RIP Rumi scholar Franklin Lewis

Franklin D. Lewis or Franklin Dean Lewis (1961 – September 20, 2022) was a scholar of Persian studies best known for his landmark book, Rumi: Past and Present, East and West. His research covered the mystical poets as well as more classical major figures such as Ferdowsi, Sa‘di, and Hāfez. His  translations of selected ghazals by Rumi are particularly noteworthy.

Education and career

Lewis studied Persian & Persian literature at UC Berkeley. He completed a PhD at the University of Chicago.  His dissertation in 1995, Reading, Writing, and Recitation: Sanā’i and the Origins of the Persian Ghazal, is one of the most widely cited dissertations in Persian literary studies.

Lewis was a lecturer in Persian at Chicago, then in 1997 was a member of the faculty of Emory University.  In 2005 he returned to the University of Chicago, teaching courses in the history of Persian literature.  He was the chair of the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago from 2015-18 and 2019-22.

Lewis was president of the American Institute of Iranian Studies for fourteen years, where he helped preserve Iranian studies after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. He founded and managed the list server Adabiyat, a forum for scholars of Middle Eastern literature.

He wrote poems under the pseudonym “Sheyda”.

Selected works

  • Rumi: Past and Present, East and West (2008). Translated into Persian, Arabic, Turkish, and Danish.
  • Swallowing the Sun, 2008, translation of selected ghazals by Rumi
  • Zoya Pirzad’s novel Things We Left Unsaid (2012) (translation)
  • In a Voice of Their Own: Stories by Iranian Women Written Since the 1979 Revolution, co-edited and translated, with introduction and annotated bibliography by Franklin Lewis and Farzin Yazdanfar (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, 1996). liv+153pp. [Translation with introduction of 18 stories by women writers from Iran].
    • Reviews: Lâleh Khâkpur (in Persian), Kelk #85-88 (Farvardin-Tir 1367 / March-July 1998): 601-603; Miriam Cooke, Choice, June 97: 1656; Judith Terry, Iranian Studies 30, 3-4 (Summer/Fall 1997): 409-10.

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Sarvin Haghighi

Here is a nice lecture on the occasion of international women’s day, where he plays one of his translations of a poem by Rumi with a backdrop of art by Iranian artist Sarvin Haghighi.

4 thoughts on “RIP Rumi scholar Franklin Lewis

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