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ILEX Foundation
2 Girls




 Proposal Questionnaire  Manuscript Guidelines (PDF)


The Ilex Series promotes research and scholarship in the humanistic traditions of the Mediterranean and the Near East and shares such research with a wide audience. The series is published in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies, and distributed through Harvard University Press.



Publications funded or supported by the Foundation  


Ruse and Wit book coverMirror of Dew, 

The Poetry of Alam-Taj Zhale Qa'em-Maqami

Translated with an Introduction by Asghar Seyed-Gohrab



"This book introduces a remarkable poet who is virtually unknown to all but specialists. The scholarly introduction along with the lyrical and sensitive translations fill serious gaps in our knowledge regarding the participation of women in the literary culture of modern Iran." -- Sunil Sharma

"Mirror of Dew is a fascinating collection that demonstrates just how lively a discussion was underway among elite Qajar women about the "women's question." These fascinating poems display feminist concerns in a way that we do not find in the poems of Parvin E`tes?mi, and thought we did not find until Forugh Farrokhz?d. An important work for anyone interested in the history of Qajar women." -- Franklin Lewis, University of Chicago


Ilex Foundation Series 14



Ferdowsi book coverFerdowsi's Shahnama 

Millennial Perspectives

Edited by Olga M. Davidson & Marianna Shreve Simpson



Ferdowsi’s Sh?hn?ma: Millennial Perspectives celebrates the ongoing reception, over the last thousand years, of a masterpiece of classical Persian poetry. The epic of the Sh?hn?ma or Book of Kings glorifies the spectacular achievements of Iranian civilization from its mythologized beginnings all the way to the historical time of the Arab Conquest, when the notionally unbroken sequence of Iranian sh?ss came to an end. The poet Hakim Abu’l-Q?sim, who composed this epic, was renamed Ferdowsi or “the man of Paradise” in recognition of his immortalizing artistic accomplishment. Even now, over a thousand years after his death in 1010 CE, the impact of Ferdowsi’s epic poetry reverberates in the intellectual and artistic life of Persianate cultures all over the world. Ferdowsi’s Sh?hn?ma: Millennial Perspectives undertakes a new look at the reception of Ferdowsi’s poetry, especially in the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries CE. Such a reception, the contributors to this book argue, actively engages the visual as well as the verbal arts of Iranian civilization. The paintings and other art objects illustrating the Sh?hn?ma over the ages are as vitally relevant as the words of Ferdowsi’s poetry.


Ilex Foundation Series 13



Comp. Lit. book coverComparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetics 

Second Edition

Olga M. Davidson



Comparative Literature and Classical Persian Poetics applies comparative literary approaches to classical Persian traditions of composing and performing poetry and song. Olga M. Davidson focuses on epic, especially the classical epic Shahnama, composed in the early eleventh century CE by the poet Ferdowsi, and on the relationship of this epic to other genres that are found embedded in it. Included among these other genres are forms of verbal art that were originally composed without the aid of writing, such as women’s laments. Davidson explores the many ways in which the epic Shahnamaincorporates oral poetic traditions in general. Surveying the current state of the art in oral poetic studies, she concentrates on applications of these studies to classical Persian prose as well as poetry. Of special interest is her critical analysis of both modern and ancient claims about the turning of prose into poetry. This second edition of the book contains an added chapter about “live” performances of the epic Shahnama.


Ilex Foundation Series 12



Ruse and Wit book coverRuse and Wit, 

The Humorous in Arabic, Persian and Turkish Narrative

Edited by Dominic Parviz Brookshaw



This fascinating collection of articles…enriches our knowledge of classical and modern literature in the Near and Middle East, showing the importance of wit and entertainment in writing throughout history, and alerting us to the challenge of decoding the authors’ play with bawdy satire and delicate humor.

