In Memory of Ostad Moayyad

I just got back from a conference in honor of the late Dr. Heshmat Moayyad, who taught my mentor Frank Lewis and many other of my close colleagues. I had also studied with him for a couple of years before his retirement, and gave a short paper on the Arabic sources of early Persian romances, a topic I hope he would have liked. یادش به خیر.

For the full program, visit

Talk at the Iranian Studies Seminar, Columbia University

I’m excited to be giving this upcoming talk!


Friday November 9, 2018
Faculty House, 5:00-8:00 pm

Salvation Through Sin: How a Queen Rewrote the Rules of Romance
Cameron Cross (University of Michigan)

Dr. Cameron Cross is an Assistant Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the comparative study of narrative in the Middle East within the temporal parameter of Late Antiquity to the Early Modern period (ca. 500–1500 CE).

This talk offers a theoretical reappraisal of the New Persian romance, a genre that experienced a sudden and dynamic efflorescence in the first half of the fifth/eleventh century. In revisiting the question of genre (and “romance” as a viable term) in the Persian context, I hope to reorient our account of this moment in time, from a vertical axis of national literary history to a horizontal view situating these texts within a broad system of literary habits and practices that extended from Ghazni to Paris (and likely beyond). As an example of this approach, I offer the case of Vis & Râmin, a story that demonstrates a clear awareness of this intertextual tradition, which had been developed and circulated in languages like Greek, Latin, and Arabic (and thence into Persian, Georgian, and the European vernaculars) over the longue durée of the first millennium CE. One reason for the poem’s significance is not simply that it knows this tradition, but indeed takes the embedded metaphysics, politics, and ethics of the romance genre as its main object of study. By manipulating romantic conventions into the paradox that its heroine must choose adultery to prove her virtue, Vis & Râmin probes the coherence of its own world-view, opening vistas of individual choice and moral ambivalence hitherto unexplored in romance literature—Persian or otherwise.

Great Lakes Adiban Workshop 2018

We are very excited to announce the program for the 2018 Great Lakes Adiban Workshop, an intercollegiate organization of which the University of Michigan is an important participant, scheduled to take place at the University of Chicago, October 5–6. The program is attached below, and you can visit for more information about the Adiban and their goals.

Time: Saturday–Sunday, October 6–7, 9:30am–5:00pm
Location: 3rd Floor Lecture Hall / Swift Hall, 1025 E 58th St, Chicago, IL 60637

Program Schedule

Saturday, Oct. 6

9:30–10:10 / Kaveh Hemmat (Benedictine U) – China in the Iranian Epic Tradition (1000-1500): Cultural Geography and the Concept of Adab
10:15–10:55 / Aria Fani (U of California, Berkeley) – What is Adabiyat? The Genealogy of a Discourse of Literature (1860-1960)
11:00–11:40 / Paul Losensky (Indiana U) – Why Kings Need Poets: Negotiating Identity and Patronage in the Saqi-nameh of Zohuri Torshizi

Lunch Break

1:00–1:40 / Ali Noori (U of Pennsylvania) – Sabk-i Hindi or Tāza-Gū’ī: Reading Sahābī Astarābādī Today
1:45–2:25 / Shaahin Pishbin (U of Chicago) – Mīrzā Jalāl Asīr and the Poetics of the “Imaginative Style” (Ṭarz-i Khayāl)

Coffee Break

2:45–3:25 / Ayelet Kotler (U of Chicago) – Clear Meaning, Simple Persian: A Philological Inquiry into a Mughal Translator’s Work
3:30–4:10 / Pouye Khoshkhoosani (Northwestern U) – Shi‘ism and Kingship in Safavid Court Poetry
4:15–4:55 / Zahra Sabri (McGill U) – Three Shi‘a Poets: Sect-related Themes in Pre-modern Urdu Poetry

Sunday, Oct. 7

9:30–10:10 / Cameron Cross (U of Michigan, Ann Arbor) – “I Know It When I See It”: Towards a Theory of the Romance Genre
10:15–10:55 / Rachel Schine (U of Chicago) – Nourishing the Noble: A Tale of Breastfeeding and Hero-Making in Arabic Popular Literature
11:00–11:40 / Allison Kanner (U of Chicago) – Majnun’s Animal Kingdom: Desert Wanderings in the Kitāb al-Aghānī and Niẓāmī’s Laylī o Majnūn

