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Oschinsky Research Associate 2022-23: Dr James White


James White completed his doctorate in 2018 at Oxford University. His thesis was concerned with the formation of bilingual (Arabic-Persian) literary cultures in medieval Khurasan, examining how poets who were beginning to use New Persian as a literary idiom read and responded to the Arabic corpus, how Arabic poets interacted with the nascent New Persian tradition, and how coeval literary historiography and criticism constructed a framework for comparing texts in the two languages. He subsequently moved to Freie Universitaet Berlin, where he worked on a second project on Arabic-Persian literary networks across the western Indian Ocean in the seventeenth century, using manuscripts now scattered across collections worldwide to reconstruct literary interactions in individual cities and their broader connection to a transregional ecumene of circulation. This research is forthcoming as the monograph Persian and Arabic Literary Communities in the Seventeenth Century: Migrant Poets Between Arabia, Iran and India (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2023). He comes to Cambridge from Oxford, where he was Departmental Lecturer of Persian Literature.



Current Project: ‘Traces of a Medieval Republic of Islamicate Letters in the Arabic and Persian Manuscripts of Cambridge University Library’.

As the inaugural Oschinsky Research Associate, I am working with a core group of forty Arabic and Persian manuscripts which date from the thirteenth century through to the sixteenth century, and which are held in the University Library and the Cambridge colleges and museums. The aim of my research is to map out the intertextual connections (i.e. instances of text reuse) between these manuscripts, and thereby to show how communities of authors, scribes and readers active across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia were connected through circulation prior to the nineteenth century. I am deliberately working with manuscripts that entered the University Library via many different routes to examine how text reuse connects geographies and temporalities, building a premodern ‘Republic of Letters’.


Recent publications (single-authored articles since 2019):

“Textual Culture Between Iran and India: The Reproduction of Verse in Nasrabadi’s Biographical Anthology”, IRAN: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, 59/2 (2021), 263-286.

“On the Road: The Life and Verse of Mir Zeyn al-Din ʿEshq, a Forgotten Eighteenth-Century Poet”, Iranian Studies 53/5-6 (2020), 789-820.

“Reading In, Looking Out: Hermeneutics by Implication in a Fifteenth-Century Anthology”, Iranian Studies 52/5-6 (2019), 947-972.