A Socio-Historical Orientalist Approach to the European Translations of Ferdowsi's The Epic of Kings


  • Maedeh Sarlak Zand Institute of Higher Education
  • Amin Karimnia Islamic Azad University, Fasa Branch


socio-historical approach, Orientalism, English translation, literary translation, Ferdowsi, The Epic of Kings


Orientalist translation analysis, particularly in the case of masterpieces of Eastern literature, remains underdeveloped in translation studies, and many investigations are required to address its various dimensions. A problem is that studies rarely draw on a relatively objective, model-oriented approach to Orientalism in translation. This study relies on a socio-historical model of Orientalist translation applied to a corpus of European renditions of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (The Epic of Kings). The model involves four elements: scholarly agency, continental translation, industrial/scientific superiority of orientalists, and the literary richness of eastern cultures. The data used in the analysis are collected from academic databases, encyclopedic resources, and conventional and electronic resources. The results suggest many of the translators are Western scholars. Moreover, many translations are based on another European translation as a mediator. In many cases, the translations advocate Western academic/investigative purposes, while relying on the advanced publication industry of their time. Finally, the appreciations/acknowledgments of the book reveal the reasons for choosing Shahnameh for translation. Besides confirming the functioning of the model, the study shows that translation is a derivative activity in many scholars’ profiles. The study also raises questions about the very definition of “translation” because the translated works analyzed represent considerably different qualities.

Author Biographies

Maedeh Sarlak, Zand Institute of Higher Education

Master of Translation Studies, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, Zand Institute of Higher Education, Shiraz, Iran;

Amin Karimnia, Islamic Azad University, Fasa Branch

Associate Professor in Applied Linguistics, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities, Fasa Branch, Islamic Azad University, Fasa, Iran;


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How to Cite

Sarlak, M., & Karimnia, A. (2021). A Socio-Historical Orientalist Approach to the European Translations of Ferdowsi’s The Epic of Kings. Translation Studies Quarterly, 19(75), 59–76. https://dorl.org/dor/20.1001.1.17350212.1400.



Scientific Research Paper