Research Lecture - Job Talk

When and Where

Thursday, March 03, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Online lecture via Zoom


Dr. Daniel J. Sheffield


In search of lost books: The idea of renewal in Zoroastrian literature

Dr. Daniel J. Sheffield, a candidate for the FEZANA Professorship in Zoroastrian Languages and Literature

Zoroastrian literature is suffused with themes of loss and renewal. For generations, scholars have debated how to bridge the gap which separates surviving texts in Avestan and Pahlavi from their ancient antecedents by interpreting sources which range from traditional narratives about the destruction of books to colophons of extant manuscripts. While there has been much attention in recent years to understanding the fragility of the Zoroastrian textual tradition and the resulting ‘hermeneutics of loss,’ in this talk, I propose to focus instead on a related but seldom explored aspect of Zoroastrian literature: the idea of renewing the religious tradition (dēn) through scribal activity, translation, and new literary composition. I argue that by shifting our focus from loss to renewal better allows us to see continuities between Zoroastrian priests’ interests in the preservation and reinterpretation of ancient literature in Avestan and Pahlavi with their prolific new compositions in New Persian and Gujarati during the medieval and early modern periods. In this talk, we will examine passages about Zoroastrian scribal and literary activity from texts which include the Pahlavi Dēnkard (9th century CE), the New Persian Book of Zarathustra (13th century), the Gujarati Book of Ardaviraf (17th century), and the Indian Persian Book of King George (19th century CE) in order better to understand the creative aspects of the Zoroastrian literature as a whole, both in relationship to uniquely Zoroastrian ideas about cosmology and eschatology and to developments in neighboring literary traditions.

To attend, click the zoom link on Thursday, March 3, 2022 at 2 PM
Meeting ID: 844 0499 7986
Passcode: 945766