Home CV Research Teaching Links Blog

Teaching at Princeton University

Spring 2014
NES 372/REL 307: Translating Babel: Scripture and Translation in Near Eastern Religious Traditions (syllabus)

Course Description: This seminar explores the relationship between translation and religion, paying close attention to the religious traditions of the Near East (Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam). We will address a broad variety of themes in the religious history of the Near East, ranging from the development of monotheism to the miraculous inimitability (iʻjāz) of the Qurʼānic text to colonial attempts at scriptural translation and religion-making. We will examine themes in the comparative study of religion concerning the construction of canon, scriptural hermeneutics, vernacularity, cosmopolitanism, religious conversion. Over the course of the semester, we will also bring theoretical perspectives to bear on topics such as semiotics, epistemology, and mysticism.

Fall 2013
NES 351: In Tamerlane's Wake: Timurids, Safavids, and Mughals in Early Modern Asia (syllabus)

Course Description: In 1862, the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, died in exile in British Rangoon, and with him ended an era of monarchs claiming descent from the great conqueror Timur the Lame or "Tamerlane." Centuries before, a Central Asian Turk named Timur the Lame (reigned 1370-1405) rose to conquer territories stretching from Anatolia and Russia to India and China. Though the name of Timur still evokes the almost unimaginable awe and terror he inspired, the style of Muslim kingship that evolved in ensuing centuries was deeply rooted in his memory. In this course, we explore the worlds of early modern Central Asia, Iran, and India and trace the lingering influences of Timurid courtly culture in the Safavid (1501-1722) and Mughal (1526-1857) empires. The course will incorporate discussions of literature, the arts, and religious movements within their historical contexts. The reading of primary historical and literary sources in translation will be emphasized. An additional section for graduate students wanting to read original materials in Persian will be arranged if there is sufficient interest.

Spring 2013
Freshman Seminar 142: From the Arabian Nights to the Prince of Persia: Orientalism in Literature and Film (syllabus)

Course Description: American news media, movies, video games, and novels are filled with images of the Islamic world. All too often these images perpetuate stereotypes of this diverse and complex world, which spans the Middle East, North Africa, and Central and South Asia, as both a fantastical realm of Arabian Nights and a hotbed of fanatical, misogynistic, and despotic Muslims. In a time in which engagement with the Islamic world is of pressing importance, this seminar attempts to scrutinize the origins of commonly held notions about the Islamic Orient by those who have represented it in scholarship, literature, art, and film – the “Orientalists” – and to prepare students to critique connections among popular media, foreign policy, and the ethics of identity and representation in the modern world.

Our seminar will be divided into three units. In the first unit, we will examine the roots of Orientalism, paying particular attention to how the areas of the world that we have come to refer to as “the West” and “the East” were construed in Classical and medieval times. Reading authors ranging from the Greek historian Herodotus to the chroniclers of the Crusades, we will delve into issues of ethnic and religious identity in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. In the second unit, we will chart the rise of interest in Orientalist literature and art in early modern Europe, and its connections to burgeoning European mercantile, imperial, and colonial pursuits in the Islamic world. In early translations of The Arabian Nights and the Qurʼān as well as the works of Rudyard Kipling, we will also see how the Orient was imagined during an age of empire. Finally, in the third unit of our seminar, we will examine depictions of the Middle East and Islam in the American psyche from the time of the First World War to the present, focusing on films such as Aladdin, television programs such as 24, and news media.

Fall 2012
NES 397 / REL 397: Thus Spoke Zarathustra: The Zoroastrian Tradition from Ancient Iran to Contemporary India (course website)

Course Description: Zoroastrianism was once considered one of the great world religions. In this class we will survey the history of the Zoroastrian religion from its origins in ancient Iran to the present. Though today Zoroastrianism constitutes a very small community located in Western India (the Parsis), Central Iran, and increasingly, the global diaspora, it was the state religion of the Achaemenid and Sasanian Persian empires, Zoroastrian thought had impact on the Classical, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. In later centuries, Iranian and Indian Zoroastrians interacted with the Islamicate and Sanskritic forms of learning around them to re-articulate new forms of religious identity. We will discuss such themes as the transmission of sacred knowledge, the nature of good and evil, the practice of ritual, the impact of colonial modernity, and the effects of diaspora.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra: The Zoroastrian Tradition from Ancient Iran to Contemporary India