Mikkelson

Jane
Postdoctoral Fellow

My research and teaching focus on comparative literature, Islamic studies, classical Persian literature, South Asian studies, and connected early modernities – and I’m very exited to bring these interests together in the Engagements program. I am thrilled to be a Fellow in the New Curriculum, and wholeheartedly support UVA’s commitment to creating an innovative interdisciplinary first-year core. I believe that it’s possible – and urgently necessary! – to study big ideas by drawing on a diverse global archive. 

I teach two Engagements classes. In “Imagine This: A Course on Thought Experiments” (Engaging Aesthetics), we investigate how ancient Greek and medieval Islamic philosophers, early modern poets, twentieth-century scientists, and contemporary authors turn to the fascinating genre of the thought experiment. As we consider how science and philosophy harness the work of metaphor, narrative, and fiction, we also ask: what do thought experiments reveal about the interrelations between knowledge, truth, imagination, and experience? The course “Lost and Found in Translation” (Engaging Differences) is grounded in the idea that translation, in an extended sense, is all around us. When we encounter differences  (in the form of ideas, experiences, narratives, religious traditions, texts, languages, etc.), we come to understand these differences by making creative interpretive decisions as we restate and recast what we don’t know in terms of what we do know. This class examines how translation has the power to create, complicate, and perpetuate stereotypes, bias, and injustice, and also how generous, open forms of translation are able to accommodate differences. By looking at case studies and theories from around the world, we see how acts of translation carry significant ethical implications and have lastingly transformative effects. 

I received a joint PhD in 2019 from the University of Chicago in South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. My current book project, Steadfast Imagining, studies practices of lyric meditation in the early modern Islamic world and theories of literature and of the imagination that are intertwined with these practices. A second book project, The Experiment of Lyric, places early modern Islamic and European lyric thought in conversation, undertaking to show how poets in these traditions receive the ambitiously systematic philosophies, methods, and truths of their time in similarly experimental ways. My publications and CV can be viewed here