I hold a PhD in Iranian Studies from UCLA. My research focuses on narratives of power and holiness in medieval Islamic Iran. I am primarily interested in themes related to kingship, sainthood, social identity building, the supernatural. My interest in these narratives partly arises from their fascinating itineraries, which have taken them from the eastern Iranian heartlands in antiquity down to the pre-modern era and from the Balkans to Malaysia. I am currently working on a book project, which has the working title “God’s Kings: The Medieval Reception of Ancient Narratives of Kingship.” And I am also editing two volumes dealing with hagiographies across Eurasia. One, which has the working title, Imitatio Theclae, is on the literary reception of the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the other looks at how various hagiographers across the Indo-Mediterranean world narrated power and authority. I am recipient of the following grants and awards: 2015, European Research Council fellow at Ghent University in Belgium; 2011, Fulbright Research Fellowship, Cairo, Egypt; and 2008, Honorable Mention for the Best Dissertation from the Foundation for Iranian Studies. From 2008-2014, I was the coordinator of the Persian Studies Program at Columbia University where, in addition to teaching and mentoring students, I organized a successful lecture series which included talks by established and up-and-coming scholars, artists, film makers, and musicians. From 2006-2008, I was the director for the Persian Studies Program at California State, Fullerton which included a summer study-abroad semester in Yerevan, Armenia. I have been a long-time member of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies (ASPS) which is committed to bringing scholars from around the world interested in all fields related to Iran and the Persianate worlds, past and present. I served as its newsletter editor, secretary of the association, and member of the board of directors.
My main areas of research are the history of Spanish and Catalan languages from a political, cultural, and ideological point of view. I focus on how language relates to issues such as identity, nation, and power in the past and in the present, especially in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. I am interested in how cultural and intellectual history has had an influence on language ideology. Moreover, because of my political, cultural, and ideological approach to the history of language, I have also analyzed literary texts and have published on Medieval and Early Modern Catalan and Spanish Literature. My first book, Literatura o imperio: la construcción de las lenguas castellana y catalana en la España renacentista was published by Juan de la Cuesta—Hispanic Monographs in 2008. My second book, The Making of Catalan Linguistic Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Times, Palgrave Macmillan, will be published in February 2018: https://www.palgrave.com/la/book/9783319720791 I have also published in several journals including La Corónica, Neophilologus, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Hispanic Research Journal, Hispanófila, Romanistisches Jahrbuch, Calíope, eHumanista and Crítica Hispánica.
What are the topologies of fugitive/narrative, whether as a matter of experience, theory or fiction? This essay follows a number of trajectories in addressing the question. In part the exploration is prompted by the refugee crisis in many places around the world, yet the issue of the “fugitive” is not exactly identical with that. Moreover, the slash mark in fugitive/narrative suggests a complex relation between the fugitive condition and the renditions of the fictive or the literary, whose implications run all the way from the experiential to the juridical, the ethical to the existential, the linguistic to the political, the philosophical to the archetypal. The essay begins with an unexpected short story by Primo Levi, and it ends with a consideration of Jenny Erpenbeck’s remarkable novel, Go, Went, Gone, which deals with African refugees in Germany. In between, there is discussion of figures including Lukács, Adorno, Auerbach and Said, all of whom explored aspects of the “unhomed” in the world and in texts. Other questions enter in, including issues of bare life and human rights (Arendt, Agamben, Balibar). There are classical lineages (Biblical, Homer, Virgil) and current resonances, as well as issues of hosting, hospitality and hostility raised through the work of Levinas and Derrida. Etymology provides its own insights, not least in offering a revised definition of the “route” as the “broken road,” with major implications for the topic. While very little can do justice to the enormity of the refugee experience, this essay on fugitive/narrative is intended as a range of “starting points” in addressing the complexities, complicities and responsibilities of our current world. The published version of the article is available at http://politicsslashletters.org/fugitivenarrative-starting-points/.
