Rebecca Gould holds degrees in Slavic and Comparative Literatures from the University of California (B.A.) and in Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies from Columbia University (PhD), with a concentration in Comparative Literature from the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. Her dissertation, "The Political Aesthetic of the Medieval Persian Prison Poem, 1100-1250", traces the genesis and dissemination of Persian prison poem from Lahore to Shirwan, and focuses particularly on the prison poems of Khaqani of Shirwan (d. 1199). In Berlin, Gould continued her work on classical Persian and Arabic rhetorical and literary-theoretical traditions. Her project involved translating and introducing to a comparative literary readership medieval Persian treatises on Islamic rhetoric (‘ilm al-balagha). Additionally, Gould documented how literary theorists from the medieval Persianate world revised Arabic textual traditions to suit the new exigencies of Persianate literary culture.
Though primarily concerned with Persian and medieval Islamic literary cultures, Gould also translates from Georgian and Russian literature, and is interested in the comparative study of literary knowledge in European intellectual history, with a particular emphasis on Giambattista Vico’s project to create a new form of disciplinary knowledge by combining philosophy and philology. This second project is provisionally entitled "The Consequences of Contingency in hilology’s Intellectual History". She has published articles in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, and Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, and her translation of Alexander Qazbegi’s "Memoirs of a Shepherd" will be published in 2011 by Syracuse University Press.
Burcu Gürsel received her BA from the University of Chicago and her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. During her graduate studies she taught at UPenn and Université de Paris 7, and more recently she has taught literature courses at Sabançi University in Istanbul. Based on her dissertation, her book project, “Invasive Translations: Violence and Mediation of the False-Colonial, France and Ottoman Egypt (1780-1840)” explores the homologies between conceptions of political translatability in the seemingly disparate contexts of late-eighteenth century France and Ottoman Egypt. The project investigates the Napoleonic invasion of Egypt (1798-1801), the institutionalization of French Orientalism and Egyptology, and the incipient Ottoman Egyptian modernization/translation reforms, as “false-colonial” sites. Its central concern is the political conceptualizations of the role of the translator at a moment of transformation, from that of a privileged figure of political mediation to one of subservient expertise during military invasion and expansion. In her work, Burcu seeks to capture the unique ways in which multilingual literary, theoretical, or historical texts, and variously intersecting historical events and cultural contexts each bring the other(s) into relief.
Travis L. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Florida. He studied at Williams College and Antioch University (B.A.), and conducted graduate work in Sanskrit language and South Asian religions at the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University (Ph.D.). Travis L. Smith was Fellow of the project Zukunftsphilologie from January until July 2011. His current book project, "Presenting the Past in the Sacred City: the Vārāṇasī Māhātmya Traditions of the Sanskrit Purāṇas" explores the literary form of the māhātmya – religious "glorification" of a sacred place – as applied to the ancient pilgrimage city of Varanasi, India. Constructed around narrative presentations of the city’s legendary past, the māhātmyas praise the city as sacred and eternal, while reinforcing traditional norms of social and religious practice. A literary and historical study, the project links the theological and sociological discourse in the texts to the changing patterns of patronage and social dynamics within Varanasi history, highlighting the often dramatic theological and political maneuvers that each text uniquely articulates in retelling and updating the traditional lore of the city.