Christine van Ruymbeke, University of Cambridge


These scholarly papers offer nuanced and comparative perspectives on interconnected literary and social histories. We learn to appreciate the place of humor--in its various manifestations in the form of jokes, witticisms, obscene and bawdy tales, and puns--both in religious and specific cultural settings.

Sunil Sharma, Boston University


Ilex Foundation Series 8



Last of the RephaimThe Last of the Rephalm, 

Conquest and Cataclysm in the Heroic Ages of Ancient Israel

Brian R. Doak



The figure of the giant has haunted the literatures of the ancient Mediterranean world, from the Greek Gigantomachy and other Aegean epic literatures to the biblical contexts of the ancient Near East. In this volume, Brian Doak argues that the giants of the Hebrew Bible are a politically, theologically, and historiographically generative group, and through their oversized bodies readers gain insight into central aspects of Israel’s symbolic universe. All that is overgrown or physically monstrous represents a connection to primeval chaos, and stands as a barrier to creation and right rule. Giants thus represent chaos-fear, and their eradication is a form of chaos maintenance by both human and divine agents. Doak argues that these biblical traditions participate in a broader Mediterranean conversation regarding giants and the end of the heroic age—a conversation that inevitably draws the biblical corpus into a discussion of the function of myth and epic in the ancient world, with profound implications for the politics of monotheism and monarchy in ancient Israel.

Brian R. Doak (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at George Fox University in Newberg, OR.


Ilex Foundation Series 7



History of BeyhaqiThe History of Beyhaqi, 

(The History of Sultan Mas'ud of Ghazna, 1030–1041)

by Abu’l-Fazl Beyhaqi

Translated by C. E. Bosworth and revised by Mohsen Ashtiany

Volumes I. II, III



Abu’l-Fazl Beyhaqi, a secretary at the court of a number of Ghaznavid rulers in Iran and Afghanistan, was an acute commentator on his age, the early medieval period.  The surviving volumes of his massive historical project, covering the years 1030-41, display wry humor as well as erudition in the sciences and literature of the time. By a deft manipulation of different styles, and timely introduction of the authorial voice as a framing device to induce a sense of heightened drama, Beyhaqi describes the fall of the great notables at the court of a doomed king.  Each episode retains its inner cohesion while the incremental repetition of one sudden fall after another brings a momentum of its own, leading inexorably, like a deadly game of chess, to checkmate and the downfall of the remover of the pawns, the perfidious monarch himself.   There are already a number of articles and books in Western languages analyzing different aspects of his art, but this is the first complete translation of the extant volumes with a detailed commentary and glossary.

C. Edmund Bosworth, F.B.A., formerly Professor of Arabic at the University of Manchester and a General Editor of the 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is the author of several internationally acclaimed books and many articles on the history and culture of the Middle East.

Mohsen Ashtiany is a research scholar at Columbia University, an editor at the Encyclopaedia Iranica, and on the editorial board of A History of Persian Literature project.  He is currently working on a study of the poet Nezami and a shorter monograph on the historian Beyhaqi.


Ilex Foundation Series 6



Dreaming Across BoundariesDreaming Across Boundaries, 

The Interpretation of Dreams in Islamic Lands

Louise Marlow, Editor



Narratives of dreams abound in the literatures of the Near East and North Africa. Such narratives, together with discussions of the significance and interpretation of dreams, feature in a wide variety of writings drawn from literary, historiographical, philosophical, religious, and medical disciplines. In a series of close studies of dream narratives, each carefully situated in its historical and literary context, this volume of twelve essays explores the diverse functions of dreams, including divination and prediction, personal reflection and resolution, and theological argument. Among the themes examined in the articles are the reception and development of Greek and Hellenistic treatments of dreams, the role of dreams in addressing and sometimes resolving conflicting theological points of view, dreams as a medium for communication with the dead, and the predictive and legitimizing role of royal dreams in the advent of new dynasties. In the context of these varied personal reflections, theological speculations, and political aspirations, which are often closely inter-related, the contributors to the collection present fascinating insights into the social history and cultural diversity of several pre-modern Muslim societies.


