Safavid Persia and Persians on the Early Modern English stage: drama, and domestic and foreign policy, 1580-1685

Momeni, Amin (2016). Safavid Persia and Persians on the Early Modern English stage: drama, and domestic and foreign policy, 1580-1685. University of Birmingham. M.Litt.

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This thesis is the first study to investigate the relationship between, on the one hand, early modern English dramatic representations of Islamic Persia and Persians, and on the other, Tudor-Stuart foreign policy towards non-Christian allies and enemies such as the Safavid Persian empire and Ottoman Turks. It breaks new ground by arguing that such depictions actively contributed to shaping English attitudes towards contemporary Persia and Persians, and, by so doing, to participating in contemporary debates about Tudor-Stuart foreign and domestic policy. This study contributes to the existing scholarship in three main areas. Firstly, it adds to existing studies of early modern English dramatic depictions of Islamic culture. These studies have chiefly been focused on English literary engagements with the Ottoman empire and Islamic North Africa, whereas my focus on English drama’s representation of Safavid Persia reveals the distinctive place held by Islamic Persia and Persians in early modern English thought. Secondly, this study goes beyond previous research by specifically focusing on English dramatic depictions of Islamic Persia rather than ancient Persia and Persians. My study shows how Tudor-Stuart playwrights put Safavid Persia on stage at least partly to help shape public opinion with regard to England’s political ambitions, at home and abroad. Thirdly, I propose that a dynamic relationship existed between depictions of Islamic Safavids on stage and the early modern political interplay between Safavid Persia, England, and the Ottoman Turks. From a theoretical point of view, this thesis challenges Edward Said’s theory in Orientalism regarding cultural constructions of west-east binary oppositions. By contrast, my study shows that early modern English drama’s positive representation of Islamic Persia constitutes a clear alternative to Said’s self-other construct established in Orientalism. Indeed, this thesis argues that English dramatic depictions of Islamic Persia might be thought of more as an imaginary embodiment of an alternative ‘self’ for early modern English politics and religion, than as the xenophobic creation of an ideological and military rival and ‘other’.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Litt.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Litt.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: The University of Birmingham
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BP Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc
J Political Science > JZ International relations
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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