Lunch Break

1:00–1:40 / Esraa al-Shammari (U of Pennsylvania) – Images Dispossessed: Tīh of Tropes in Abū Tammām’s Ghazal
1:45–2:25 / Sabeena Shaikh (McGill U) – Selfhood or Seduction: Reading Urdu Poetry as ‘Autobiography’

Coffee Break

2:45–3:25 / Alexandra Hoffmann (U of Chicago) – Cross-dressing in Samak-e ʿAyyār
3:30–3:50 / Samuel Lasman (U of Chicago) – In the Maw of the Nahang: Sea Monsters and Subjectivity in Classical Persian Epic
4:15–4:55 / Open discussion, matters arising, future plans

CfP: Great Lakes Adiban Workshop, Chicago 2018

The Great Lakes Adiban Society (GLAS) invites submissions for its second annual workshop, scheduled to take place at the University of Chicago, October 6–7, 2018. We particularly welcome papers that are works in progress and would benefit from extensive discussion and feedback.

The Society hopes to provide a regional forum for scholars of Islamicate adab, particularly of the medieval and early modern periods, to meet and share their work. We leave our parameters intentionally broad in order to invite as wide a collaboration as can be useful, but we are basically engaged with the literatures of the broad complex of premodern Muslim societies from the Danube to the Deccan. This naturally includes the major Islamicate languages of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu, as well as others (Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Spanish, etc.) that participate in similar literary conventions. We welcome and encourage scholars working in any of these languages to consider participating!

Those who wish to participate in the workshop should fill out our online application by August 15, 2018. Please note that each accepted paper will be given 45 minutes for presentation and discussion; because of this, we have limited space on our schedule and may have to turn down some submissions if get too many. In such an event, preference will generally be given to scholars in the Great Lakes region, per the mission of this organization.

Graduate students note: we have some funding to help offset at least part of your travel costs! If you would like to apply for this additional aid, there is a space to do so on the application form.

If you have any questions, please feel free to write Cameron Cross at kchalipa [at] We look forward to hearing from you!

The Lives and Afterlives of Vis and Ramin

This is my last article for at least a while: a reception history of the romance Vis & Rāmin, covering the near-millennium since it was written in 1050 CE up to scholarship and criticism on it today. I focus on matters of its circulation, popularity, influence, legacy, and place in the classical canon over the passage of time. I hope you like it! Here is the reference:

Cross, Cameron. “The Lives and Afterlives of Vis and Rāmin.” Iranian Studies 51, no. 4 (2018): 517–56. DOI: 10.1080/00210862.2018.1440967.

And, as it happens, Taylor & Francis has given me 50 copies to share for free. If you want to read the article (and you don’t already have access to Iranian Studies via an institutional subscription), you can get your copy (if any remain) by clicking here.

New Article – A Tree Atop the Mountain

I’m pleased to announce the publication of a new article, part of a special issue in the journal Iran Namag on the topic of Iranian masculinities. It was a great project to be involved with and I’m honored to have been a part of it. To access the article, you can visit its website or download the PDF here.

Cross, Cameron. “A Tree Atop the Mountain: Mobad Manikan and the Elusive Promises of Masculinity.” Iran Namag 3, no. 1 (2018): xxvi–lxiii.

Latest article out – “The Many Colors of Love”

I am pleased to announce my latest article has been published by Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, in a special issue dedicated to love. My contribution is entitled “The Many Colors of Love in Niẓāmī’s Haft Paykar: Beyond the Spectrum”, and it deals with Islamicate love-theory and its application in the stories of the Black and White Domes in the Haft Paykar. Read it here.

PDF management using Zotero

This is a post on using Zotero as a PDF management system that I wrote up for our startup project Islamicate Digital Humanities; I figure I might as well include it here.

