"Art and Literary Exchange Between Iran, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, and Russia in the 20th Century"
The 2021-2022 Colloquium Series of the Iranian Studies Initiative
In collaboration with the UCSB Graduate Center for Literary Research


The 2021/2022 series of lectures and seminars will address transnational exchanges in roughly three periods: The Tsarist/Qajar Era, the Soviet Union/Pahlavi era, and the Islamic Republic/Post 1991 era, with a focus on Iran, Russia, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia. 


October 30 - Katerina Clark (Yale University), "A Persian Poet in Stalin's Russia: Abolquasem Lahuti in Tajikstan" 

February 12 - Sam Hodgkin (Yale University), "Newspaper Poetry and Representative Politics in the Revolutions of 1905-1911” 
February 19 - Janet Afary (UC Santa Barbara), “Molla Nasreddin of Tiflis and the Diasporic Milieu that Gave Birth to It”
February 26 - Touraj Atabaki (Leiden University), “Theater of Enlightenment/Space of Modernity. Popular Stage in the Caspian Region 1890-1920" 
March 5 - Teoman Aktan (University of Istanbul), “The Role of Critical Literature in Reflecting the Socio-Political Issues of the Qajar and the Caucasus”
May 21 - Giorgi Papashvili (Tbilisi State Academy of Art), “Image of Iran in the Press of Tiflis from the late 19th century to World War I”
May 28 - Rebecca Gould (University of Birmingham), “Two Cosmopolitan Thinkers from the Caucasus: Abbas Quli Agha Bakikhanov and Mirza Fath-Ali-Akhundzadeh”




What Graduate Students Are Reading


Iman Salty is reading Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness by Nicole R. Fleetwood. 

Troubling Vision examines the constructed visual narratives of Black culture as it has been created and perpetuated by American media. Using critical race theory, media studies, feminist theory, and performance theory, this book exposes how the production and circulation of Black visualities have resulted in troubling conceptions of coded and performative methods for visualizing Black subjects in the public sphere.


Surojit Kayal is reading The Marvelous Clouds by John Durham Peters.

In The Marvelous Clouds, the author argues that though we often think of media as environments, the reverse is just as true—environments are media. Drawing from ideas implicit in media philosophy, Peters argues that media are more than carriers of messages: they are the very infrastructures combining nature and culture that allow human life to thrive.  


Mary Okin is reading Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant-Garde by Esther Leslie.

With ruminations on drawing, colour and caricature, on the political meaning of fairy-tales, talking animals and human beings as machines, the book brings to light the links between animation, avant-garde art and modernist criticism, and Leslie reveals how the animation of commodities can be studied as a journey into modernity in cinema. 


Richard Nedjat-Haiem is reading Broadcasting Change: Arabic Media as a Catalyst for Liberalism by Joseph Baude.

Amid civil war, failing states, and terrorism, Arab liberals are growing in numbers and influence. Advocating a culture of equity, tolerance, good governance, and the rule of law, they work through some of the region’s largest media outlets to spread their ideals within the culture. This book analyzes this trend by portraying the intersection of media and politics in two Arab countries with seismic impact on the region and beyond. 


James Nichols is reading Exorcismos de la memoria: Políticas y poéticas de la melancolía en la España de la transición by Alberto Medina Dominguez. 

Through an interdisciplinary approach in which the analysis of philosophical, filmic, literary and political texts coexist, the book deals with a reading hypothesis of the period in which the lines of demarcation between the aesthetic and the political are blurred.


Wendy Sun is reading Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison.

Morrison shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires. Her discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of various authors leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. 


Ursula Friedman is reading The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China, edited by Wilt L. Idema and Beata Grant.

Because of the burgeoning interest in the study of both premodern and modern women in China, this anthology offers a glimpse of women's writings not only in poetry but in other genres as well, including essays and letters, drama, religious writing, and narrative fiction.

Rachel Feldman is reading Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest (Hebrew: פתאום בעומק היער: אגדה‎) by Amos Oz. 

A dark, yet gen­tle, "fable for all ages" about silence, tolerance, and the role of language, orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Hebrew in 2005. The narrative is based in a mysterious town without animals or birds. Legend tells that they have been spirited away by the Pied Piper figure of Nehi, the mountain demon. Two children set out into the forest to find out more. 


Christene d'Anca is reading Marie of France: Countess of Champagne, 1145-1198, by Theodore Evergates. 

Countess Marie of Champagne is primarily known today as the daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine and as a literary patron of Chrétien de Troyes. In this engaging biography, Theodore Evergates offers a more rounded view of Marie as a successful ruler of one of the wealthiest and most vibrant principalities in medieval France.


Welcome to the incoming cohorts for the 2021-2022 academic year, and congratulations to our new GCLR fellows Han Hao and Carissa Martin! The GCLR is (co-) run by students like you, and we welcome you to our vibrant scholarly community. 
Professor Sven Spieker and Rachel Feldman 


Congratulations to the three finalists from our Fall Roundtable Workshop: Carmen Araujo, Christene D'anca, and James Nate Nicols! Carmen presented “Dialogical exchange and the invention of fictions as a tool for transformation in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and two short stories", Christene D'anca presented "Translating Identity: Andrei Codrescu and Cultural Multilingualism", and James Nicols presented on "Discerning Disjunctions in Raúl Ruiz's A TV Dante". Carmen, Christene, and James received sustained feedback on their projects from graduate peers in Spanish and Portuguese, English, Feminist Studies, Film and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, Art, and Religious Studies. We wish Carmen, Chrsistene, and James the best of luck at their future conferences, and extend a formal congratulations to James, whose paper has recently been accepted for publication! If you're interested in submitting for the upcoming Winter Roundtable, please see our Roundtables and Travel Grants Page.


Reflecting on distinguished disability scholar Dr. Tanya Titchkosky's recent talk on representations of disability in university life and society as a whole, Amelia Faircloth of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts' article "The Need for a New Normal: Looking at Disability on Campus" shares more considerations about academic commitment to serving students with disabilities through inclusion initiatives, agreeing that public perception must shift before these intiatives can truly take hold, in order to bring them in from what Titchkosky calls the "edges of inclusion". 

We invite graduate students interested in exploring the cultural, cognitive, performative, representational, and technological facets of remembering and forgetting to join the Memory Studies Graduate Research Working Group (GRWG). A cross-disciplinary field, Memory Studies tackles the multifaceted relations between history and memory, past and present, testimony and witnessing, ethics and politics, and the role of visual, digital, and global media in enacting and performing memory work. If you are interested in joining, please write to Sven Spieker.  

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