Vali-Zadeh, Mahdieh


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Mahdieh Vali-Zadeh is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Comparative Literature of the University of Toronto and a graduate of Harvard’s World Literature program. She has native proficiency in English, Farsi, and Ṭabarī (a language of northern Iran); professional working proficiency in French; and intermediate reading knowledge of Classical Arabic. Her comparative master’s thesis on the sublime in Rumi’s and Wordsworth’s poetry was nominated for Best American Comparative Literature Association Master Thesis Award by York University. Vali-Zadeh is now focused on writing her comparative dissertation, which is about the reception of British Orientalist scholarship of Persian mysticism on the matter of the “self,” both individual and national, in two different but related frameworks: among the British Romantic poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, and the Iranian intellectuals of the early to mid-twentieth century. Vali-Zadeh is also a professional creative artist who works in the areas of visual arts and cinema. She has held solo exhibitions and participated in group shows of painting and calligraphy worldwide, and directed and presented films (short and feature) in international film festivals.

University of Toronto


“I AM NOT I” offers a non-Eurocentric, non-essentialist, and historical genealogy of the modern subject. It does this by focusing on the Persian mystic self as dynamic, engaged, and active via an approach that synthesizes familiar humanistic methods with computational machine learning ones. The study illustrates that the Persian mystic self was figured into the construction of modern selfhood in two different but related contexts and geographical regions: among the British Romantic writers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the Iranian intellectuals involved in forming a modern nation in the early to mid-twentieth century. This project analyzes how the self of Persian love mysticism was figured into a new concept of the self in the case of the aforementioned frameworks. Enacting a more dialogical relation between these contexts, the project critically reassesses how they activated some potentials of the Persian mystic self and omitted others. The study explores the reception of Persian mysticism in its modern and Orientalizing or self-Orientalizing contexts while referring to Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rumi’s lyrical poetry as the best-known literary representation of Persian love mysticism in order to draw attention to the Persian mystic self as active and agent, qualities that, as the study shows, were suppressed in the aforementioned modern contexts.