Joseph and his two wives: Patterns of cultural accommodation in the Judæo-persian tale of Yusof and Zoleykha

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The Tale of Yusof and Zoleykha appears as part of a religious epic poem, the Bereshitnama (Book of Genesis), by the fourteenth-century Judæo-Persian poet Shahin. Composed in 1358/9, in classical Persian with an admixture of Hebraisms and written in Hebrew characters, this tale was enormously popular within Persian-speaking Jewish communities and was frequently copied on its own. The paper focuses on two episodes from this story: Yusof's marriages to Zoleykha and to Osnat (Asenath). Shahin was active in the late Il-khanid and early post-Mongol periods, when new forms of patronage of literary and artistic production emerged seeking to blend different cultural worlds. The poet indeed fashioned unique amalgams of Jewish and Perso-Islamic traditions, both in form and content. The two episodes constitute small case studies for exploring Shahin's diverse array of sources and for determining the thematic and structural ramifications of this fusion. The paper pinpoints how Shahin accommodated and adapted Jewish and Islamic materials and demonstrates that, though Jewish, the poet firmly ensconces himself in a Persianate cultural sphere.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)146-195
Number of pages50
JournalJournal of Persianate Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Bereshit-nama (Book of Genesis)
  • Classical Judæo-Persian literature
  • Jewish acculturation under the Il-khanids
  • Mathnavi
  • Qesas al-anbeya
  • Shahin
  • Source analysis
  • Tafsir
  • Tale of Yusof and Zoleykha
  • Text edition
  • Yusef-o Zoleykha by Pseudo-Ferdowsi

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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