TRANSMODERN (Untranslatable Modernity: Literary Theory from Europe to Iran) is a project funded by the European Commission within Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

The project fellow is Kayvan Tahmasebian. The project reference number is EU 842125.


TRANSMODERN is a two-year project to revisit the relation between modernity and untranslatability with focus on modern Iranian literary theory. Based on extensive archival research, “Untranslatable Modernity: Literary Theory from Europe to Iran” (TRANSMODERN for short), explores the crucial role of untranslatability and resistance to translation as formative forces in shaping modern Persian literary theory in Iran.

TRANSMODERN searches for “the modern” in the critical norms that are left out of translation in the form of distortions, variations and imaginary interpretations. These are usually located in footnotes.

In the forthcoming monograph, Modernity in Footnotes, I tell the story of a project of cultural renovation in Iran through the footnotes that writers and translators wrote to the works of European literary theory and criticism in the past century.  This approach enables me to develop a model of literary comparison in which translation becomes a means of constellating (in Walter Benjamin’s sense), rather than substituting, concepts, genres, texts and forms in world literature.

Main outputs

(Updated July 2021)


Peer-reviewed Articles

  • 2021: “Persian Dream Writing (khāb-nāma): With Translations from Khābguzārī (12th or 13th century), and ʿAjā’ib al-Makhlūqāt wa Gharā’ib al-Mawjūdāt (12th century),” Licit Magic: GlobalLit Working Papers 2 <DOI:>.
  • 2021: (with Rebecca Ruth Gould) “The Temporality of Interlinear Translation: Kairos in the Persian Hölderlin,” Representations 155: 1-21. < DOI:>.
  • 2021: (with Rebecca Ruth Gould) “Ajnabi, or the Xenological Uncanny in Iranian Modernism,” New Literary History 52: 145-168.
  • 2021: (with Rebecca Ruth Gould) “Translation as Alienation: Sufi Hermeneutics and Literary Modernism in Bijan Elahi’s Translations,” Modernism/modernity, volume 5, cycle 4, Print Plus <DOI:>.
  • 2021: (with Rebecca Ruth Gould) “The Temporality of Desire in Ḥasan Dihlavī’s ʿIshqnāma,” Journal of Medieval Worlds 2 (3-4): 72-95 < DOI:>.
  • In Press (with Rebecca Ruth Gould): “The Translational Horizons of Iranian Modernism: Ahmad Shamlu’s Global Southern Literary Canon,” Twentieth Century Literature (accepted 8/2019).

Academic and public presentations

  • 2021: “Translation as Activism: A Conversation,” (with Rebecca Ruth Gould),” Hay Festival, United Kingdom (3 June 2021).
  • 2021: Guest Lecturer for “Translation and Activism in the Time of the Now,” European Cultures of Translation, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf (28th September-1 October 2021).
  • 2021: Guest Lecturer for “Language, Translation, and the Culture Industry (MA level),” Session for World Literatures Compared, Department of Modern Languages, University of Birmingham (11th February 2021).
  • 2020 :Guest Lecturer for “Contemporary Iranian Poetry in Translation: A Reading and Conversation with Kayvan Tahmasebian and Rebecca Ruth Gould,” Comparative Literature Department, Yale University (3rd November 2020).
  • 2020: Guest Lecturer for “How to Compare,” Comparative Literature Department, Yale University (3rd November 2020).
  • 2020: Guest Lecturer for “Translation as Activism: A Conversation,” Translation Lecture Series, Centre for Translation Studies, The American University in Cairo (Zoom Meeting) (27th October 2020).
  • 2019: Guest Lecturer for “Circulating an Untranslatable Text: The Mystery Letters in Medieval Persian Translations of the Qur’an,” Migration, Circulation and Translation: Pre-Modern Persian Literature in Motion, Wadham College, Oxford (25th October 2019).
  • 2019: Guest Lecturer for “Translating Bijan Elahi’s Modernist Classicism,” Translating Poetries: A symposium for translation practitioners, SOAS (12-13 September 2019; with Rebecca Ruth Gould).

Modules Taught

University of Birmingham (2020)
MA “Language, translation and the culture industry,” Session for World Literatures Compared


Contact us

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