Zotero is one of the most robust citation management systems out there—open source, free, and great at grabbing metadata and files straight from the web—and with a little tweaking, it can become a great way to organize and maintain a large library of PDFs. For many users, the default settings are perfectly fine, but there are some potential drawbacks that some (such as myself) may wish to address:

  • Sharing PDFs between your computers may become dicey if your library becomes too big. One option is to simply pay $20/year to get 2GB of storage space on Zotero, or you can pair it up with a service like Box or Google Drive through the WebDAV protocol (see Zotero’s sync documentation; more links at the bottom of this page). However, if you opt for one of these solutions, you may be turned off by another issue:
  • By default, Zotero puts each attachment in a separate folder, buried deep within its directory system and assigned a random number. This is intentional; to protect your data, you’re not supposed to be able to easily find and manipulate your files directly. However, if you like to access your files easily through the Finder, this can be annoying.

There is one very easy way you can move your Zotero attachments to another folder where they are visible to the naked eye, so to speak, and that is the ZotFile plugin, but ZotFile, rather unavoidably, does not play well with the WebDAV solution mentioned above. It is possible, however, to set up your Zotero database using ZotFile to link all your attachments to a shared folder such as DropBox or Box. This is the route I opted for, and with a little trial and error, I found a system that is working very well for me (almost perfect, but not quite, to quote Shel Silverstein). In the following post, I will walk you through the steps I did to configure Zotero on multiple machines sharing a single library; I cannot guarantee this will work on every computer, but if your setup exactly matches what I describe below, it should work.


Before diving in and making a mess of things, first check to make sure you meet the following conditions, or at least are aware of what issues you might have to address if you do not:

  1. I am using two Macs—a desktop and a laptop—and I am using the same username for both machines. This is important because it means that my directory path for attachment storage will be identical on both computers; i.e. they will both say /Users/thisismyusername/DropBox/Zotero. If your username varies from computer to computer, your path will not be the same, and this may make the following tutorial unusable for you; or at least you will have to do some additional steps to make sure your attachments are pointed towards exactly the same location.
  2. Going back to that first point, this was done and tested on Mac OS X. I am sure it will work the same for Ubuntu or other Unix-based systems, but I am not familiar enough with Windows to vouch for it. If you use Windows, make a backup (which you should do anyway) and proceed at your own risk. (There is a link at the bottom of this page that may be more helpful for you.)
  3. Set up a user account with, if you don’t have one yet.
  4. Finally, set up an account with a service that syncs a folder with online storage: this could be DropBox, Box, or Google Drive, to name three of the most well-known options. Pick your favorite, navigate to that directory, and create a folder to store your files. (I’m calling it “Zotero” for the sake of this tutorial, but of course you can call it whatever you want.)

Step 1: Set Up Your Library

If you already have a working Zotero library, start by backing it up (if you don’t know how to do that, go to Zotero’s guide to backing up and follow the instructions). If not, just open up vanilla Zotero, hop onto J-Stor, and download a couple articles to have a working sample to try out.

Once you have your library set up and backed up, you’ll want to download the ZotFile plugin. Go to and follow the instructions for installation (these will vary depending on whether you prefer using Zotero Stand-Alone or the Zotero plug-in with Firefox).

Now that ZotFile is installed, time to set up your preferences! There are two sections where we will be adjusting our preferences, so make sure to hit them both. Let’s start with ZotFile: click on the settings button in Zotero, select “ZotFile preferences,” and follow the steps below:

  1. In General Settings, you want to set a Custom Location for the location of your files. I’m using Box, so I get /Users/myusername/Box Sync/Zotero. I also tick the “Use subfolder” option and fill the box with /%A/; this will sort all my files into subdirectories arranged alphabetically by last name, making it very easy for me to navigate to the ‘S’ folder to look up ‘Smith’. (Again, you can set up your subfolder schema—if you want one at all—however you like; this is just what I did.)
  2. In Tablet Settings, I did not change a thing. I’m not dealing with tablets. (But if you are, investigate this further, it’s a great feature.)
  3. In Renaming Rules, I tweaked the format to read { %a } { %y } - { %t }, and I also unchecked the “Truncate title” option. These are cosmetic; you can choose whatever naming system you like (see the ZotFile renaming rules) or stick with the defaults, which are very good.
  4. In Advanced Settings, tell Zotfile to always automatically rename new attachments (this simplifies your life). You shouldn’t have to change anything else, but I did ask ZotFile to “Remove diacritics from filename” to make searching easier, and I added the djvu suffix to the list of filetypes it will work with, since I do like the .djvu format. These changes, too, are of secondary importance.

