Robyn Creswell

Robyn Creswell's picture
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
320 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511 HQ 335
+1 (203) 432-4752


I joined the Comparative Literature Department at Yale in 2014, after teaching two years at Brown University. I’ve taught courses on modern Arabic literature, the practice of literary translation, art and revolution, and modernist poetry (in French, English, Spanish, and Arabic). I am the author of City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut (PUP, 2019), a study of the modernist poetry movement in Arabic and its Cold War context.

In 2012, I was a fellow at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, where I worked on a translation of the Egyptian novelist Sonallah Ibrahim’s early masterpiece, That Smell and Notes from Prison (New Directions, 2013). I have also translated the Moroccan critic and fabulist Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Clash of Images (New Directions, 2010) and The Tongue of Adam (New Directions, 2015), both from the French.

In addition to my scholarship, I regularly publish works of criticism in The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, and elsewhere. For this work, I received the Roger Shattuck Prize for Criticism in 2013. I have been a fellow at the NYPL’s Cullman Center and the American Academy in Berlin. I was poetry editor of The Paris Review from 2011-2018.

My current project is an intellectual history of the Arab world after WWII, told through the lives and works of its poets.


B.A. Brown University, 1999
Ph.D. New York University, 2011

Research Interests

Modernist Poetry; Modern Arabic Literature; Theory and Practice of Translation; Contemporary American Poetry; Genre Theory; Politics of the Modern Middle East.

Publication Highlights

“Hearing Voices,” The New Yorker, December 18 & 25 2017 [New Yorker]

“Is Arabic Untranslatable?” Public Culture, September 2016 [Public Culture]

 “The First Great Arabic Novel,” The New York Review of Books, October 8, 2015. [The New York Review of Books]

“Battle Lines,” The New Yorker, June 8 & 15, 2015. [The New Yorker]

“Crise de vers: Adonis’ Diwan and the Institution of Modernism,” Modernism/Modernity 17:4 (November 2010), 877-898. [Project Muse]

Work In Progress

The Ruins: Arab Poets in an Age of Extremes [manuscript-in-progress]

Research Interests: 
Cultural History
Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures
Working Languages: