Staging Shi'ites in Silesia: Andreas Gryphius's Catharina von Georgien

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Abstract

This essay slices through the thicket of confessional politics which has long informed scholarship on Gryphius's famous baroque Trauerspiel, Catharina von Georgien. Taking its cue from a late Gryphian sonnet, it instead explores the implications of Gryphius's citation of his own Shah Abbas, the Georgian queen Catharina's tormenter, to document his thunderous erudition. Expanding the geography of our critical gaze, the article argues, enables us to see Gryphius's highly strategic citations from his extensive source material. Studded with a wealth of material culled from the most recent and well-informed travel narratives of his day, Gryphius quite consciously effaces differences between Shi'ite Persia and the Sunni Ottoman Empire. Drawing on representations of “the Turk” soaked in imperial envy, this collapse simultaneously enables more local confessional differences to be blurred. Against a monolithic East, Gryphius projects a Christianity made whole.

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