pennsylvania)


Literature Beyond Borders: Modern Persian Novels in English Translation, The Case of Pezeshkzād’s My Uncle Napoleon, 589

Saeedeh Shahnahpur (Leiden University)


Astrolabe Hunting in the Punjab, 619

John Walbridge (Indiana University)



About the Author

Ali-Asghar Seyed-Ghorab received his PhD from Leiden University where he has been teaching since 1997. He is Professor of Persian and Iranian Studies at Utrecht University, and Associate Professor of Persian at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and is the track-leader of the Persian and Iranian Studies program at Leiden University.

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