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NEAR E 286 A: Themes in Near Eastern Literature

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:10pm - 3:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 323 A
Naghmeh Samini
Naghmeh Samini

Syllabus Description:






Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) is the essential Epic poetry from Iran. It was written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi in the 10th / 11th century. Shahnameh has three main sections: Myths, legends, and history. Ferdowsi’s excellent knowledge of Iranian culture and archetypes has shaped his ability to create a body of work with an analytic view of the cultural issues of his time.

Ferdowsi’s work transcends beyond his time, and there have been several interpretations and adaptations of his poetry over time. Among all media,

Shahnameh has had a significant impact on traditional and modern theatre in Iran. Iranian playwrights and performers have used Shahnameh as a rich source of ideas, stories, and narratives in different historical periods. The performers have created various types of adaptations -from Storytelling to dramatic plays- to present their critical approaches to society.

This course (Shahname and Performance) will provide you with a better understanding of the main stories of Shahnameh, along with the skill of analyzing the plays and performances adapted from this book. Shahname and performance course is recommended to the students researching Persian theatre, poetry, and culture.





  • Attain a familiarity with the history of the creation of Shahnameh.
  • Build an overview of Shahnameh as cultural Identity: Theories and Ides
  • Be equipped to find an understanding of Shahnameh and Performance in Iran.


Key learning outcomes:


  • You will be familiar with Ferdowsi as the creator of Shahnameh: why and how he Wrote this book?
  • You will be able to identify and analyze some of the most stories in Shahnameh.
  • You will be able to speak about the cultural analysis of  Iranian Theatrical adaptation of Shahnameh.



Assignments & Grading: 


  • Analytical Essays: 20% 


There will be one analytical essay (between 600-750 words) assigned during the summer course to express your independent thoughts on some of the key issues presented during the course. Essays will be assessed according to content as well as style.


  • Final Presentation: 40% 

               In the  last week, The students will present their ideas about a specific Subject on   

             Shahnameh and Performance in Iran



  • Attendance and Participation: 40% 


Plagiarism & Cheating: 

  • Plagiarism and cheating are major offenses and will be taken seriously. Plagiarism pertains to passing off another’s work as your own and not giving proper credit or citation to the words, insights, and ideas of others. For your analytical essays, all direct quotations and paraphrases (putting another’s ideas in your own words) must be cited. You do not need to cite “common knowledge,” which pertains to factual information widely available in news sources, textbooks, etc. If you are not sure, always better offer a citation, and I am always available for consultation about what needs to be cited. Plagiarism will be dealt with harshly. Cheating on any of the tests or final exam will result in a grade of “F” for the student(s) caught cheating. 


Reading Assignments: 




Firdawsi Abulghasem, Shahnameh: the Persian book of kings, Dick Davis New York, Penguin,2007.


Paul Gilbert, Cultural identity and political ethics, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press,2010.









Week 1: About Shahnameh and Ferdowsi.

 Required readings :

Hamid Dabashi, The Shahnameh: The Persian Epic as World Literature, Colombia University Press, 2019.

Mahmoud Omidsalar, Poetics and politics of Iran's national epic, the Shahnameh

 New York, Palgrave Macmillan,2011.


Week 2:  Shahnameh and Traditional performance in Iran.

Required readings:

-- Gaffaray Farrokh, Evolution Of rituals and theater in Iran, Iranian studies Vol 17, No 4, 1984.


Week 3: Shahnameh and Modern theatre in Iran

Required reading:

Talajooy Saeed, Reformulation of Shahnameh Legends in Bahram Beyzaie's Plays

Routledge, Iranian studies, 2013-09-01, Vol.46 (5), p.695-71


Week 4:: Presentations and discussions.


Catalog Description: 
Significant and interesting aspects of Near Eastern culture and society as represented by literary themes. Aspects of Near Eastern life and art such as women, minority groups, mysticism, and modern literature. Content varies. May not be taken for credit if credit earned in NEAR E 330.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
March 26, 2021 - 11:55pm