Maria Subtelny Photo [MS]

Subtelny, Maria


The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

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A native of Toronto, Prof. Subtelny received her PhD from Harvard University in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She has been teaching in the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus) since 1984. Her area of specialization is the history and culture of medieval Iran from Late Antiquity to the early modern period, with a focus on the Timurid period of the 15th century.


Recent publications

Kashifi’s Asrar-i qasimi: A Late Timurid Manual of the Occult Sciences and Its Safavid Afterlife.” In Islamicate Occult Sciences in Theory and Practice, edited by Liana Saif, Francesca Leoni, Matthew Melvin-Koushki, and Farouk Yahya, chap. 7, pp. 267–313. Leiden: Brill, 2021.

“A Man of Letters: Hosayn Va‘ez Kashefi and His Persian Project.” In The Timurid Century, edited by Charles Melville, chap. 6, pp. 121–34. Vol. 9 of The Idea of Iran. London: I. B. Tauris, 2020.


Current research

Title of project: “Advice for a Prodigal Prince: Kashifi’s Akhlaq-i muhsini.” An edition, commentary, and translation of a Persian work on political ethics composed by Husayn Va‘iz Kashifi at the beginning of the 16th century for the son of the Timurid ruler of Herat, Sultan-Husayn Bayqara. Akhlaq-i muhsini is a prosimetrical work that represented a summa of Perso-Islamic advice literature and was highly influential in both the Mughal Indian and Ottoman Turkish empires.


Selected publications

“The Works of Ḥusayn Vā‘iẓ Kāshifī as a Source for the Study of Sufism in Late 15th– and Early 16th-Century Central Asia.” In Sufism in Central Asia: New Perspectives on Sufi Traditions, 15th–21st Centuries, edited by Devin DeWeese and Jo-Ann Gross, 98–118. Leiden: Brill, 2018.

“The Islamic Ascension Narrative in the Context of Conversion in Medieval Iran: An Apocalypse at the Intersection of Orality and Textuality.” In Orality and Textuality in the Iranian World: Patterns of Interaction across the Centuries, edited by Julia Rubanovich, 93–129. Leiden: Brill, 2015.

“An Old Tale with a New Twist: The Elephant and the Blind Men in Rūmī’s Masnavī and Its Precursors.” In No Tapping around Philology: A Festschrift in Honor of Wheeler McIntosh Thackson Jr.’s 70th Birthday, edited by Alireza Korangy and Daniel J. Sheffield, 1–22. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014.

“Between Persian Legend and Samanid Orthodoxy: Accounts about Gayumarth in Bal‘ami’s Tarikhnama.” In Ferdowsi, the Mongols and the History of Iran: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia, Studies in Honour of Charles Melville, edited by Robert Hillenbrand, A. C. S. Peacock, and Firuza Abdullaeva, 33–45. London: I. B. Tauris, 2013.

“Zoroastrian Elements in the Islamic Ascension Narrative: The Case of the Cosmic Cock.” In Mediaeval and Modern Iranian Studies: Proceedings of the 6th European Conference of Iranian Studies (Vienna, 2007), edited by Maria Szuppe, Anna Krasnowolska, and Claus V. Pedersen, 193–212. Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 45. Paris: Association pour l’Avancement des Études Iraniennes, 2011.

“The Binding Pledge (möchälgä): A Chinggisid Practice and Its Survival in Safavid Iran.” In New Perspectives on Safavid Iran: Empire and Society, edited by Colin P. Mitchell, 9–29. London: Routledge, 2011.

“Tamerlane and His Descendants: From Paladins to Patrons.” In The Eastern Islamic World, Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries, edited by David O. Morgan and Anthony Reid, 169–200. Vol. 3 of The New Cambridge History of Islam. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

“The Traces of the Traces: Reflections of the Garden in the Persian Mystical Imagination.” In Gardens and Imagination: Cultural History and Agency, edited by Michel Conan, 19–39. Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, vol. 30. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2008.

“Visionary Rose: Metaphorical Interpretation of Horticultural Practice in Medieval Persian Mysticism.” In Botanical Progress, Horticultural Innovation and Cultural Change, edited by Michel Conan and W. John Kress, 13–34. Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, vol. 28. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2007.

Timurids in Transition: Turko-Persian Politics and Acculturation in Medieval Iran. Leiden: Brill, 2007.

Le monde est un jardin: Aspects de l’histoire culturelle de l’Iran médiéval. Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 28. Paris: Association pour 1’Avancement des Études Iraniennes, 2002.

“Agriculture and the Timurid Chahārbāgh: The Evidence from a Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual.” In Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design, edited by Attilio Petruccioli, 110–28. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997.

“Mīrak-i Sayyid Ghiyās and the Timurid Tradition of Landscape Architecture: Further Notes to ‘A Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual in Context’.” Studia Iranica 24, no. 1 (1995): 19–60.

“A Medieval Persian Agricultural Manual in Context: The Irshād al-zirā‘a in Late Timurid and Early Safavid Khorasan.” Studia Iranica 22, no. 2 (1993): 167–217.

“A Taste for the Intricate: The Persian Poetry of the Late Timurid Period.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 136, no. 1 (1986): 56–79


Courses currently taught (undergraduate and graduate)

History of Iran: From the Sasanians to the Safavids

Medieval Persian Historiography and Diplomatics

The Book of Kings (Shahnameh): Persian Myth, History, and Art

Persian Literature: The Epic Tradition

Persian Literature: Ethical, Erotic, Mystical

Persian Mirrors for Princes

The Persian Manuscript Tradition


Recent PhD theses supervised

  • Abolfazl Moshiri, “The Devil’s Advocates: The Portrayal of Iblis in Persian Mystical Literature,” 2021.
  • Usman Hamid, “Tracing the Footsteps of the Prophet across the Indian Ocean: The Materiality of Prophetic Piety in Mughal India,” 2020.
  • Shuntu Kuang, “For King and What Country? Timurid Conceptions of Rulership and Political Community in Relation to Territory, 1370–1530,” 2020.