Assistant Professor of Arabic • Undergraduate Faculty Advisor (Arabic)
Asian Languages and Civilizations

Levi Thompson holds a BA in History and Government from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, where he grew up in the Appalachian Mountains. He has an MA in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD in Arabic Literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. His dissertation, Speaking Laterally: Transnational Poetics and the Rise of Modern Arabic and Persian Poetry in Iraq and Iran (, brings together the theoretical richness of Comparative Literature and the philological rigor of Area Studies to critically investigate the development of literary modernism in the Middle East. After completing his PhD in 2017, Levi was the Artemis A.W. and Martha Joukowsky Postdoctoral Fellow in Gender Studies at the Pembroke Center at Brown University, where he was a member of the Pembroke Seminar organized on the topic “The Cultures of Pacifism.” While at Brown, he transformed a dissertation chapter into the forthcoming article “An Iraqi Poet and the Peace Partisans: Transnational Pacifism and the Poetry of Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb,” to appear in College Literature. He is currently working on several projects, including a book manuscript tentatively titled Re-Orienting Modernism: East-East Poetic Exchange in Arabic and Persian, a book chapter about the Iranian leftist poet Aḥmad Shāmlū for a collection on Persian literature as world literature, and translations of poetry and prose by the Syro-Palestinian poet Ramy al-Asheq, among others. Levi teaches courses covering modern Middle Eastern literature, cinema, and culture more broadly, with a focus on the Arabic- and Persian-speaking worlds during the twentieth century. While studying Arabic in Cairo during the 2011 uprising, Levi co-founded Tahrir Documents, a digital archive of paper ephemera distributed by protestors in Tahrir Square which a group of volunteers collected, translated into English, and made available online.


“A Transnational Approach to ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī’s ʿUmar al-Khayyām” 

“Translating Tahrir: From Praxis to Theory with Tahrir Documents,” with Emily Drumsta and Elias Saba, The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation, eds. Sameh F. Hanna, Hanem el-Farahaty, and Abdel Wahab Khalifa. 2018.

“Strange Bedfellows: The Crisis of Modernity in Najīb Maḥfūẓ’s al-Qāhira al-Jadīda (Cairo Modern),” Middle Eastern Literatures 18:3, 264-282. 2016.

Book Reviews:

Tahia Abdel Nasser, Literary Autobiography and Arab National Struggles, Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017). Middle Eastern Literatures 21:1, 107-108. 2018. (Forthcoming.)

Waed Athamneh, Modern Arabic Poetry: Revolution and Conflict (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), Journal of Arabic Literature 48:3, 340-344. 2017.

Ikram Masmoudi, War and Occupation in Iraqi Fiction, Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature Series (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015). H-Levant, H-Net Reviews. 2017.


Ramy al-Asheq, “11 Poems on Ageing,” “Grey is the New Pink — Moments of Ageing,” Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt, Germany: Oct. 2018 – Sept. 2019 (Arabic)

Ramy al-Asheq, “In the Sea’s Playground,” 2017. (Arabic)

Ahmad Shamlu, “Until the Red Blossom of a Shirt (1950),” Purple Ink, Brown University, 2017. (Persian)

“Poems by Nima Yushij,” Inventory, Princeton, Winter 2017 (Persian)

“Al-Azhar Draft Constitution of 1979,” translated with Elias Saba in Assem Hefny, “Religious Authorities and Constitutional Reform: The Case of Al-Azhar in Egypt,” Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Islam after the Arab Spring, eds. Rainer Grote and Tilmann J. Röder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 113-121. (Arabic)

“Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: The Poem and the Phoenix,” Jadaliyya, 24 Dec. 2014. (Arabic)

“Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: Whorehouse,” Jadaliyya, 2 June 2014. (Arabic)

"Condoleezza Rice’s Piano by Sa‘dī Yūsuf," Transference, 1:1, Article 13, 2013. (Arabic)

Research Interests:

Arabic and Persian literature, modernism and modernity, transnationalism, translation studies, Cold War culture