Comparative and World Literature The College of Humanities

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Shirin A. Khanmohamadi

Comparative and World Literature
San Francisco State University


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 receiving my PhD from Columbia University in 2005. I have a BA with Honors from Brown (Literature and Society) and an MA from UT-Austin (English, with a focus on Postcolonial Studies). My teaching and research is in comparative medieval European literature (epic, romance, tale collections), premodern travel, geographical and ethnographic writings, and literary and cultural contacts between the medieval European and Islamic worlds. Being in a Comparative and World Literature department means that my teaching necessarily (and happily) stretches beyond my training in European and Mediterranean studies to embrace a wide swath of literatures and their cross-fertilization in contact zones across a globalized Middle Ages.

My research and writing is also marked by comparative methods and interdisciplinarity: my first book, In Light of Another´s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages (UPenn, The Middle Ages Series, 2014), considered postcolonial critical anthropology's critiques of colonial ethnographic description and the ethnographic gaze in order to place into sharp relief the differences of premodern ethnographic representation, namely its dialogism and intersubjectivity, particularly where European description predated colonial control. In showing a Latin Europe incorporative and integrative of the voices and perspectives of its 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 to ‘the Arabic role' (Menocal 1987) in Europe's cultural and imperial self-fashioning.

I have published work in a variety of journals, including postmedieval, Digital Philology, New Medieval Literatures, Exemplaria, and Arthuriana (many of which may be found on my academia page,

I am currently serving as an Editor of Exemplaria: Medieval / Early Modern / Theory.

Teaching and Research Interests

Comparative Medieval Literary Study; Pre- and Early Modern Travel and Ethnography; Medieval Europe and the Islamic world; The Global Middle Ages; Medieval Translatio/n; Literary Orientalisms

Select Teaching at SFSU (graduate and undergraduate)

    CWL 230, World Literature

    CWL 400, Approaches to Comparative and World Literature (major/minor)

    CWL 420, Travel and the Literary Imagination

    CWL 423, Going Medieval: Medieval Literature and Contemporary Adaptation

    CWL 424, Multicultural Middle Ages

    CWL 426, Literary Orients and Orientalisms, classical to contemporary

    CWL 450, Literary Crossings

    ENG 501, Age of Chaucer

    ENG 690, Senior Seminar: Chaucer

    CWL 800, Intro to Graduate Study in Comparative Literature (Theory)

    CWL 815, Topics in Critical Theory: Anthropology and Lit Criticism

    CWL 815, Topics in Critical Theory: Theory and the Premodern Text

    CWL 820, Medieval & Early Modern Encounters: Travel and Ethnography

    CWL 825, Advanced Study in Comparative Literature

    CWL 896, Directed Reading: Orals

    CWL 898, Masters Thesis



      In Light of Another´s Word: European Ethnography in the Middle Ages, Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania Press (The Middle Ages Series), 2014..


        "’Home’ and ‘Abroad’ in Medieval Travel and Trade Narratives,” The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature, vol. B (601 CE to 1450 CE), ed. Christine Chism, General editor, Ken Seigneurie, Wiley 2020.

        “Charles in al-Andalus,” Digital Philology volume 8.1 (Spring, 2019): 14-28, Special Issue on “Global Medievalism,” eds. Candace Barrington and Louise d’Arcens.

        "Durendal, translated: Islamic object genealogies in the chansons de geste," postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural criticism 8.3 (2017): 321-333.

        "Worldly Unease in Late Medieval Travel Reports," in Cosmopolitanism and the Middle Ages, eds. John Ganim and Shayne Legassie, New York: Palgrave New Middle Ages Series, 2013, pp. 105-120.

        “Salvage Anthropology and Displaced Mourning in the Lais of Marie de France,” Arthuriana 21.3 (Fall, 2011): 49-69.

        "Casting a 'Sideways Glance' at the Crusades: the Voice of the Other in Joinville´s Vie de Saint Louis," Exemplaria: a Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 22.3 (2010): 177-99.

        "The Look of Medieval Ethnography: William of Rubruck´s Mission to Mongolia," New Medieval Literatures 10 (2008): 87-114.

      Please link to my CV above for more details.

      Last Update: 08-2019

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