In the Synoptic accounts of the transfiguration (Matt 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36), Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus and the disciples. One of the more common interpretations of their presence in this scene is that together they symbolize “the law and the prophets.” But from a canonical/narrative perspective, the situation is more complex that this explanation would imply. Elijah is accounted for easily: he was taken into heaven alive and will come again to help usher in the day of YHWH (so 2 Kings 2:11-12; Mal 4:5). Moses, on the other hand, dies and is buried outside the promised land at the close of the Pentateuch. So why is he standing on a mountaintop (presumably, inside the promised land) with someone who, at least according to overarching narrative of the Hebrew Bible, did not die? How might ancient readers have understood his presence there? The story of Moses’ death in Deut 34 is not particularly complicated: he and YHWH are the only characters; there is no dialogue; and the ensuing details of his passing are hazy at best. But, as is frequently the case, narrative gaps engendered a host of alternate versions of the story in which Moses doesn’t die but, like Elijah, is taken into heaven alive. In this paper I examine first-century interpretations of Moses’ demise — most prominently, those of Philo, Josephus, and Pseudo-Philo — all of which imply that what happens on the mountain at the end of Deuteronomy is not a “death” in the traditional sense. I do not wish to argue for literary dependence between these sources and the Synoptics. Rather, borrowing terminology from Umberto Eco, I suggest that they shed light on the “cultural encyclopedia” shared by the authors and intended readers of the Synoptics. And this, I will argue, allows for a more nuanced understanding of Moses’ presence at the transfiguration either as expressing the belief that he did not die, or at the very least that death outside the promised land would not be his final sentence.
In the so-called Protevangelium Jacobi, Mary spins thread for the temple veil while receiving news of her impending pregnancy. Some have argued that her work is apologetic, countering the unflattering claim (of Celsus) that she spun in order to make ends meet, others that it is indicative of her virtue, intended to portray her as laudable. Without questioning the validity of these observations, I argue on literary grounds that Mary’s spinning establishes a threefold relationship between Jesus, the young Virgin, and the Jerusalem temple, and that it indicates a correspondence between the temple veil and Jesus’ flesh. Three sources of intertextual resonance layer the significance of Mary’s spinning. First, the Moirae of Greco-Roman mythology allow the reader to interpret her work metaphorically, as a participation in the forces that govern divine as well as human destiny. Second, in light of the association between Mary and the Moirae, the Synoptic rending of the temple veil (velum scissum) demonstrates that the thread spun by Mary, symbolizing Jesus own life span, is cut by God at the crucifixion. Finally, the Epistle to the Hebrews (specifically 10:20) provides a sounding board for the aforementioned connections, namely, that the destruction of the veil, itself emblematic of Jesus’ flesh, represents a literal opening of the entryway into the holy of holies. The virgin spinner emerges as one with considerable authority, if qualified. As the willing vehicle of the incarnation, her role in the process of redemption—and thus human destiny—is undeniable. On the other hand, the correlation between the work of her hands and the child in her womb, understood as none other than the God of whom she declares herself a servant, locates the Virgin squarely within the divine plan, subordinate to the very thread she spins.
All accounts of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer begin in 1544 with Thomas Cranmer’s production of an English Litany, a Processional rite used during times of crisis. Historians have always assumed that the Litany was the sole war-related devotional innovation in 1544, and Cranmer’s new rite has always been treated diachronically, without reference to other contemporary texts. This chapter argues that the Crown actually produced two intertwined wartime devotional texts in 1544: the second was a translation of Psalms or Prayers which was undertaken by Queen Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife. Through a detailed literary analysis I demonstrate that Parr’s text was a strategic companion to Cranmer’s Litany and made unique contributions to the military and devotional challenges of the day. Parr’s “Psalms,” for example, are lengthy, eloquent, and affective pieces that allowed for a more intense and personalized engagement with sin and supplication than was possible in the new (or in any) public rite, and they were seen as effective preparations for public worship. Second, while Parr’s “A Prayer for the King” and Cranmer’s Litany offered innovative celebrations of Henry VIII’s obedience and fear of God, Parr’s longer prayer aligned Henry with David and provided a more reassuring monarchical image as the nation prepared for war. Finally, I demonstrate that while Parr’s “private” prayer book complemented Cranmer’s public Litany, three different parts of her book moved into the realm of public worship alongside the Litany while she was still alive, probably in the spring of 1544 and then again probably in 1548. I demonstrate that Parr’s translated “prayer for the King” was based on a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor penned by Georg Witzel in 1541. As I discuss elsewhere, Queen Elizabeth I added Parr’s prayer to the BCP in 1559, where it remains to this day.
Although we have long discussed the rise of consumer culture and the increase of print in Restoration England (see Birth of a Consumer Society, 1982), comparatively little information exists on specific methods publishers used to advertise to audiences and what role they played in creating new markets. My project fills this gap by examining paratextual marketing tactics used by major publishers. I extend Peter Lindenbaum’s 2010 study of booklists to drama to show how in the 1660s and 1670s, publishers advertised a variety of works, but by the end of the century, they focused these booklists by purpose and audience. Leisure reading such as novels, drama, histories, and the like are marketed together, whereas sermons and religious texts find a different audience, law books another, and scientific texts another. Targeted advertising persisted from the eighteenth century to the present day, indicating publishers’ experimentation had a lasting effect on how we perceive audience tastes and genre. Furthermore, publishers tested new selling points by including actors’ and actresses’ names next to the roles they played. While this was uncommon in the 1660s, by the 1690s it was typical even on reprints. This suggests that the celebrity of performers was a significant boon to publishers who capitalized on audience interest and extended their fascination to printed plays. These case studies demonstrate that publishers not only responded to the desire for leisure activities by creating a sophisticated and adaptable business model, but that these techniques shaped the appetite for luxuries by connecting them to the irresistible aspects of Restoration society: celebrity, conspicuous consumerism, and literary communities.
