The Global Literary Theory: Caucasus literatures compared (GlobalLIT) project is a five-year ERC-funded project that aims to reinvigorate the discipline of literary studies by looking at non-European approaches and focusing on texts from Islamic cultures.
We are pleased to welcome three postdoctoral researchers who from March 2020 have been focusing on translating texts into English: Nasrin Askari is translating Persian balagha texts, Kristof D'hulster, Turkic balagha texts, and Michelle Quay, Persian balagha texts.
Kristof D’hulster engages with the social and cultural history of the pre-modern Islamic world, hereby focusing on processes of cultural exchange and interaction between the Turkic, Persian and Arab spheres. His first monograph, Browsing through the Sultan’s Bookshelves. Towards a Reconstruction of the Library of the Mamluk Sultan Qāniṣawh al-Ghawrī (r. 906-922/1501-1516), is due in 2020.
Michelle Quay has taught Persian at Columbia University and the University of Cambridge. Currently, she is at work on a monograph that excavates the lives of 500+ women ‘saints’ (awliyā’) and restores them to the historical record, as well as investigating the role that gender plays in the construction of religious authority in the 11th to 13th centuries. Her areas of professional engagement include the literatures of early Islamic mysticism, gender studies, feminist literary criticism, Persian prosody, and literary translation.
Nasrin specializes in classical Persian literature, the history and culture of late antique and medieval Iran, the Perso-Islamic literature of wisdom and advice, and medieval Persian popular literature. She is the author of The Medieval Reception of the Shāhnāma as a Mirror for Princes (2016), and her annotated edition of the Mūnis-nāma, a twelfth/thirteenth-century work of wisdom and advice for the elites, especially female elites, of the Atabegs of Azerbaijan is forthcoming in Bunyād-i Mauqūfāt-i duktur Maḥmūd-i Afshār.
Literary theory is often regarded as a 20th century invention. This relegates older discourses on literature to the status of mere source material, pertaining to literature’s past, rather than springboards for its future. Moving beyond the parameters of modernity, the project examines the many gaps and limits within literary theory’s current structure when it is applied to literature from lesser-known geographies, including West, Central, and South Asia and the many regions where Arabic, Persian, and Turkic texts circulated.
Even when non-European literatures are studied, the theory used to understand them often has a bias to modern European traditions. The project will take a more pluralistic approach to literary knowledge, taking into account the radical variance in timescales for the development of different literary traditions. It will explore the different meanings of literature across varying historical and cultural contexts, reinvigorate the discipline of literary studies, and look at new ways of imagining the status of literature, poetry in particular, in the public sphere.
Professor Rebecca Gould is the author of The Persian Prison Poem: Sovereignty and the Political Imagination (forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press in 2021) and Writers and Rebels: The Literature of Insurgency in the Caucasus (Yale University Press, 2016). Rebecca is also the co-translator of High Tide of the Eyes: Poems by Bijan Elahi and numerous other works of Persian and Georgian literature.
The project is funded by a European Research Council Starting Grant of £1.3m.