Askari, Nasrin

Research fellow and translator, University of Birmingham

Phone Number
Email Address

Nasrin Askari is the author of The Medieval Reception of the Shāhnāma as a Mirror for Princes (Brill, 2016), which won the World Award for Book of the Year in Iran. Currently, Nasrin is working as a Research Fellow and Translator on the Persian segment of the ERC-funded project “Global Literary Theory: Caucasus Literatures Compared,” led by Professor Rebecca Gould at the University of Birmingham. Nasrin’s primary areas of research specialization are classical Persian literature, the history and culture of late antique and medieval Iran, the Perso-Islamic literature of wisdom and advice, and medieval Persian popular literature. Nasrin completed her PhD with full funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has held Postdoctoral Fellowships at the University of British Columbia, where she published her first monograph and developed UBC’s first curriculum in Iranian Studies. She has also spent more than a year at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, as a Bahari Visiting Scholar in the Persian Arts of the Book to conduct research on medieval Persian manuscripts. Her annotated edition of the Mūnis-nāma, a twelfth/thirteenth-century work of wisdom and advice for the elites, especially female elites, of the Atbaegs of Azerbaijan is forthcoming in Bunyād-i Mauqūfāt-i duktur Maḥmūd-i Afshār (Dr. Mahmud Afshar’s Endowments). She is also contributing to the research project “At the crossroads of Punjabi and Persian: The Traveling Tale of the Lovers, Hīr and Raṅjhā,” led by Anne Murphy and funded by Insight Grant of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

University of Toronto

PhD, The Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations 2012

Based on a broad survey of the reception of Firdausī’s Shāhnāma in medieval times, the dissertation demonstrates that Firdausī’s oeuvre was primarily perceived as a book of wisdom and advice for kings and courtly élites—a type of work that is generally known today to belong to the literary genre of mirrors of princes. The medieval reception of the Shāhnāma as a mirror for princes is clearly evident in the comments of medieval authors about Firdausī and his work, and in their use of the Shāhnāma in the composition of their own works. The production of a particular genre of literature known as ikhtiyārāt-i Shāhnāma (selections from the Shāhnāma) in medieval times and the remarkable attention of the authors of mirror for princes to Firdausī’s opus are particularly illuminating in this regard.

The survey of the reception of Firdausī’s Shāhnāma in medieval times is complemented by a close textual reading of the Ardashīr cycle in the Shāhnāma in comparison with other medieval historical accounts about Ardashīr, in order to illustrate how history in the Shāhnāma is used merely as a framework for the presentation of ideas and ideals of kingship. Using ancient Persian beliefs regarding the ideal state of the world as a basis, the study demonstrates that Ardashīr in the Shāhnāma is represented as a saviour of the world. Within this context, the author offers a new interpretation of the symbolic tale of Ardashīr’s fight against a giant worm, and explain why the idea of the union of kingship and religion, a major topic in almost all medieval Persian mirrors for princes, has often been attributed to Ardashīr. Finally, the Ardashīr cycle in the Shāhnāma is compared with nine medieval Persian mirrors for princes to demonstrate that the ethico-political concepts contained in them, as well as the portrayal of Ardashīr, remain more or less the same throughout, reinforcing the idea that the intentions of the authors who composed them were the same.

Study of the Shāhnāma as a mirror for princes, as this study shows, not only reveals the meaning of its symbolic tales, but also sheds light on the pre-Islamic roots of some of the ethico-political concepts presented in the medieval Perso-Islamic literature of wisdom and advice for kings and courtiers.