Norbert Bar-Le-Duc (1697- 1769), also known as Abbé Jacques Platel, Pierre Parisot, Pierre Curel, traversed identities and continents, making a career out of controversy, becoming knowns as “le fameux Père Norbert”. He worked in South India as a missionary in 1736-1739 and thereafter played a pivotal role in the Malabar Rites controversy. Back to Europe, Norbert developed a literary offensive against the Jesuits, using historical memoires that accompanied Benedict XIV’s ban of the Malabar Rites (1744), while being condemned by the Holy Office in 1745 and 1751. Norbert’s life took an adventurous turn, the condemnation leading him to seek refuge in Holland and England where, ever the eclectic, he also established a tapestry factory. He later moved to Portugal as the protegé of the Marquis of Pombal. A major author against the Jesuits, he engaged with Jansenism, freemason networks, English early industrial entrepreneurship and Pombalism, changing his identity to assert himself in opposition to the Society of Jesus. This chapter considers the peculiar form of historiography that he developed in order to carry out his anti-Jesuit polemic. His own polemical “history of the present” was based on the use and abuse of the archives of Propaganda Fide in order to wage a successful war against the Society of Jesus. His works were often written in a careless and repetitive style but were always supported by a rich, if not pletoric, set of documentary evidence. He was a historian with the mind of a lawyer: he knew that “the best causes embarass the Judges if they are deprived of good evidence”.
The essay below is a draft of the introductory chapter to a book tentatively titled “Psychopoetics: Religion, Poetry, and the Evolution of the Western Self.” This project is intended as the third volume in a series that I began with Paleopoetics (2013) and followed with Neopoetics (2016), both of which were published by Columbia University Press. As in the two prior studies, I will be examining how cultural, as well as biological, evolution conditions the cognitive processes employed by the verbal imagination. In researching the representation of personal identity, I came to realize how little I had ever thought about the nature of the self—my self, having always assumed that the self-concept I had grown up with was shared by every other human being. I soon discovered that, though we all share a number of deeply evolved traits, divergent cultural traditions generate different models of selfhood. The dominant Western self-concept, shaped by over a millennium and a half of Scripture-grounded theological debate, is in many ways peculiar to Europe and to European cultures across the globe. If, as I think it safe to say, every literary tradition reflects a culturally endorsed model of the self, it is lyric poetry with its first-person point-of-view that focuses most attention on the problematics of this topic. In the secular poetry of late medieval Europe, especially the sonnet, we find the earliest transcripts of the unresolved emotions we still recognize in ourselves, an inner conflict that the Christian doctrine of the self made unavoidable. **** This essay will give you a sense of my project. I invite your comments and welcome your recommendations. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract: This article explores Robert Louis Stevenson’s use of costume as a device for exploring Scotland’s fetishization of it’s literary and cultural history. In Stevenson’s The Master of Ballantrae, the mythologizing of James Durie as the eponymous Master depends upon a series of dramatic costume changes. Durie confounds attempts to consign him to the grave and to history by returning, time and again, in new guises. Staging his own cult of personality, the Master transforms himself from a Jacobite with a “white cockade in his hat,” into a pirate, a smuggler dressed in “a sea-cloak,” a diamond- and-lace adorned French fop, a Nabob and finally into an emigrant Scottish New Yorker seeking a fortune in the Forests and mountains of North-America. The Master’s refusal to die, consumption of the family fortune, and final live burial also configure him as a vampire. All of these appearances ironically address Romantic stereotypes of Scottishness. Clichés abound and are ironically treated by Stevenson. But under the costumes lie the less glamorous problems faced by the nation: bankruptcy, violent cultural division, mass emigration and separation from the land. This essay compares James, Master of Ballantrae, with Walter Scott’s earlier Edgar Master of Ravenswood in The Bride of Lammermoor (1819): Edgar Ravenswood has only one set of clothes: a cloak that perpetually wraps about him and a hat with a black feather. Ravenswood’s cloak hides a starving body. Living on the edge of a cliff, he is going nowhere. Read comparatively, dressing up in both novels ultimately draws attention not to Scotland’s glamorous love affair with itself, but to what is concealed and why there’s such a reluctance for it to be seen.