Shahnama Millennium Conference

Shahnama Millennium Conference
Ferdowsi: The Next Thousand Years

Conference - Biographies

13-15 December 2010
Clare College, University of Cambridge
Cambridge CB3 9AJ

An international conference on the Shahnama, elaborating various areas of existing research, and opening up new topics for future studies.


Dr Firuza Abdullaeva is a graduate of the Iranian Philology Department, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University, where she received her PhD in Iranian philology, Art and Islamic Studies with her thesis on the earliest Persian Commentary on the Qur’an in 1989. She was an Associate Professor at the University of St Petersburg when she joined the Cambridge Shahnama Project in 2002 after a term at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and a term at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) as a Fulbright Professor. From September 2005 until September 2010 she was Lecturer in Persian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Keeper of the Firdousi Library of Wadham College. From October 2010 she is IHF Research Associate at the Shahnama Centre, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. Her main research interests include Classical Persian literature, Medieval Persian book art and Travelogue literature of the Qajar period.


Nasrin Askari is a PhD candidate in Persian Studies at the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, University of Toronto. She is currently writing her dissertation on the Shahnama as a mirror for princes.


Zeynep Atbas, was born and educated in Ankara before entering the Department of Art History at Hacettepe University in 1994, graduating with a thesis on miniature painting in 1998. Placed first in a Ministry of Culture examination, she joined the Topkapi Palace Museum the same year. She studied a muraqqa‘ in the Topkapi Palace Library collection for her Master’s thesis in the Department of Art History at Mimar Sinan University. She has participated in several exhibitions inside and outside Turkey. Now in charge of the Library of the Topkapi Palace Museum, she is the Curator of Manuscripts.


Natalia Chalisova is Professor in Persian Literature at the Institute of Oriental and Classical Studies, Russian State University for Humanities, Moscow. Her research interests are primarily in history of Iranian literature of the pre-Mongolian period and in traditional literary theory with particular focus on the conventions of poetic imagery and on the hermeneutical problem of understanding Persian poetry. N. Chalisova has also written on reception of Persian poetry in Russia and on the problems and strategies of translation.


Olga Merck Davidson earned her Ph.D. in 1983 from Princeton University in Near Eastern Studies. She is on the faculty of the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations, Boston University, where she has served as Research Fellow since 2009. From 1992 to 1997, she was Chair of the Concentration in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University. Since 1999, she has been Chair of the Board, Ilex Foundation. From 1999 to 2008, she was Member of the Advisory Council of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University. She is the author of two books: Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1994; 2nd ed. Mazda Press: Los Angeles, CA, 2006) and Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetry, Bibliotheca Iranica: Intellectual Traditions Series (Mazda Press: Los Angeles, CA, 2000), both of which have been translated into Persian and distributed in Iran: Shâ’er-o Pahlavân dar Shâhnâma (Tehran, 2000) and Adabiyât-e tatbiqi-yo shâ ‘er-e kelâsiki-ye fârsi (Tehran, 2002). Her articles include “The Haft Khwân Tradition as an Intertextual Phenomenon in Ferdowsi’s Shâhnâma,” In Honor of Richard N. Frye: Aspects of Iranian Culture (ed. C. A. Bromberg, Bernard Goldman, P.O. Skjærvø, A. S. Shahbazi), Bulletin of the Asia Institute 4 (1990) 209-15; “The Text of Ferdowsi’s Shâhnâma and the Burden of the Past.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 118 (1998), 63-68; “Haft Khwân,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol XI (Ehsan Yarshater, ed.), Bibliotheca Persica Press, New York, 2002; “Myth and Sacred Narrative: Iran,” Religions of the Ancient World: A Guide (ed. S. I. Johnson; Harvard University Press 2004) 589-90. “The dream as a narrative device in the Shâhnâma,” Dreaming Across Boundaries: The Interpretation of Dreams in Islamic Lands (Louise Marlow, ed.; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 2008), 131-41.


Dick Davis is Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Professor of Persian at Ohio State University. He has translated the Shahnama and written extensively on it.


François de Blois is a specialist on Iranian and Semitic languages and literatures, with a special interest in their contacts and interdependence. Formerly professor of Iranian studies at Hamburg University, he is currently a research fellow at University College London, pursuing a Leverhulme-Foundation funded project on al-Biruni’s “Chronology of Ancient Nations”, with the target of producing a new critical edition and translation of this famous book. His previous publications include Persian Literature, a Bio-bibliographical survey. Volume V: Poetry of the pre-Mongol period (second, revised edition, 2004), with, among many other things, a detailed account of Firdausi and the Shahnama, and a survey of the manuscripts of the latter.


Dr Saghi Gazerani was born in 1972 in Arak, Iran. She lived and attended school in Germany for several years before immigrating to the USA. In 2003, she received her MA degree in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures from the Ohio State University. Her area of interest and focus, during the course of her graduate work has been the medieval popular literature of Iran. She received her PhD from the Ohio State University in 2008 with a dissertation on the Sistani Cycle of Epics. Currently she lives in Iran and works independently on a project concerning the concept of ‘ayyari across medieval Persian and Arabic genres, and on an article on the medieval popular story of the Firuzshahnama.


