Levi Thompson

Teacher / Researcher / Writer

My name is Levi Thompson, and I have a BA in History and Government from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains. I also have an MA in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Arabic Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. My dissertation, Speaking Laterally: Transnational Poetics and the Rise of Modern Arabic and Persian Poetry in Iraq and Iran  (https://escholarship.org/uc/item/3bq9v3sc), brings together the theoretical richness of Comparative Literature and the philological rigor of Area Studies to critically investigate the development of literary modernism in the Middle East. After completing my PhD in 2017, I was the Artemis A.W. and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender Studies at the Pembroke Center at Brown University, where I was a member of the Pembroke Seminar organized on the topic “The Cultures of Pacifism.” While at Brown, I transformed a dissertation chapter into the forthcoming article “An Iraqi Poet and the Peace Partisans: Transnational Pacifism and the Poetry of Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb,” to appear in College Literature. My other articles have appeared in Transnational Literature and Middle Eastern Literatures.

I’m currently working on several projects, including a book manuscript tentatively titled Re-Orienting Modernism: Imagining a Modernist Geography Across Arabic and Persian Poetry, an article on the Iranian poet Ahmad Shamlu’s translations of Langston Hughes’s poetry, and translations of poetry and prose by the Syro-Palestinian poet Ramy al-Asheq, among others. An article related to the book project entitled “Re-Orienting Modernism: Mapping East-East Exchanges Between Arabic and Persian Poetry” will appear in 2020 in Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics at the American University in Cairo. In the summer of 2019, I presented work related to my book manuscript at the School of Oriental & African Studies in London at the invitation of the Multilingual Locals & Significant Geographies: For a New Approach to World Literature project convened by Francesca Orsini. You can find a reading list based on the talk here.

At CU Boulder, I teach courses covering modern Middle Eastern literature, cinema, and culture more broadly, with a focus on the Arabic- and Persian-speaking worlds during the twentieth century. During the spring 2019 semester at CU, students in my course Representing Islam recorded and produced a podcast episode on the Franklin Book Program for The East is a Podcast. Regarding other online media, while studying Arabic in Cairo during the 2011 uprising I co-founded Tahrir Documents, a digital archive of paper ephemera distributed by protestors in Tahrir Square which a group of volunteers collected, translated into English, and made available online.

You can follow my past and current work here @ www.artsandadab.com, where I also frequently post interesting images I come across in my research on the daily image feed.

Find out more about me and my work at the following links:

Download my CV

Read my dissertation, titled Speaking Laterally: Transnational Poetics and the Rise of Modern Arabic and Persian Poetry in Iraq and Iran


“An Iraqi Poet and the Peace Partisans: Transnational Pacifism and the Poetry of Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb,” College Literature, special issue on poetry networks, Kamran Javadizadeh and Robert Volpicelli eds. 2019 (or 2020). (Accepted with minor revisions; in production.)

“Re-Orienting Modernism: Mapping East-East Exchanges Between Arabic and Persian Poetry,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Mapping New Directions in the Humanities, 40: 1-26. 2020. (Post-proof stage.)

“A Transnational Approach to ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī’s ʿUmar al-Khayyām.” Transnational Literature. https://dspace.flinders.edu.au/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2328/38761/Thompson%20_A_Transnational_Approach.pdf 

“Strange Bedfellows: The Crisis of Modernity in Najīb Maḥfūẓ’s al-Qāhira al-Jadīda (Cairo Modern),” Middle Eastern Literatures 18:3, 264-282. 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1475262X.2016.1199094

Book Chapters:

“Until A Shirt Blossoms Red: Proto-Third Worldism in Aḥmad Shāmlū’s Manifesto,” Persian Literatures as World Literature, Literatures as World Literature, ed. Thomas Oliver Beebee (New York: Bloomsbury). (Under review.)

“Translating Tahrir: From Praxis to Theory with Tahrir Documents,” with Emily Drumsta and Elias Saba, The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation, eds. Sameh F. Hanna, Hanem El-Farahaty and Abdel Wahab Khalifa. (Forthcoming 2020.)

Book Reviews:

Hilla Peled-Shapira, The Prose Works of Gha’ib Tu’ma Farman: The City and the Beast (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018). Arab Studies Journal. 2019. (Forthcoming 2019.)

Tahia Abdel Nasser, Literary Autobiography and Arab National Struggles, Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Middle Eastern Literatures 21:1, 107-108. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475262X.2018.1492195.

Waed Athamneh, Modern Arabic Poetry: Revolution and Conflict (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017). Journal of Arabic Literature 48:3, 340-344. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1163/1570064x-12341352.

Ikram Masmoudi, War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). H-Levant, H-Net Reviews. 2017. https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=49367

Translations (selected):

Ramy al-Asheq, “Zurückbleiben,” prose poem translated for the Journal der Künste. 2019. (Arabic and German.)

Ramy al-Asheq, “11 Poems on Aging,” “Grey is the New Pink — Moments of Aging,” Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, Germany: Oct. 2018 – Sept. 2019 (Arabic)

Ramy al-Asheq, “In the Sea’s Playground,” 2017. https://arablit.org/2017/09/07/syrian-poet-ramy-al-asheq-in-the-seas-playground/amp/ (Arabic)

Ahmad Shamlu, “Until the Red Blossom of a Shirt (1950),” Purple Ink, Brown University, 2017. https://brown.edu/Research/poetry-in-translation/category/body/ (Persian)

“Poems by Nima Yushij,” Inventory, Princeton, Winter 2017 (Persian)

“Al-Azhar Draft Constitution of 1979,” translated with Elias Saba in Assem Hefny, “Religious Authorities and Constitutional Reform: The Case of Al-Azhar in Egypt,” Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring, eds. Rainer Grote and Tilmann J. Röder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 113-121. (Arabic) 

“Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: The Poem and the Phoenix,” Jadaliyya, 24 Dec. 2014. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/20361/badr-shakir-al-sayyab_the-poem-and-thephoenixn (Arabic)

“Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: Whorehouse,” Jadaliyya, 2 June 2014. http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/17960/badr-shakir-al-sayyab_whorehouse. (Arabic)

"Condoleezza Rice’s Piano by Sa‘dī Yūsuf," Transference, 1:1, Article 13, 2013. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference/vol1/iss1/13/. (Arabic)

 Translations (unpublished):

Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb’s 1961 lecture “Commitment and Non-Commitment in Modern Arabic Literature,” given at the Rome Conference on Modern Arabic Literature

Research Interests:

Arabic and Persian literature, modernism and modernity, transnationalism, translation studies, Cold War culture

Follow me on Twitter (@tlthom) and Instagram (@levithompsongram)