A Deluge of Tears: The Conflux of Persian Shiʿi Literature, Ritual, and Identity in Martyrdom Narratives
Anderson, Paul Gerard
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CitationAnderson, Paul Gerard. 2021. A Deluge of Tears: The Conflux of Persian Shiʿi Literature, Ritual, and Identity in Martyrdom Narratives. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation presents the first English in-depth study of one of the most important maqtals (martyrdom narratives) ever written in Persian, the Rowz̤at ol-Shohadā’ (Meadow of the Martyrs) by Ḥoseyn b. ʿAlī Beyhaqī Kāshefī (d. 910 A.H./1504 C.E.). Through the broader lens of the literary apotheosis of a historical figure, Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī (d. 61 A.H./680 C.E.) into an epic hero, I argue three points. Firstly, that Kāshefī’s text largely changed the landscape of Iranian Twelver Shiʿism by recasting Ḥusayn’s story, resulting in the rise of Persian martyrdom literature. Secondly, that Kāshefī’s decision to compose the book in Persian, rather than Arabic like most previous maqtals, as well as his incorporation of references from Iranian legend, especially from the Shāhnāmeh (Book of Kings) of Abū ’l-Qāsem Ferdowsī (d. 410-415 A.H./1020-1025 C.E.) resulted in a maqtal which was particularly appealing to a Persian-speaking audience. Thirdly, that after Kāshefī’s death, the Twelver Shiʿi Safavid dynasty encouraged the creation of a mourning cult with the Rowz̤at as its centerpiece. With this, the Safavids laid out their vision for the conversion of Iran to a Persianized Twelver Shiʿism.
Central to my analysis of the Rowz̤at and its relationship to the pre-Islamic Persian literary history is my original theoretical paradigm of memory relics, which through a three-layered framework of form, function, and meaning, provides a fresh basis for understanding phenomena typically labelled syncretic. Memory relics are intended as a methodological tool in analyzing the genealogy of religious, linguistic, and socio-cultural interactions without relying on Orientalist constructs of religion.
This dissertation opens by considering the Arabic origins of the maqtal genre and its literary influences. From there, I provide a detailed discussion of Kāshefī’s life, methodology, and an analysis of the central themes of the Rowz̤at. This examination is complimented by an overview of pre-Islamic and Classical Persian epic and ethical literature, allowing a nuanced evaluation of Kāshefī’s thematic influences. This dissertation peaks with an exposition of the Rowz̤at’s popularity during the Safavid period, its development into rowz̤eh-khvānī (chanting the Rowz̤at), culminating with its fusion into ritual and dramatic taʿziyeh (commemoration).
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368446
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