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 Arabic literature, the practice of literary translation, the literature of sportsand The Thousand and One Nights. 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, which received the Gaddis Smith International Book Prize.

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. My translation of Iman Mersal’s The Threshold ( (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022) won the National Translation Award in Poetry.

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. 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 and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2021.

My current project, The Ruins: Arabic Poetry in an Age of Extremes (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming), is an intellectual history of the Arab world after WWII, told through the lives and works of its representative 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

“Then What Happened?” The New York Review of Books, November 3, 2022 [NYRB]

“Poets in Prose: Genre and History in the Arabic Novel,” Daedelus (Winter 2021, Special Issue on the novel, ed. Michael Wood) [Daedelus]

 “Nazik al-Mala’ika and the Poetics of Pan-Arabism,” Critical Inquiry (Autumn, 2019) [Critical Inquiry]

 “Modernism in Translation” in Arabic Thought against the Authoritarian Age, ed. Jens Hanssen and Max Weiss (Cambridge, 2018) [Cambridge UP]

“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]

Work In Progress

The Ruins: Arab Poets in an Age of Extremes [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, forthcoming]

Press And Additional Media

Review of City of Beginnings [NYRB]

The Macmillan Report, October 2019 [YouTube]

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