To review, the only really important thing we have done so far is set the Custom Location for our files in a directory that syncs to the cloud, so that we can access them from other computers when the time comes. Now, on to the Regular Zotero preferences (click on the settings button and select ‘Preferences’).

  1. In General, you don’t need to change anything (but I like to uncheck automatic snapshots and tags).
  2. In Sync, enter the Username and Password for your Zotero account, and make sure “Sync automatically” and “Sync full-text” is checked. Uncheck the two options under “File Syncing” (‘Sync attachment files in My Library’ and ‘Sync attachment files in group libraries’); ZotFile is taking care of this part.
  3. The Search, Export, and Cite menus you can leave alone.
  4. In Advanced, click on the sub-category of “Files and Folders” and set your Base directory to be the same as what you set in ZotFile—in our example, it will be /Users/myusername/Box Sync/Zotero. Under “Data Directory Location”, leave it set as your profile directory. The profile directory does not contain any files you need to mess with, and can remain hidden. The one thing you must never do is put this directory in a DropBox (etc.) folder; that will corrupt your database over time. Just leave it happy where it is.

Hit OK. We have set our preferences and done most of the work. Now it’s time to test out ZotFile. Select all of the files in your library (it matters not whether it’s 10 or 1000), right-click, and select Manage Attachments --> Rename Attachments. ZotFile will do its magic and rename and relocate your entire library to the directory you have designated using the system you specified—and it can do a huge library in just a minute or two. Go to your Zotero directory just to make sure the files are there, and they should start automatically uploading into the cloud. If everything looks good, go back to the main Zotero window and hit the green sync button (in the upper right corner of the window, it looks like an arrow turning clockwise); this will upload your database (sans files) to your online account. If you want to make sure it’s there, you can hop back onto, and you should see your database under ‘My Library’.

To recap, here’s what you’ve done so far: you’re using Zotero’s sync capability to maintain an online database of all your references and files, and meanwhile ZotFile has taken over the work of managing where those files get stored. A simple division of labor.

If everything looks good, you’re basically done: syncing new computers to this library can be done relatively quickly and easily. if you have a large library you want to make sure doesn’t get screwed up, make a copy of your profile directory and keep it somewhere as a backup. Now, open up a clean install of Zotero on your second machine, install ZotFile, and set up the Zotero and ZotFile preferences EXACTLY as they are on your primary machine. Once the preferences are set up and match perfectly (can I stress this enough?) hit the green sync button on the new install of Zotero, and a great thing will happen:

  • Zotero will grab all your database info and metadata from its server, duplicating your library into your second computer;
  • ZotFile will tell it to look for the linked files in the Dropbox/GoogleDrive/Box folder you specified.

What’s great about this system is that you can now effectively use Zotero from either machine. If you add a new article while on the road, ZotFile will move it to DropBox (etc.) to be shared with your main computer, and Zotero will update its servers; so that when you get back home and open Zotero, the PDF will be waiting for you in your DropBox and your Zotero library will have synced up to the most recent version. Even your annotations will be shared across machines, and if you want to share a file with a friend, DropBox or Box or Drive makes it easy. I’m very happy with this setup. There is only one issue you should know about that I am not sure how to address: if you delete a file in Zotero, ZotFile will not delete it from your hard drive. In other words, because of our division of labor, you have to delete the file twice, so to speak: first you delete the entry from Zotero to remove it from the database, then you have to go to your DropBox folder and delete the actual PDF (fortunately, there is no harm if you just leave it, but it clutters things up).

I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you see any potential problems or have any suggestions as to how I can improve it.


Here are the major links I mention in this post, in addition to a number of tutorials that helped me out quite a lot to figure this out.