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Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetics

Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetics

Second Edition

Olga M. Davidson

ISBN 9780674073203

Publication date: 07/15/2013

Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetics applies comparative literary approaches to classical Persian traditions of composing and performing poetry and song. Olga M. Davidson focuses on epic, especially the classical epic Shāhnāma, composed in the early eleventh century CE by the poet Ferdowsi, and on the relationship of this epic to other genres that are found embedded in it. Included among these other genres are forms of verbal art that were originally composed without the aid of writing, such as women’s laments. Davidson explores the many ways in which the epic Shāhnāma incorporates oral poetic traditions in general. Surveying the current state of the art in oral poetic studies, she concentrates on applications of these studies to classical Persian prose as well as poetry. Of special interest is her critical analysis of both modern and ancient claims about the turning of prose into poetry. This second edition of the book contains an added chapter about “live” performances of the epic Shāhnāma.


  • Many have forgotten the role of the gosan in oral epic literature. To believe that Persian poetics is only retelling what they learned in a book is to hold that old accentual meter is really newly borrowed from Arabic, which is hardly right. Dr. Davidson has well explained this in her revised book.

    —Richard N. Frye, Harvard University


  • Olga M. Davidson is a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations at Boston University.

Book Details

  • 140 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Ilex Foundation

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