Assistant Professor of Iranian Studies
I work on the comparative study of narrative in the Middle East within the rough temporal parameter of Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period (ca. 500–1500 CE). Alongside Persian, my primary area of expertise, I examine texts in Arabic, Greek, Georgian, and the languages of western Europe (Latinate and Germanic) to further our understanding of how these various literary traditions interacted with one another and their respective audiences. My current research is dedicated to the genres of epic and romance (and various admixtures of the two): how do we—can we—define such genres, and what insights do these definitions afford us? I have turned to these texts to ask questions about composition and performance, subjectivity and morality, gender and society, and cross-cultural intertextuality. I believe the Persian texts are an important source that helps us see how matters of selfhood and subjectivity were interrogated via a literary mode that gained wide currency across a wide range of courtly cultures in the eleventh and twelfth centuries CE.
Beyond this focus, I am also interested in the art and literature of modern Iran and its neighbors; this includes comparative studies of neoclassical poetry, the free-verse movement, cinema, literary history, and the novel, novella, and short story forms in the last century in both Persian and Arabic. Topics that I find myself turning to repeatedly in this field include the representation, performance, and politics of gender, translation studies and world literature, allusions to the classical past, aesthetics, and stylistics.
My current book project is a monograph on the narrative poem Vis & Ramin by Fakhroddin Gorgani. As a literary and intellectual history, it investigates the emergence of the ‘romance’ as a literary genre and the idea of ‘romantic love’ as an ethical praxis within this generic tradition, tracing how the interplay of these two branches produces a work that raises deep existential challenges for the individual subject through the problematization of classic topoi like female chastity, male sovereignty, and sacrifice and redemption in the name of love. I also re-examine the tradition of minstrelsy in Parthian and Sasanian literature and examine how this oral element interfaces with the written and literary aspects of Gorgani’s poem through embedded performances and multiple narrators.
Alongside this monograph, I am working on a number of articles that touch on the following topics: the ‘rise of the romance’ in Persian, Greek, and European literature; the implications of Alexander’s quest for immortality; love and holy war in Floire & Blancheflor and Varqa & Golshah; speech, silence, and symbols in Nezami’s Haft Paykar; and monsters and the monstrous in the works of Iranshah b. Abi’l-khayr. I’m also chipping away at a number of translations, including ‘Ayyuqi’s Varqa & Golshah and a few works of contemporary prose and poetry.
The courses I have taught so far include an introduction to Middle Eastern geography, history, and ethnography through travel writing; Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh; modern Persian poetry; Iranian cinema; and a survey of Persian literature in translation. In the near future, I hope to offer a course on Rumi; a course on animals and monsters in Islamic literature; and a course on comparative romances.