Franklin Lewis

Associate Professor of Persian Language & Literature & Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations (on leave 2018-19; please contact the Interim Chair, Prof. Nadine Moeller)

Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Pick Hall 214

B.A. U.C. Berkeley, 1983.
Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1995
Teaching at Chicago since 2005

Special Interests

Persian literature, comparative literature, Islamic mysticism, translation studies.

I teach courses on Persian literature and language (classical and modern), medieval Islamic thought and literature, Islamic mysticism, Iranian cinema, and translation history and theory.  I currently serve as the Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC), and have affiliations with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Committee on Medieval Studies; the program in Fundamentals: Issues and Texts,and the Islamic Studies Program at the Divinity School.  I studied Near Eastern Studies at Berkeley (with Ira Lapidus, William Brinner, Hasan Javadi, Mahmoud Omidsalar, Jaleh Pirnazar, Joseph Zeidan, Shibley Telhami) and at the University of Chicago (under Heshmat Moayyad, Jaroslav Stetkevych, John Perry and Fazlur Rahman), and taught previously at Emory University’s Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies (1997-2005), and also served as president of the American Institute of Iranian Studies (2002-2012).

My interests center on Persian as a prestige vernacular of the Islamic world, and trans-national literary and intellectual lingua franca.  I focus on the poetry and belles lettres of the Samanid to Safavid periods, as well as 20th-century poetry & prose, which I approach comparatively, considering questions of genre, performance, narratology, semiotics, hermeneutics, homiletics, the sociology of literary production, codicological and editorial theory (for Persian, Arabic and medieval European texts), and the translation and reception of Middle Eastern literature in the West.  I am particularly attracted to the intersections of literature and religion, especially the mystical and esoteric traditions in the Islamicate world (including Sufi, Shiʻi and Baha’i thought and theology).  An ongoing interest in Mowlânâ Jalâl al-Din Rumi is reflected in my monograph on the subject, a book of literary translations of his poems, a guest-edited special journal issue focusing on the current state of Rumi studies, and an edition and a forthcoming translation of the discourses of Borhân al-Din Mohaqqeq of Termez, the teacher who purportedly initiated Rumi into the mystical tradition.  Other publications include translations of modern Persian prose and poetry, and articles on Ferdowsi, Hâfez,ʻAttâr, Saʻdi, Najm al-Din Dâya, Persian literature and the Qur’ân, the Sufi orders, the hagiographical tradition, and the writings of Bahâ’ Allâh and ʻAbd al-Bahâ.

If you are interested in academic discussion of Middle Eastern literary traditions, check out the email list Adabiyat, which I established here at the University of Chicago in 1995 for shcolars, students, publishers, writers and poets of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Urdu literatures.  For news about Iranian Studies research materials and institutions, see the Facebook page of the American Institute of Iranian Studies.  For lectures and cultural events related to Iranian studies in the northern Illinois area, follow the Chicago+ Iranians page on Facebook (Iranians have been performing in Chicago at least since the 1893 Columbian Exposition). Also have a look at our weekly Persian Circle(انجمن سخن فارسی) and its archive of past talks (here and there).  Local events are also announced via our email list: Persian events; for lectures and events about the wider Middle East, check the webpage of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, or follow the announcements on its email list; and for the Ancient Near East, check the events at the Oriental Institute and visit the OI Museum. Oh, and don’t miss the gatherings of the student-run Persian Cultural Society (also on Facebook).


  • [Editor, In Progress] Life and Letters of an Iranian Communist: Stories of Bozorg ʻAlavi. An introduction to the life of Bozorg ʻAlavi (1904-97) with an anthology of translations of his short stories and letters.
  • [In Progress] Teachings of Rumi’s Teacher: Borhân al-Din Moḥaqqeq-e Termedhi and his Ma‛âref. A new critical edition of the Persian text and annotated English translation, with introduction by Franklin Lewis and Hassan Lahouti.
  • Things We Left Unsaid, Zoya Pirzad (the Persian novel Čerâġ-hâ râ man xâmuš mi-konam, Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz, 2002), translated to English by Franklin Lewis (London: Oneworld Classics, May 2012).
  • Mystical Poems of Rumi, translated by A.J. Arberry. Corrected one-volume edition with foreword by Franklin Lewis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 439pp.
  • Rumi: Swallowing the Sun (Oxford: Oneworld, 2008), xxxiii+207pp. (Translation of selected poems of Jalâl al-Din Rumi, arranged by persona/voice/mode and with translation, notes and introduction).
  • The Necklace of the Pleiades: Studies in Persian Literature and Culture, new edition (Amsterdam University Press and Leiden University Press, 2010), 370pp. First edition: The Necklace of the Pleiades: Studies in Persian Literature Presented to Heshmat Moayyad on his 80th Birthday, co-edited Franklin Lewis and Sunil Sharma (Amsterdam: Rozenberg and Purdue University Press, 2007)
  • The Colossal Elephant and His Spiritual Feats: Shaykh Ahmad-e Jâm. The Life and Legendary Vita of a Popular Sufi Saint of the 12th Century. Edited and translated with Heshmat Moayyad (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 2004), 460pp.
  • Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. The Life Teachings and Poetry of Jalâl al-Din Rumi. Foreword by Julie Meisami (Oxford: One World Publications, 2000), xvii+686pp. Reprints 2001, 2003. Revised expanded edition, 2007.  Translations [Persian]: Mowlavi: Diruz o emruz, sharq o gharb, trans. by Farhād Farahmandfar (Tehran: Nashr-e Sāles, 1383 Sh./ 2004). And also Mowlānā: diruz tā emruz, sharq tā gharb, trans. by Hassan Lahouti in collaboration with Franklin Lewis, including author’s Persian preface (Tehran: Nashr-e Nāmak, 1384 Sh./2005; 2nd ed., 1385 Sh./2006.  [Turkish]: Mevlânâ: Geçmiş ve şimdi, Doğu ve Batı (Mevlânâ Celâleddin Rumi’nin Hayatı, öğretisi ve şiiri, trans. by (Hamide Kokuyan &) Gül Çağali Güven, ed. Safi Argapus, with author’s foreword to Turkish edition (Istanbul: Kabalcı Yayınevi, 2010). [Danish]: Rumi før og nu, Øst og Vest. Jalal al-Din Rumis liv, lære og digtning. Danish translation by Rasmus Chr. Elling. Carsten Niebuhr Biblioteket (Copenhagen: Forlaget Vandkunsten, 2010).
  • In a Voice of Their Own: A Collection of Stories by Iranian Women written since the Revolution of 1979, edited and translated, with introduction and annotated bibliography co-authored by Franklin Lewis and Farzin Yazdanfar (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1996). liv+153pp.