Open House | From Homer to Ferdowsi, with Olga M. Davidson

We were delighted to welcome Olga M. Davidson for an Open House discussion when she talked about why she began studying Homeric epic but went on to study the Shāhnāma of Ferdowsi and its poetic world.

About her book Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings:

Olga M. Davidson argues that….whenever the Shāhnāma was performed by the poet or by later practitioners of his poetry, the performer could interact with his grand characters by re-engaging with their stories, as if for the first time. After documenting the oral poetic performance traditions underlying the text of the Shāhnāma in all its variations, Davidson argues that the heroic tradition of this epic is deeply ancient, stemming from Indo-European poetic traditions. A primary example is the great warrior Rostam, who upholds Iranian kingship while at the same time posing a threat to kings who prove unworthy of the crown.
(About Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings)

You can watch the recording of the event below or via our YouTube channel.

Members can start and continue the discussion in this forum thread.

Links and references

Mentioned during the discussion:

Translations of the Shāhnāma



Olga M. Davidson

Olga M. 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. She is the author of Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings (Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1994; 2nd ed. Mazda Press: Los Angeles, CA, 2006; 3rd ed. distributed by Harvard University Press, 2013) and Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetry, Bibliotheca Iranica: Intellectual Traditions Series (Mazda Press: Los Angeles, CA, 2000; 2nd ed. distributed by Harvard University Press, 2013), both of which have been translated into Persian and distributed in Iran. 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) 209–215; “The Text of Ferdowsi’s Shâhnâma and the Burden of the Past.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 118 (1998) 63–68, and “The Burden of Mortality: Alexander and the Dead in Persian Epic and Beyond,” Epic and History (David Konstan and Kurt Raaflaub, eds., Wiley-Blackwell, Malden / Oxford 2010) 212–222.

Image credit

Rustam Fights Afrasiyab - manuscript illustrationDetail from Rustam fights Afrasiyab, from Walters manuscript W.602
The Walters Art Museum, Creative Commons License.