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MemberShirin Azizeh Khanmohamadi

I am a Professor of premodern literature in the Comparative and World Literature department at San Francisco State University, where I’ve been teaching since 2005.  My location in a Comparative and World Literature department means that my teaching necessarily extends beyond my training as in European and Mediterranean studies to embrace the literatures of premodern Asia, Africa and the Americas.  My research and writing is likewise marked by comparative methods and interdisciplinarity: my first book, In Light of Another’s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages (UPenn, 2014), considered postcolonial critical-anthropological critiques of colonial ethnographic description and the ethnographic gaze in order to bring into sharp relief the differences of premodern ethnographic representation, namely its dialogism, particularly where European description predated colonial control.  In showing a Latin Europe incorporative and integrative of the voices and perspectives of its (internal and external) others, I was also interested in the open-ended nature of European identity in its formative period. My current book project continues this interest while returning me to the complex ‘matter of Saracens,’ which first drew me to the study of the Middle Ages.  Rethinking Saracens and their Objects in the Epic: Translation, Association, Desire deploys translatio/n theory and material culture studies to read the movement of symbolic objects associated with Muslim imperial authority in chansons de geste and chronicles as evidence of European desire for ‘prestigious association’ with various Islamicate empires in the Middle Ages.  I thereby call for renewed attention, through the work of these critically neglected objects, to  ‘the Arabic role’ (Menocal 1987) in Europe’s cultural and imperial self-fashioning. I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the MLA Forum, CCLS: Medieval, for the term 2019-24.    

MemberMarlena Cravens

My dissertation, Among Aliens Abroad, uncovers the techniques used by the Spanish Empire to translate the indigenous languages and cultures of the New World. It reveals how Spanish colonization depended on erasing and selectively rewriting native languages. My research is supported by the 2019-2020 CLIR/Library of Congress Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in the Humanities in Original Sources, the 2019 Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies Consortium Fellowship, and the 2020-2021 University Graduate Continuing Fellowship from the University of Texas.   I draw upon digital resources such as Voyant, Palladio, and Python, as well as physical and digital collections in the Americas and Spain, including John Carter Brown Library, the LLILAS Benson Library, the Harry Ransom Center, the Huntington Library, the National Library of Spain, and the Library of Congress, each of which has important collections containing New World indigenous grammars, dictionaries, travel accounts, translated catechisms, and “histories.”