Ilex Foundation Series 1



STRIWomen in Epic Mahabharata, 

Kevin McGrath



This wonderful book introduces us to the great heroines of the Mahabharata, but it achieves much more. By moving between Sanskrit and English with the incisive grace of a poet, Kevin McGrath opens up the worlds of culture, language, and feminine power that shape India's greatest epic. This book is an intellectual delight for those who know Sanskrit, and for those who don't, and an insightful introduction to the words and worlds of India's most famous women, those epic women who live even today in the narratives of Hindu India.


Diana Eck, Harvard University, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies


Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society

Master of Lowell House

Director, The Pluralism Project


Kevin Mcgrath is an Associate of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University. His previous publications include The Sanskrit Hero (2004).


Ilex Foundation Series 2




STRIThe Rhetoric of Biography | Narrating Lives in Persianate 

Edited by L. Marlow



This volume presents articles on the topics of biography and autobiography in a range of sources produced within Iran and the larger Persianate world. In the context of a growing scholarly literature devoted to these subjects, especially in the Arabic literary tradition, the volume presents studies that explore still neglected areas, including biographies and autobiographies of women; biographies of specific occupational groups, such as poets; the relation of traditional lives of poets to the reception of their literary works; intertextuality across biographical and autobiographical writings in several languages; and the processes involved in the translation of written biographies to the contemporary television screen. Collectively these essays allow readers to glimpse the lives of figures from the past, to appreciate the historical, cultural, and literary contexts for their biographical and autobiographical narratives, and to reflect on the significance of these narratives in the present.



Ilex Foundation Series 4




STRIPerformance in Epic Mahabharata 

Kevin McGrath



With a background in Indology and the study of oral literature from Harvard, McGrath has taken the methodology of preliterate studies to the great Indic epic, the Mahabharata. In this book, he shows how the four named poets of the epic have created a magnificent work of art. The book will certainly have a profound impact on and point out a new direction in the study of the Mahabharata here at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Prods Oktor Skjærvø, Aga Khan Professor of Iranian Studies at Harvard University.


Kevin Mcgrath is an Associate of the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies at Harvard University. His previous publications include The Sanskrit Hero (2004) and Stri: Women in Epic Mahabharata (Ilex Foundation Series 2, 2009)


Ilex Foundation Series 5




Persian Literature & Judeo-Persian Culture

Persian Literature and Judeo-Persian Culture

Collected Writings of Sorour S. Soroudi

Edited by H. E. Chehabi



Dr. Sorour S. Soroudi (1938-2002) of the Department of Iranian Studies at the Hebrew University began her scholarly career as a specialist in the neglected field of modern Persian poetry. Her studies and translations did much to bring this poetry to the attention of critics and scholars. In later years, Dr. Soroudi turned her attention to Judeo-Persian literature and folk culture. Her continuing literary studies, combined with extensive fieldwork, produced major contributions to the study of the history and culture of Iranian Jewry. This volume, meticulously and sensitively edited by Houchang E. Chehabi, brings together many of Dr. Soroudi’s published articles in these two areas. Included in this book is a previously unpublished piece as well as an article that appears here in English for the first time.


Ilex Foundation Series 3




Poet and Hero

Poet and Hero in the Persian Book of Kings

3rd Edition

Olga M. Davidson



A milestone in Persian Classical literature, Ferdowsi's Book of Kings evokes a long span of Iranian history and myths following a chronicle of its kings from the creation of the world to the conquest of Iran by the armies of the Moslem Arabs in the latter half of the seventh century. Drawing on comprehensive research in oral poetics and epic traditions, as well as on her own thoughtful reading of other monumental works of world literature which have been so influential in shaping our present day notions of national and cultural identity, Professor Davidson enhances our understanding of the relationship between myth and epic and orality and literary history. The radical revaluation of long held assumptions is buttressed by close attention to the text itself. These frequent textual references provide the reader with the scope and opportunity to assess the evidence for the searching questions and propositions posed by the book in the closely connected fields of comparative literature and religion, and literary theory and history.


