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Abstract

This dissertation is titled The Lives of Sām Mīrzā (923–75/1517–67): Dynastic Strife and Literary World-Building in Early Safavid Iran. It utilizes the career of a prince of the Safavid dynasty (conventionally, 907–1135/1501–1722) as a window on developments in both the political history of Greater Iran and Persian literary history around the tenth/sixteenth century. Such an approach is possible because Sām Mīrzā, who was born in 923/1517 and eventually executed in 975/1567, was an important political figure by virtue of his status as a son of the dynasty’s founder; and he also wrote an anthology of poets (taẕkirah) that documents a great deal of the literary activity that took place during his lifetime. In the dissertation I explore both sides of this figure and their implications for our understanding of the Safavid era. Hence the “lives” mentioned in the title: one is the story of Sām Mīrzā himself, while the others refer to his taẕkirah, a work titled Tuḥfah-i Sāmī (ca. 957/1550). The body of the dissertation is divided into two main parts to reflect these different, though certainly connected, lines of inquiry. The first section, comprising Chapters 1 and 2, is concerned with collating all available primary sources on Sām Mīrzā’s biography. This process offers new insight into the fluid, extraordinarily challenging political situation faced by the Safavids in their first few generations of rule. As it turns out, researching Sām Mīrzā’s life also raises historiographical questions, since most of our information about him comes from Safavid chronicles, and it appears there was an attempt to scrub the story of his imprisonment and execution from the “official record” (insofar as such a thing existed). The second chapter investigates these broader issues. After this exploration of the details and significance of Sām Mīrzā’s life, the second half of the dissertation turns to focus on his one major literary work: the aforementioned Tuḥfah-i Sāmī. Several questions relating to this anthology are addressed, and they are organized into two further chapters. Chapter 3 consists of a comprehensive overview of the Tuḥfah and interpretation of some of its key characteristics. Chapter 4 looks more broadly at the Persian (and, to an extent, Turkic) “taẕkirah of poets” genre, whose crucial period of development took place between the late ninth/fifteenth and early eleventh/seventeenth centuries. Sām Mīrzā worked in the middle of this period, and his Tuḥfah stands as an important contribution to the evolving ideas of what forms a taẕkirah might take, what narratives it might advance, and what role it might play in the Persian literary tradition.

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