Video / Audio  Public Humanities Fellow

An anonymous book appeared in Venice in 1547 titled L'Alcorano di Macometto, and, according to the title page, it contained "the doctrine, life, customs, and laws [of Mohammed] . . . newly translated from Arabic into the Italian language." Were this true, L'Alcorano di Macometto would have been the first printed direct translation of the Qur'an in a European vernacular language. The truth, however, was otherwise. As soon became clear, the Qur'anic sections of the book—about half the volume—were in fact translations of a twelfth-century Latin translation that had appeared in print in Basel in 1543. The other half included commentary that balanced anti-Islamic rhetoric with new interpretations of Muhammad's life and political role in pre-Islamic Arabia. Despite having been discredited almost immediately, the Alcorano was affordable, accessible, and widely distributed. In The Venetian Qur'an, Pier Mattia Tommasino uncovers the volume's mysterious origins, its previously unidentified author, and its broad, lasting influence.

Transnational Patriotism in the Mediterranean investigates the long process of transition from a world of empires to a world of nation-states by narrating the biographies of a group of people who were born within empires but came of age surrounded by the emerging vocabulary of nationalism, much of which they themselves created. It is the story of a generation of intellectuals and political thinkers from the Ionian Islands who experienced the collapse of the Republic of Venice and the dissolution of the common cultural and political space of the Adriatic, and who contributed to the creation of Italian and Greek nationalisms. By uncovering this forgotten intellectual universe, Transnational Patriotism in the Mediterranean retrieves a world characterized by multiple cultural, intellectual, and political affiliations that have since been buried by the conventional narrative of the formation of nation-states.

n this book, Hamid Dabashi brings the Shahnameh to renewed global attention, encapsulating a lifetime of learning and teaching the Persian epic for a new generation of readers. Dabashi insightfully traces the epic’s history, authorship, poetic significance, complicated legacy of political uses and abuses, and enduring significance in colonial and postcolonial contexts. In addition to explaining and celebrating what makes the Shahnameh such a distinctive literary work, he also considers the poem in the context of other epics, such as the Aeneid or the Odyssey, and critical debates over the concept of world literature. Arguing that Ferdowsi’s epic and its reception broached an idea of world literature long before nineteenth-century Western literary criticism, Dabashi makes a powerful case that we need to rethink the very notion of “world literature” in light of his reading of the Persian epic.

A case study in the textual architecture of the venerable legal and ethical tradition at the center of the Islamic experience, Sharīʿa Scripts is a work of historical anthropology focused on Yemen in the early twentieth century. There—while colonial regimes, late Ottoman reformers, and early nationalists wrought decisive changes to the legal status of the sharīʿa, significantly narrowing its sphere of relevance—the Zaydī school of jurisprudence, rooted in highland Yemen for a millennium, still held sway.

In the first episode of "The Trilling Tapes," the scholar Lauren Berlant talks live about her new project: an analysis about the affect of humorlessness in politics. Featuring the scholar Bruce Robbins as a guest interlocutor and host Olivia Rutigliano. The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University is home to the Lionel Trilling Seminars, established in 1976 to honor one of the most prominent cultural critics of the twentieth century and his decades-long career at Columbia. Trilling's legacy represents a broad-ranging critical engagement with literature and culture. Speakers in the series include such formidable public intellectuals as Noam Chomsky, Martha Nussbaum, and Amartya Sen, among many others. In this podcast series, Olivia Rutigliano mines the recorded archives--the Trilling Tapes--to uncover and contextualize more than forty years of exceptional critical thought.

Edward W. Said remained, for over forty years, concerned with Conrad. A fascinating conversation emerges between the two men’s work, one concerned with aesthetics, displacement and empire, and sheds an interesting light on the present moment. Performance by Ibrahim Alshaikh (14 years old), clarinet, studying at Barenboim-Said Foundation Ramallah Opening Remarks by David Freedberg and Gauri Viswanathan Introduction by Safwan Masri The Fall 2018 Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture was given by Hisham Matar. Matar is the author of two novels and a memoir. The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between (2016) won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography, the PEN America Book of the Year Award, and the Rathbones Folio Prize. The Return was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and shortlisted for the Costa Awards, and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and the Financial Times. The memoir tells of his father’s kidnapping when Matar was 19 and studying in London: one of the Qaddafi regime’s most prominent opponents in exile, his father was held in a secret prison in Libya and Hisham would never see him again. And yet The Return is an uplifting memoir; Matar recounts his journey home to Libya in search of the truth behind his father’s disappearance; he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. “Hope,” as he writes, “is cunning and persistent.”

This discussion comes in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and statements by the current administration characterizing the press as "the enemy of the people." This panel will address attacks on individual journalists, as well as the fourth estate in general, in order to better understand the contemporary context and also to put recent incidents in historical perspective Panelists: Kerry Paterson (Committee to Protect Journalists), “Press Freedom Under Fire” Bruce Shapiro (Columbia), "Journalists, Authoritarians and Democratic Repair" Chair: Rachel Nolan (Columbia)

The ancient world has always been used as supporting evidence for modern arguments - pro and anti democracy, pro and anti slavery, pro and anti various stances on colour, gender, labour, government etc. What has changed recently is the extreme polarisation of opinion in many places in the world, particularly in the US, and the manifestly unacceptable assumption that if the Greeks or Romans did or said something, it is by definition fine for us. So, instead of supporting evidence for a point of view, the ancient world becomes a weapon. This panel will explore the misuse of the Classics as well as identifying models from the ancient world that really might be helpful in addressing modern problems.