Cover image: Illustrated manuscript folio, Khavaran-nama. A visionary encounter depicting the author receiving inspiration from Ferdowsi as the arch-poet. Shiraz, Iran, Turkoman Period, ca. 1480. Ink, colors, and gold on paper. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1955 (55.184.1). Photograph ©2005 The Metropolitan Museum of Art."


Ilex Foundation Series 11






Embroidered with Gold, Strung with Pearls : The Traditional Ballads of Bosnian Women. Aida Vidan. Copyright © 2003 The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature.

* This publication has won the Heldt Translation Prize awarded by the Association for Women in Slavic Studies, a branch of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS).

From Goethe's poetic interest in them in the eighteenth century, down to the work of scholars such as Milman Parry and Albert Lord in the twentieth, South Slavic traditional ballads have intrigued many by their beauty and eloquence. These songs are now made available to the English reader in this bilingual edition offering a selection of materials from Harvard University's Parry Collection.

Visit the Harvard University Press web site for ordering information.
Visit the Milman Parry Collection web site.
The Center for Hellenic Studies also provided support for this book.


Vafsi Folk Tales, by Dr. Donald L. Stilo. A new work on Iranian languages, linguistics, and folklore, entitled Vafsi Folk Tales, by Dr. Donald L. Stilo, presently at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, is forthcoming from Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden. The volume was edited and provided with additional annotations on the folklore by Professor Ulrich Marzolph of the Enzyklopädie des Märchens of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. With generous financial support from the ILEX Foundation, it is now possible to prepare a digitally remastered audio compact disc to accompany this collection of Vafsi tales. More on the Vafsi project.

Publication project of renowned film critic Godfrey Cheshire on Iranian cinema. Ongoining support.

The Singer of Tales, 2nd edition. Ongoing support.
By Albert Lord.

Singing the Past. Ongoing support.
Cornell University Press.

Understanding Near Eastern Literature. Ongoing support. 
Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Ferdowsi's Shahnameh and Khamsa of Nezami. September 2000.
Special facsimile edition, in association with the Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia.

After Antiquity: Greek Language, Myth, and Metaphor. 2002.
By Margaret Alexiou. Cornell University Press.

Understanding Near Eastern Literatures / A Spectrum of Interdisciplinary Approaches
Eds. Beatrice Gruendler and Verena Klemm. Pilot volume in a new series to be published by Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Middle East Report. Fall 1999.
Terry Walz, Executive Director. Bruce Dunne, Chair.
Middle East Reasearch and Information Project (MERIP)
Ilex Foundation provided support for a special issue on Iran of Middle East Report, published by MERIP.



Select Articles by Ilex Foundation Trustees and Officers

Mohammad J. Mahallati and Olga M. Davidson published an artcile in the Wednesday, July 20, 2005 edition of The Daily Star entitled Against the thugs, Iranian self-criticism.

Olga Davidson and Mohammad Mahallati published an article for on March 04, 2004 entitled Iran, Egypt and the Ikhwan.

Olga Davidson and Mohammad Mahallati published an article for on August 28, 2003 entitled Social Islam versus individual Islam: impacts of imbalances.

Olga Davidson and Mohammad J. Mahallati published an article in the December 4, 2002 International Herald Tribune titled "Moderates everywhere have a duty." Read the article on the IHT web site. A PDF of this article in Arabic translation is available.

Olga Davidson and Mohammad Mahallati are quoted in an article on the importance of Iran "for a prosperous Afghanistan." The article was written by Khataya Chhor forRadio Free Europe Radio Liberty.

Olga Davidson and Mohammad Mahallati authored an article entitled "To Rebuild Afghanistan, Look Next Door." Originally published in The New York Times.



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