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In this talk, Levi Thompson will argue for a new direction in comparative literary studies by analysing close formal and thematic links between Arabic and Persian modernist poetry. Through re-mapping the history of modern poetic development, he argues for a re-orientation of modernist studies which focuses on the east as centre rather than periphery. Thompson suggests that we might name this re-orientation with an Arabic neologism: iʿādat al-tashrīq, that is, a “remaking” or a “return to being Eastern.”

Thompson will account for the role Western modernism played in the changes Arab and Persian poets introduced to their respective projects,  as well as highlighting foundational modernist innovations that occurred beyond the reach of Western influence. These innovations include the retention of several elements of premodern poetic form based in the Arabic prosodic tradition, such as the continued presence of the Arabic metrical foot (tafʿīlah) in both Arabic and Persian modernist poetry during the early decades of their growth.

These metrical connections, in concert with appeals to Near Eastern mythic and religious traditions in both Arabic and Persian modernist poetries, constitute a significant instance of solidarity among literary traditions in the global south—a solidarity with political stakes extending to other marginalized literary traditions across the planet.

As we move our focus away from Europe as a single or exemplary locus of modernism, it is possible to redirect scholarship toward another significant geography where a vibrant modernist network operated outside of the West.


Levi Thompson is an Assistant Professor of Arabic at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published in Transnational Literature, The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation, (eds. Sameh F. Hanna, Hanem El-Farahaty and Abdel Wahab Khalifa) and Persian Literatures as World Literature, Literatures as World Literature (ed. Thomas Oliver Beebee).