Professor Robert Hillenbrand, F.B.A., taught in the Department of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh, from 1971 to 2007 and is currently Professorial Fellow of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at that university. He has held eight visiting professorships at various universities and organised nine symposia on Islamic art. He has written six books plus a co-authored book, edited or co-edited a further nine books and has published some 140 articles on Islamic art and architecture. He was Slade Professor of Art at Cambridge in 2008.


Almut Hintze is Zartoshty Professor of Zoroastrianism at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Holding degrees from the universities of Heidelberg, Oxford, Erlangen and Berlin, her field is Indo-Iranian Studies with special emphasis on the Zoroastrian Literature. Her major publications include commentaries and annotated editions of Zoroastrian sacred texts, such as the Avestan Zamyād Yašt (1994) and the Yasna Haptanghaiti (2007). She has also published a study of the semantics of words for ‘reward’ in Vedic and Avestan (2000). Her current projects are an Introduction to Zoroastrianism and an edition, translation, commentary and dictionary of the Avestan Yasna.


Dr. Irina Koshoridze is Chief Curator of the Oriental Collections in the Georgian National Museum. Over the years she was also the director of the Oriental Art department of Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Art. She is professor of Tbilisi State University, teaching the Islamic Art, Museology and the senior seminars in the intercultural relations. Her major interests cover the following fields, such as late Persian art – especially of Safavid-Qajar times, textiles and carpets, Iranian–Georgian cultural relations and intercultural studies. She has curated international symposiums and exhibitions in Textile Heritage, Art Management & Museology and Oriental Art (including Islamic art). She was Fulbright (2001-2) and visiting scholar (2006-9) in New York University and has participated in international conferences and projects in different countries.


Dr Victoria Kryukova is a Senior Research Fellow at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences, St-Petersburg and a Lecturer on Zoroastrianism at the Russian Christian Academy for Humanities. She is the author of two books on Zoroastrianism (in Russian) and numerous articles on Zoroastrian rituals, mythology and traditional culture of Iranian peoples.


Dr Leyla Lahuti graduated from Moscow Lomonosov State University, specializing in Structural and Applied Linguistics. At present she works at the Institute of Oriental Studies and at the Russian State University for the Humanities as Associated Professor. She took part in the Moscow edition of the critical text of the Shahnama (vol. VII) and of the Russian translation of the Shahnama (as author of comments to vol. VI). She belongs to the group of translators of Rumi’s Masnavi (Daftar 4). Currently she is working on philological translation and commentaries of Farid al-Din ‘Attar’s Ilahinama.


Dr Farhad Mehran, Statistician, Harvard University, PhD 1973; Former Director, Bureau of Statistics, International Labour Office, Geneva and Lecturer of Applied Mathematics and Statistics, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland; Advisor, Cambridge Shahnama Project, 1999-2004.


Charles Melville is Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Pembroke College. Since 1999, he has been Director of the Shahnama Project, and since 2006 he has been President of The Islamic Manuscript Association (TIMA), both based in Cambridge. His main research interests are in the history and historiography of Iran in the Mongol to Safavid periods, and the illustration of Persian manuscripts. Recent publications include edited volumes of Safavid Persia (1996), Shahnama Studies (2006), and ‘Millennium of the Shahnama of Ferdowsi’ (Iranian Studies, 2010, with Firuza Abdullaeva); The Persian Book of Kings. Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama (2008, also with Firuza Abdullaeva) and Epic of the Kings. The art of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (2010, with Barbara Brend).


Dr Andrew Peacock was educated at Oxford and Cambridge. His publications include Mediaeval Islamic Historiography and Political Legitimacy (2007), Early Seljuq History (2010) and as editor, The Frontiers of the Ottoman World (2009). He has also published many articles on aspects of pre-modern Islamic history and historiography. He is currently Assistant Director of the British Institute at Ankara.


Ünver Rüstem is a PhD candidate in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. Born in Cyprus, he was brought up and educated in the UK, where he received both a BA and an MA in art history from the University of London (jointly SOAS and UCL). He moved to Harvard University in 2006 to pursue his doctoral studies in Islamic art and architecture, focusing on the Ottoman Empire. Having spent a year conducting fieldwork in Istanbul with the support of a fellowship from Koç University’s Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, he is currently in the early stages of writing his dissertation, which examines the stylistic shifts undergone by the architecture of Istanbul between the mid-18th and early 19th centuries.


Daniel L. Selden is Professor of World Literature and Cultural Studies at the University of Cali¬fornia, Santa Cruz. For some time, his research and publications have focused on literary interactions between cultures in the ancient Levantine-Mediterranean world. He is currently completing a book on the Alexander Romance and, with Phiroze Vasunia, editing The Oxford Handbook on Literatures of the Roman Empire. His introduction to Hieroglyphic Egyptian will ap¬pear with the University of California Press this spring. Recent articles include studies of the Old Aramaic Life of Aḥī¬qar, the Bentresh Stela, the Coptic Kambyses-Romance, Apuleius and Punic Africa, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, and the Old Ethiopic Kebra Nagast.


