Translating Persia: Safavid Iran and Early Modern English Writing Open Access

My dissertation examines literary encounters between England and Persia in the early modern period. English narratives about Persia from this time view the culture, the people, and the landscape through the prism of classical and medieval representations of the ancient Persian Empire. By reading texts such as Herodotus' The Histories, Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and even medieval romances about Alexander the Great, early modern English writers such as Thomas Preston, Christopher Marlowe, and Richard Farrant imagine a Persia that is filled with ghosts of an ancient past and relics of an empire in ruins. When travelers begin to embark on voyages to early modern Persia, however, they ultimately discover a burgeoning nation finding its place within the early modern global trade system. Travel writers like Anthony Sherley and Thomas Herbert attempt to reconcile these temporal and spatial shifts by writing themselves into Persia's long history through a series of linguistic (mis)translations. Despite England's place at the geographical, political, and economic periphery of early modern trade, these travelers attempt to assert a linear temporal progression that freezes Persia in the past in order to position England as the enlightened and developed telos of global history. Their attempts to translate Persia and its Persian language, however, lead to the translation of their own identities. Rather than solidifying their roles as English and Christian representatives in the face of difference, these figures inhabit and perform a new version of the self that blurs the very lines that seem to separate Christendom from Islamicate cultures.

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