Fatemeh Shams

Photo Of Fatemeh Shams With Her Jacket Thrown Over Her Right Shoulder

Associate Professor of Persian Literature

838 Williams Hall

Dr. Fatemeh Shams is a specialist in Persian literature. She earned her PhD in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford, Wadham College. Before joining Penn, she taught Persian language and literature in various academic institutions including the University of Oxford, the University of SOAS, and the Courtauld Institute of Art in the United Kingdom.

Her work focuses on the intersection of literature, politics, and society. Fatemeh is interested in the evolution of poetry and patronage in the Persian literary tradition and the representation and transformation of this relationship in modern Iran. She has published articles and book chapters on poetry, patronage, and politics in the Iranian context. Her book A Revolution in Rhyme: Poetic Co-option under the Islamic Republic (Oxford University Press, 2021) is particularly concerned with the question of poets and patrons in past and present Iran. In her book, she demonstrates the role of state-sponsored literary institutions and the ideological state apparatus in promoting state-sponsored literature in post-revolutionary Iran. She has recently won the Humboldt Foundation Fellowship to join Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin in 2021 in order to embark on her second book project on exile and exilic writing in Persian tradition.

Fatemeh is also an internationally acclaimed, award-winning poet and has so far published three collections of poetry in Persian and English. Her first collection, 88 (Berlin: Gardoon, 2012) won the Jaleh Esfahani Poetry Award in London, UK. Her third bilingual collection, When They Broke Down the Door (Washington: Mage Publisher, 2015), translated by the world-famous British literary scholar, translator, and poet, Dick Davis, won the Latifeh Yarshater Book Award in 2016. Her poetry and translations have been so far featured in the World Literature Today, Michigan Quarterly Review, Life and Legends, Poetry Foundation, Jacket 2, Penn Sound, and more. The upcoming Penguin Anthology of 1000 Years of Poetry by Persian Women Poets translated by Dick Davis (2021) has featured a number of her poems.

Courses Taught
  • Introduction to Persian Poetic Tradition (NELC 216)
  • Modern Iran and the West through the Lens of Fiction (NELC 217)
  • Faces of Love: Gender, Sexuality and the Erotic in Persian Literature (NELC 290)
  • Media and Culture in Contemporary Iran (NELC 218)
  • Modern Middle Eastern Literatures in Translation (NELC 201)
  • Persian Culture, Literature and Film for Advanced Learners I & II (PERS 320 & 321)


Selected Publications
  • Forthcoming: “Sensorium of Exile: The Case of Elyas Alavi and Gloria Anzaldùa,” Losing Our Minds, Coming to Our Senses (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2021).
  • A Revolution in Rhyme: Poetic Co-Option Under the Islamic Republic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021).
  • Dialogues with the Dead: Necropoetics of Zahra’s Paradise,” Iranian Studies, vol. 53. issue 5-6 (2019): 893-909.
  • “From Revolution to Silence: A Political Biography of Qaysar Aminpur,” in The Layered Heart: Essays on Persian Poetry, ed. A.A. Seyed Ghorab, Washington DC: Mage Publishers2018): 551-88.
  • “Village in Contemporary Persian Poetry,” Iranian Studies, vol. 51, issue 3 (2018): 455-477.
  • “Islamic Republican War Poetry and Ideology of Warfare,” International Journal of Persian Literature, vol.1 (2017): 5-25.
  • “Literature, Art and Ideology Under the Islamic Republic,” New Leaves, Fresh Looks: Essays on Persian, Language, Literature, and Culture, ed. Kamran Talattof, (Abingdon: Routledge, 2015): 163-192.