Faculty Spotlight: Zjaleh Hajibashi

April 22, 2013

The University of Virginia is a dynamic institution; it is characterized by a thriving system of students, faculty, and staff who are the lifeblood of the "community of trust" we so admire. In our "Faculty Spotlight" feature, Iris seeks to celebrate some of the admirable, inspirational, and interesting women at our University. There truly is no shortage of such figures, and we recognize that we are only able to offer a glimpse of the achievements of the women in our academic community. Iris and the University of Virginia Women's Center are happy to present the women in these "spotlights" in an attempt to honor their contributions to the University and dedication to their work. As the spring semester of 2013 comes to a close, it is our sincerest hope that as the reader of this series, you will find the same sense of pride and admiration that we do for these outstanding female faculty members. Professor Zjaleh Hajibashi is a professor of Persian language and literature in the Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures department here at the University of Virginia. Professor Hajibashi generously offered her time to answer a few questions for Iris. While growing up in West Texas, Zjaleh Hajibashi says, "In a body that announced itself as different both by color and by name, I lived a world away from the country where absolutely everyone would know how to say 'Zjaleh.'" It was this intersection between her identity and her desire for advancing her education that proved an inspiring background for her eventual decision to devote her life's pursuits to Persian literature. Zjaleh Hajibashi studied English Literature as an undergraduate student at Rice University. After discovering a love and admiration for Virginia Woolf, Hajibashi sought to broaden her literary understanding by embarking on a course of study that involved Persian and Arabic literature in graduate school, and as they say, the rest is history. Of her decision to dedicate her education to Persian and Arabic literatures, she says, "this decision opened more doors than I could possibly describe, enriching, as it has, not only my capacity for literary critical endeavors, but also my appreciation for other cultural worlds." Hajibashi cites a trip to Iran for dissertation research as another pivotal factor in her desire to engage in further pursuit of Persian literature and culture. In 2000, Professor Hajibashi was hired to teach Persian language and literature at the University of Virginia. After receiving a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a specialization in Persian, Professor Hajibashi worked closely with Professor Farzaneh Milani to expand the Persian program at U.Va. Hajibashi says of her colleagues, "[they] were a very engaging group and the department I was to join promised to be a welcoming environment." What struck her most, however, was the beauty of the grounds of Thomas Jefferson’s university. "Walking through the gardens on grounds, I remember thinking how extraordinary it was to have such peaceful spaces woven into such a vibrant place of higher learning," said Hajibashi. At the University, Hajibashi writes that teaching is one of her utmost passions. When asked to share one "fun fact" about herself, Professor Hajibashi responded, "since I was a child, one of my very favorite things to do has been to ride a unicycle. Unfortunately, a foot injury has side-lined me for the past several years." Professor Hajibashi's dedication to her department at the University, marked by an extensive knowledge and passion for the genre of Persian literature, have made her an outstanding candidate for our first "Faculty Spotlight." What's next on Professor Hajibashi's agenda? Several contributions to the literary community, of which Hajibashi says: "Writing Confinement in Iran, my book in progress, is a project I'm very passionate about. I have been able to pursue work on the project here in part because of generous funding from the Arts and Sciences Research Awards. Writing Confinement in Iran introduces prison memoirs from the period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution and explores the myriad ways in which first-person narratives reflect social controls." In addition to this memoir project, she is also in the process of “two ongoing creative writing projects, my novella: Day Breaks in Iran, and a poetry collection, Another "Alefba," for Persian Words' Indefinition. Professor Hajibashi is currently teaching Elementary Persian, Readings in Modern Persian Prose Fiction, and Twentieth-Century Persian Literature in Translation. If you would like to learn more about Professor Hajibashi or the Department of Middle Eastern & South Asian Languages & Cultures, please follow the link to their website. - Addie

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