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The “Tale of the Virtuous Woman” (TVW) by the Sufi hagiographer and poet, Farīd al-Dīn ʿAttār, is quite unique, as Sufi tales go, in its depiction of a woman from a well-to-do family: young, beautiful, and virtuous, she becomes a recognized spiritual and civic leader independently and in a foreign land. It, thus, invites further inquiry. It has been noted that the TVW, which appears in ʿAttār’s long narrative poem (masnavī), the Ilāhīnāmah (Book of the Divine), shares popular motifs with ancient romances. Detailed examinations reveal that it is closer in affinity to tales of female Christian saints and heroines, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Life of Eugenia, Life and Miracles of Thecla, and Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions, in the way they adopt popular motifs for religio-spiritual aims. Strikingly, the former three and the TVW similarly depict independently attained female leadership. This article, thus, analyzes the versions of the TVW circulating in Iran and the possible routes the aforementioned Christian narratives circulated within and without the Iranian world. Then, it offers an analysis of the TVW and Life of Eugenia which, although separated in time, space, culture, and language, similarly explore female leadership and spiritual, familial, and civic conversion.
Thecla is one of the most prominent figures of early Christianity, and her tale, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, one of the most popular. She has been widely celebrated as the apostle Paul’s disciple and heralded as an apostle in her own right, as a preeminent saint, model of chastity, charismatic confessor, teacher, leader, intercessor, and proto-martyr. Thecla and her tale have been studied from multiple angles (ancient romance, church history, cult, gender, women’s story-telling). However, the tremendous impact Thecla and her tale had on shaping the Lives of saints and their storyworlds remains little studied. This volume offers, for the first time, a collection of papers that explores the reception of Thecla and her tale in medieval (broadly defined) hagiographical texts composed in a variety of languages across Eurasia and North and East Africa. The introduction, thus, sets the stage for analyses by offering a synopsis of the tale, its more famous aspects for medieval readers and modern scholars, and its impact on a broad range of hagiographical tales. It also highlights the most prominent techniques that hagiographers deployed to model their protagonists on Thecla and the methodologies (intertextuality, reception) used across the volume that call them forth.
Saint Thecla was one of the most prominent figures of early Christianity who provided a model of virginity and a role-model for women in the early Church. She was the object of cult and of pilgrimage and her tale in the Acts of Paul and Thecla made a tremendous impact on later hagiographies of both female and male saints. This volume explores this impact on medieval hagiographical texts composed in Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek, Irish, Latin, Persian, and Syriac. It investigates how they evoked and/or invoked Thecla and her tale in constructing the lives and story worlds of their chosen saints and offers detailed original readings of the lives of various heroines and heroes. The book adds further depth and nuance to our understanding of Thecla's popularity and the spread of her legend and cult.
The paper reconsiders the apocryphal stories regarding the Shahnama's initial reception to propose that it was only after long narrative poems gained currency that the Shahnama was recognized as a masterpiece. The paper analyzes the structure and themes of several histories written before and during the Samanid period and compares them with the Shahnama and the content of histories and epics produced immediately afterwards, to argue that the initial reception of the Shahnama did not depend on Sultan Mahmud Ghazni alone. It further argues that the Shahnama's aim, content, and execution differed from the histories and poetry produced in the decades immediately preceding and succeeding it, which would account for the lag in its acceptance and popularity. This led later biographers to superimpose their regret over Firdausi's treatment onto Sultan Mahmud Ghazni, who by their accounts denied him the fame and glory he deserved in his lifetime.
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