MEMS 327 - Shahnameh: Iranian Myth, Epic, and History
Fall 2020, Section 002
Instruction Mode: Section 002 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)
Department: LSA History
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This course is an introduction to Iranian myth, epic, and history through a close reading of the Shahnameh, the foundational text of Persian classical poetry and a major achievement in world literature. Written over a thousand years ago, the Shahnameh (‘King-Book’, usually translated as “The Book of Kings’) is a repository of the historical and cultural memory of the Iranian people, weaving myth, epic, folklore, allegory, chronicle, romance, and tragedy into a grand narrative of Iran’s ancient past. In addition to its ethnographic and historical value, the Shahnameh is also an outstanding work of poetry, and through the close reading of selected episodes, we will consider a number of topics, themes, and questions that are raised by and central to the text: the integration of Indo-Iranian mythology and Zoroastrian religious beliefs into an ostensibly Islamic world-view; competing notions of “Iran” as a land, people, and nation; dilemmas of fate and theodicy, kingship and political legitimacy; anxieties of masculinity, especially the relation between fathers and sons; the intersection of animality, the demonic, and femininity; women in ancient and medieval Iran; story-telling and oral performance; and the relationship of individual stories to the work’s overarching structure. In addition to exploring these topics, students can expect rigorous training in their analytical writing.

Course Requirements:

Grades are assessed through participation (40%) and written work (60%, consisting of two essays and a final paper).

Intended Audience:

This course is best suited for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students interested in Iran, mythology, epic, fantasy, history, and comparative literature. All texts will be in English, but students interested in reading the Persian original may sign up for PERSIAN 409 for an additional credit; our session time will be arranged in the first week of class. Graduate students may enroll in the course under MIDEAST 592.

Class Format:

Two 90-minute seminars weekly


MEMS 327 - Shahnameh: Iranian Myth, Epic, and History
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM

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