Dr Firuza Melville

Director of Research, Shahnameh Centre for Persian Studies, Pembroke College, Cambridge

Dr Firuza Melville is a graduate (BA, MA honour) of the Iranian Philology Department, Faculty of Oriental Studies, St Petersburg University, where she received her PhD in Iranian philology, Art and Islamic Studies in 1989. She was an Associate Professor at the University of St Petersburg when she joined the Cambridge Shahnama Project in 2002 after a term at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) and a term at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) as a Fulbright Professor. From September 2005 until September 2010 she was Lecturer in Persian Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow and Keeper of the Firdousi Library of Wadham College. From October 2010 Dr Melville was the Iran Heritage Foundation Research Associate of the Cambridge Shahnama Project. Since September 2013 she is the Director of Research of the Pembroke Shahnama Centre (Cambridge Centre for Persian Studies).

Research interests and recent publications

Her main research interests include Classical Persian literature, Russian-Iranian cultural and diplomatic encounters, Medieval Persian book art, Persian literary classics in contemporary art and Russian cultural Orientalism in Iran, Central Asia and the Caucasus.

Classical and modern Persian literature, especially the debate literature (“The Bodleian manuscript of Asadi Tusi’s debate between an Arab and a Persian: its place in the transition from ancient debate to classical panegyric”, in: Iran, XLVII, 2009, 69-95; “The origins of the mun?zara genre in New Persian literature”, Metaphor and Imagery in Persian poetry, ed. A. A. Seyed-Gohrab, Leiden-Boston: 2012, 249-73);

Russian-Iranian cultural and diplomatic encounters, Persian and Russian travelogue literature of the Qajar period at the start of the Great Game period (“Khosrow Mirza’s mission to St Petersburg in 1829”, Iranian-Russian encounters. Empires and Revolutions since 1800, ed. S. Cronin, London-New York, 2013, 69-94);

Comparative visual interpretation of East-West intertextuality, especially in the stories from the Shahnama (“Kingly flight: Nimr?d, Kay K?v?s, Alexander, or why the angel has the fish”, Persica, Leiden, 23, 2010, 1-29 and in The Alexander Romance in Persia and the East, ed. R. Stoneman et al., Groningen, 2012, 405-9; “From Zulaykha to Zuleika Dobson: femmes fatales in Persian literature and beyond”, Ferdowsi, The Mongols and Iranian History: Art, Literature and Culture from Early Islam to Qajar Persia, eds. R. Hillenbrand, A.C.S Peacock and F. Abdullaeva, London, 2013, 235-44; “The Legend of Siyavush or the Legend of Yusuf?”, Ferdowsi’s Shahnama. Millennial Perspectives, eds. O. Davidson and M.S. Simpson, Ilex Foundation series 13, Boston, 2013, 28-57; “Women in the romances of the Shahnama”, Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond, ed. Susan Scollay, Melbourne-Oxford, 2012, 41-5.);

Persian mediaeval book art and codicology (The Persian Book of Kings: Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama from the Bodleian library, Oxford, 2008/co-authored with Ch. Melville), Shahnama in contemporary art (“Ferdowsi: ‘a male chauvinist or a feminist?”, Painting the Persian Book of Kings: Ancient Text and Modern Images, ed. M. Milz, Cambridge, 2010, 103-120);

Russian Orientalism in visual art, literature, music and ballet in Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus (From Les Ballets Russes to Les Ballets Persans, forthcoming Proceedings of the conference “Orientality: Cultural Orientalism and Mentality”, organised jointly with the Orientalist Museum at Doha in May 2013). For more extended list of publications see the webpage of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.