My work is primarily on Persian and Iranian literary and intellectual cultures with a focus on modern poetry. I teach advanced Persian courses on a wide range of topics including classical and modern poetry, the epic tradition, fiction, literary criticism, and Persian media. My classes in English include Voices of the Iranian Revolution (NEAR E 244) and Persian Literature in Translation (Near E 343, 344, 345). I am currently developing a new course titled Memories of War in the Near East that will give students a chance to study various forms of fiction, film, poetry, and memoir that have come out of the twentieth and twenty-first century wars in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere in the region. I also hold an adjunct position in the Department of Comparative Literature and Media Studies, where I co-teach a course with my colleague Naomi Sokoloff titled Prayer and Poetry in the Jewish and Islamic Traditions (C Lit 323 and NEAR E 320).
My first book, currently under contract with I.B. Tauris, considers debates on politically committed poetry in Iran around the time of the 1979 revolution. I argue that even among poets and critics who agreed generally on both the need for a political revolution and the possibility that poetry could participate in such a change we still encounter rich and conflicting debates on how exactly poetry can or should address socio-political concerns. The book presents case studies of four poets whose critical writings at various times in their careers articulated an understanding of poetry as directly related to politics. Turning to their poetry, I present close readings that demonstrate how the aesthetic works respond to, complicate, and sometimes even contradict the poet’s own theories of how poetic commitment should look. The book is part literary history, as it traces trends and debates in twentieth century Iran, and part literary theory, as it shows how these cases from the Iranian context shed new light on a question that, I would argue, continues to beleaguer poets and critics around the world today, namely, how and where aesthetics and politics intersect.
In addition to my first book, I have started a project on Iranian prison memoirs. I began with an interest in how the Persian prison memoir developed historically into a genre but my research has since led me to questions of how prison memoirs travel in translation and how the genre, to the extent that we can call it one, develops and circulates in various national and global contexts. My other major research interests include translation in theory and practice and the debates around world literature that have informed literary studies in recent years. You can read a review that I wrote with some of these interests in mind here.
Research Advised: Publications Essays, Articles, and Book Chapters
- NELC-PISP Presents Third Iran Film Initiative in collaboration with SIFF 2018 - May 17, 2018
- A Conversation with Shirin Neshat - May 5, 2018
- University of Washington inaugural Nowruz Celebration on Radio Iranshahr - March 22, 2018
- Samad Alavi and Afshin Sepehri presented a pre-show talk for Meany Center's Feathers of Fire event - March 22, 2018
- May 12-13: Writing the Iranian Revolution: Memory, Testimony, Time - April 13, 2017
- Samad Alavi Reviews Born Upon the Dark Spear: Selected Poems of Ahmad Shamlu - January 3, 2017