“Pessimism of the Will & Optimism of the Intellect” (Antonio Gramsci)

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Hello! Welcome to this short summary of myself. I define myself as a writer, reader, translator, teacher, lover of staying up late at night, of wandering through cities and watching the stars, coffee, documentary films, medieval ruins, and poetry in languages other than my own. My reading ranges across novels (Fyodor Dostoevsky and Virginia Woolf are among my favorites), philosophy (I adore Giambattista Vico and Walter Benjamin), and poetry (I love Mahmoud Darwish and Zbigniew Herbert, among others).

Instead of trying to summarize my life, I will show some…


Peer-review will give you visibility, credibility, and funding

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Many articles on Medium deal with writing for a general audience, and with getting published by the top magazines. However, there another domain of writing that is relatively neglected on this forum: peer-reviewed scholarship. Most often, peer-reviewed scholarship takes the form of journal publications, but it can also take the form of books. This article will show you how to write well in this domain.

Why write for scholarly journals

First, we should address the reasons for writing for peer-reviewed journals. Is it worth your time and energy?

The most obvious reason for publishing scholarship is if you have — or are seeking — an…


Why a forgotten genocide in the Caucasus matters today

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Circassian history is known only in the broadest of outlines to regional specialists and not at all to most outside observers.

The destruction of the Shapsug, Abkhaz, Adyghe, Ubykh, and Kabardian peoples — collectively called Circassian and resident for millennia on the north shore of the Black Sea — did not occur in a single historical moment. Nor was it ever wholly complete. The annihilation transpired over generations, and traversed the vast territories of the Russian and Ottoman empires during their most expansive phases.

Given its multi-ethnic character and transregional geography, the task of narrating what Walter Richmond, in his…


The untold story of Chechen non-violence

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When the Boston bombing trial dominated the media, its perpetrators, the Tsarnaev brothers, were associated with a geography scarcely known by Americans: Chechnya. If there was any examination in Chechnya’s history, rarely did it go beyond this: the bombers hailed from a Republic whose leader, Dudaev, had briefly made a bid for independence in 1992, the upshot of which was a catastrophic twenty-year-long war that decimated the local population.


In death, they came together again, and it was like a Cavafy poem

two male lovers embracing in Louis Fratino’s “Tangerine”
two male lovers embracing in Louis Fratino’s “Tangerine”

The story that follows is inspired by Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Body, Remember,” (1916–8), included at the end. Whereas Cavafy was writing about his male lovers, the love described here is between a man and a woman.

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Their coming together was like a Cavafy poem. When they lay in each other’s arms, time compressed into space, and space condensed into time. Every anger, every resentment wrapped them more deeply into the folds of each other’s affections, like an old sweater that feels better on the skin than a new shirt even when its rough touch wounds. When they…


When the stories we love change our lives

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Chekhov was not my first love. More obviously delectable to a college freshman just returned from her first visit to St. Petersburg and discovering Russian literature for the first time were the thick novels of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Those “great, baggy monsters” (as Henry James called them) buoyed me up through my first marriage, my frantic conversion to Christianity, and my equally hasty divorce. I imbibed Dostoevsky’s entire oeuvre on a reading binge, hoping to drown my tumultuous marriage in his tales of white nights, conniving detectives, and holy fools. Dostoevsky’s tortured heroines perfectly matched my overstrung mind. His philosophical…


Persian poet Khaqani Shirvani translated into Arabic by Michelle Quay and Saleh Razzouk

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قوس طيسفون (طاق كسرى) في العراق المعاصر

في رثائه الإمبراطورية الساسانية المفقودة، يأسف خاقاني لفقدان نظام حكم عظيم. ولكن رثاءه ليس مجرد حنين إلى العائلات السابقة، بل يعمل على عدة مستويات رمزية. يعتمد خاقاني على التقليد العريق للقصيدة الشعرية عند العرب والذي عادة ما يبدأ مع الذات الشعرية — وتحيل دائماً إلى عاشق خائب — يدخل مباشرة للإعراب عن افتقاد محبوبته. وعادة ما يكون هذا الحزن الغامر ناجماً عن إحساسه بما تبقى من خبائها الذي رحلت عنه (أطلال). وبنفس الطريقة يحزن خاقاني على ما تبقى من إرث ملموس للملوك الساسانيين، تماماً كما يحزن العاشق في هذا الشعر التقليدي. ومع أن…


The voice of an Iranian woman poet who wrote only for herself has been revealed to the world

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Lovers of Persian poetry have had the good fortune to witness a flurry of publications in recent years on medieval and contemporary Iranian women poets.¹ These include Dick Davis’ translations of Jahan Malek Khatun, and Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa’s translations of Simin Behbehani.

Asghar Seyed-Gohrab’s landmark translation of the poems of Alam-Taj Zhale Qa’em-Maqami marks a turning point in this trend: it makes the poetry of modern Iran written by women available to a wider circle of readers than ever before. In contrast to prior work on Iranian women’s writing, which consists mostly of specialist articles in area-specific journals…


From interlinear translation to Google Translate

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Translation is commonly understood as the practice of transferring verbal meaning from one language to another. Yet this conception doesn’t do justice to how translation actually works, and how it rearranges words as it moves across languages.

My co-author Kayvan Tahmasebian and I decided to engage with the complexities of translation by introducing Iranian poet Bijan Elahi’s translations of the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin into Persian.

We are interested in this issue for many other reasons beyond our specific interest in Elahi, including the writing of poetry, poetry translation, and the way in which language mediates consciousness. …


Voting is a human right, and no crime can take it away

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Over five million felons are currently barred from voting in the US. This has severe implications for their rehabilitation as well as for the democratic process.

In 2017, Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerry Alexander issued an important dissent, in which he argued that society “should encourage rather than discourage felons to rehabilitate themselves.” American legal history is rich with legal opinions in support of felon voting rights. Yet, legislators who opposed felon voting rights often have more influence than judges on the everyday ramifications of felon disenfranchisement.

To overturn felon disenfranchisement, a massive education effort is needed, targeted…

Rebecca Ruth Gould

Poetry, politics, translation. The Caucasus, Iran, Islam, Palestine. Professor Islamic World & Comparative Literatures. https://rrgould.hcommons.org/

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