Dr Raya Shani has been teaching since 1997 Islamic art and architecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the School of Architecture at the Bezal'el Academy of the Arts in Jerusalem, with a two-year break of visiting professorship at the departments of Art History and Near Eastern Studies in UC Berkeley. Key publications are: A Monumental Manifestation of the Shî‘ite Faith in Late Twelfth-Century Iran: The Case of the Gunbad-i ‘Alawiyân, Hamadân, in Oxford Studies in Islamic Art 11, Oxford University Press, 1996; “‘Alî b. Abî ?âlib – The Lion of God: Iconographical Study of the Lion Image in Shî‘î-inspired Mi‘râj Paintings”, in Survey of Persian Art 18 (2004), 265-426, Mazda Publications, Costa Mesa, California; “The Iconography of the Dome of the Rock”, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 22 (1999), 158-207; “A Pictorial Representation of the Hadîth al-thaqalayn in an Ilkhânid copy of Bal‘amî’s Tarjuma-yi târîkh-i ?abarî in the Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.”, in Studies in the Iconography of Islamic Art in Honour of Robert Hillenbrand, ed. Bernard O’Kane, Edinburgh University Press, 2004; “Illustrations of the Parable of the Ship of Faith in Ferdowsi’s Prologue to the Shahnama”, in Shahnama Studies I, ed. Charles Melville (200), 1-40.


Dr Emily Shovelton completed her doctorate in 2009 on illustrated Persian manuscripts produced in 15th-century Sultanate India. She has worked on a number of projects at the British Museum and is currently tutoring Islamic modules for Asian Art courses at SOAS and the V&A Museum in London.


Dr Shokoufeh Taghi is a poet, author, psychologist and scholar who has published several academic articles; her PhD dissertation in Iranian Studies, the ‘Two Wings of Wisdom’, was published in Sweden in 2000, and her self-translated manuscript was published in Iran in 2003. She completed a post-doctoral degree in religion (Yale University, 2002) and works in the field of Islamic studies, with a specialty in Sufi literature. Her recent work, ‘A book on the Meaning of Baxt in the Oral and Written culture of Iranina’ (Ma’nay-e baxt dar farhang-e shafahi vakatbiy-e Iraninan) was printed in February 2010.

Born in Iran, Shokoufeh Taghi, while studying at Tehran University in 1978, began teaching story writing in Tehran’s private schools. After the Revolution, she taught literature at Tehran’s High schools and worked as a playwright and storyteller on Tehran radio. From 1981-83, when universities were closed, and after 1985, when she got her degree in Judicial Law, she worked for ‘Canoon parvaresh fekri coodacan va nojavanan’, the Institution for the Intellectual Development of Children. She is author of the novel ‘Quest for Truth’ (Dar jostejooy-e haqiqat), published in 2007, and has written more than twenty children’s books, which have received numerous national and international prizes and one of which, the ‘Most Beautiful Song’ (Zibatarin avaz) was named Iran’s book of year in 1986. She has also illustrated four of her books for children. She has currently completed a novel, ‘The Christian Girl’ (Doxtar-e tarsa), which will be published in November 2010.


Saeed Talajooy is a scholar of comparative cultural and literary studies. His current research is focused on the changing patterns of Iranian identities in Iranian cultural products. He has taught courses and published articles on world literatures, Persian literature and Iranian cinema and theatre and is currently working on a book on Iranian drama. He has also worked with his colleague, Karima Laachir, to edit a volume on resistance through the arts in the Middle East. The book, Resistance in Contemporary Middle Eastern Cultures: Literature, Cinema and Music, will be published by Routledge in 2011.


Dr Gabrielle van den Berg, lecturer in Persian, University of Leiden, is currently working on a project entitled The Persian Epic Cycle and the Shahnama of Ferdowsi, financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.


Christine van Ruymbeke is currently Soudavar Lecturer in Persian at the University of Cambridge, U.K. and was formerly Lecturer at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), where she graduated. Her research interests lie in classical Persian literature. She has published articles on the scientific knowledge in the works of Nezami of Ganja, on the Persian versions of the Kalila wa Dimna cycle of animal fables and on the phenomenon of re-writing in Medieval Persian literature. Her book entitled Science and Poetry in Medieval Persia: The Botany of Nizami’s Khamsa has won the 2009 World Prize for the Book of the Year of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Her forthcoming monograph is an analysis of the 15th-c. Herat rewriting of the Kalila wa Dimna cycle of animal fables.


Dr Sara Nur Yildiz, a historian of medieval and early Ottoman Anatolia, received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2006. She is currently completing a monograph based on her doctoral dissertation, Mongol Rule in Seljuk Anatolia: the Politics of Conquest and History Writing, 1243-1282, as well as working on a general study of Seljuk Anatolia, entitled The Seljuks of Anatolia: A Muslim Empire on the Frontier. She contributed a chapter on Persian historical writing in the Ottoman empire for the forthcoming volume, Persian Historiography edited by Charles Melville.