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Presented By: Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

EIHS Lecture: Reviving old Desires: The Rubaiyat, the Victorian Underworld, and the Mass Market for the Orient

Juan Cole (University of Michigan)

Juan Cole Juan Cole
Juan Cole
Edward FitzGerald likely translated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a roman-a-clef about the end of his relationship with his Persian teacher and lover, Edward Cowell. Self-published in 1859, it attracted the attention of the Pre-Raphaelites, who deployed it in their search for alternative forms of sexuality and post-Renaissance culture in Victorian London. From this circle it jumped to the public and became a century-long bestseller that created new possibilities for role-playing and world creation. The massive impact of this slight volume raises questions about the Anglo-American uses of the Orient for purposes of self-enlargement.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History and director of Arab and Muslim-American Studies in American Culture at the University of Michigan. He is past president of the Middle East Studies Association of North America. His most recent books include Peace Movements in Islam, ed. (Bloomsbury, 2021), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: a New Translation from the Persian (Bloomsbury, 2020), Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires (The Nation Books, 2018), and The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is changing the Middle East (Simon & Schuster, 2014).

This event presented by the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.
Juan Cole Juan Cole
Juan Cole

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