Lital Levy

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature
Office Phone
123 East Pyne
Office Hours

Office Hours Fall 2023: By appointment


Periods: 19th-21st century  Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Anglophone

Research Interests: I work in and between comparative literature, cultural studies, critical theory, and intellectual history.

My work strives to decolonize my main areas of study: comparative literature and Jewish studies. I seek to place non-Western languages and perspectives at the center of both fields. I also situate my work in comparative literature, Jewish studies, and Middle Eastern studies within global contexts via my work on comparative modernities and revival/ enlightenment movements.

My research interests in comparative literature: Literary multilingualism, translation, and language politics; world literature and problems of comparison; comparative non-Western modernities and the politics of "revival" and reform; diaspora and transnationalism; East-West literary relations; temporality.

My research interests in history: Modern Middle Eastern Jewish history; intellectual and cultural history of Arab Jews; histories of the Haskalah and global Jewish modernity.

Education and postdoc: B.A., Columbia University (Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures); M.A. Columbia University (International Affairs); Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley (Comparative Literature); Junior Fellow, Harvard Society of Fellows.

My research in comparative literature encompasses Hebrew, Arabic, and Anglophone literatures and cultures both individually and in conjunction. I specialize in zones of contact between Arabic and Hebrew, and my work often finds itself at the nexus of literature and history, or of cultural studies and religion. I see historical and theoretical approaches to literary and cultural studies as complementary and mutually informative. I have devoted much of my research to issues in the 19th-21st century intercultural contact of Arabic and Hebrew and issues in Jewish modernity (from the dual perspectives of literary and intellectual history).

My interests include contemporary Hebrew and Arabic writing, film, and popular culture from Israel/Palestine; Jewish literary multilingualism; world literature and the problem of comparison; critiques of the Western/ nation-centered model of world literature; Jewish literature and/ as world literature; translation in both East-West and South-South contexts; comparative Middle Eastern literatures; the intellectual and literary history of Arab Jews in the late nineteenth-century Arab East (Iraq, Greater Syria, and Egypt), particularly their participation in the modern Arabic and Hebrew renaissance movements; the revision of modern Hebrew literary history (Haskalah to present); the revision of modern Sephardi/Mizrahi/ Arab Jewish intellectual history (fostering collaborative work on North Africa, the Levant, and the Ottoman heartland); Palestinian and Israeli temporalities (comparative political and cultural approaches); Anglophone Middle Eastern and South Asian fiction; and the broader comparative history of modern non-Western "renaissance" and "enlightenment" movements, particularly in relation to the theorization of literary modernity and global modernism. Throughout these myriad pursuits, I am particularly fascinated by questions of linguistic representation, literary multilingualism, and the politics of transnational and (cross)cultural circulation.

My book Poetic Trespass (recipient of the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies, the 2014 Salo Baron Prize from the American Academy of Jewish Research, and the 2015 MLA Prize for a First Book) examines multilingualism, translation, and the cultural politics of language in the literature, art, and cinema of Israel/Palestine from the early 20th century to 2010. With Allison Schachter, I am the co-editor of a special double issue of Prooftexts (2017) on Jewish writing and World Literature. I am currently completing my second book, The Jewish Nahda, an intellectual history of Arab Jews from 1863-1948. My third book is provisionally titled Global Haskalah: Translation, World Literature, and Jewish Modernity; this project revises the Eurocentric narrative of Jewish cultural modernity by illuminating the history of transnational literary exchange between Jewish languages (Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Hebrew, and Yiddish) in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I am also engaged in new work on the culture and politics of Israel/Palestine, developing a project on temporality in political theory and cultural representation. A co-edited volume, Unsettling Jewish Knowledge (with Ann Dailey and Martin Kavka), on Jewish studies through affects, the body, and the imagination, is forthcoming.

At Princeton, I teach in the areas of Hebrew and Arabic literatures, Jewish literature and culture, Middle Eastern Jewish history, world literature, and critical theory. Recent graduate seminars include a course on world literature and translation; on the comparative poetics of "passing" and masquerade (African-American, Jewish-American, LGBTQ and Israeli-Palestinian literature film); and on the idea of the Arab Jew. I have also taught at the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University (Summer 2016) and at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA (Summers 2016, 2017, 2019-2021). I advise graduate students working in related areas of theoretical and/or linguistic interest. 

In 2019-2020, I was an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellow in residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. 


Poetic Trespass: Writing between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel/Palestine (Princeton UP, 2014):

The Jewish Nahda: An Arab-Jewish Intellectual History (provisional title). Under contract with Stanford UP. 


Selected Articles

"Temporalities of Israel/Palestine: Culture and Politics," Critical Inquiry 4:47 (Summer 2021).

"Accent and Silence in Literary Multilingualism: On Postarabic Poetics," in Dibur Literary Journal 7 (Fall 2019):

"Family Affairs: Complicity, Betrayal, and the Family in Hisham Matar's In the Country of Men and Nadine Gordimer's My Son's Story," Comparative Literature and Culture 21:3 (2019):

“Before Global Modernism: Comparing Renaissance, Reform, and Rewriting in the Global South,” Modernism/modernity Print Plus, Vol 3, Cycle 3 (Aug 20, 2018):

"A Non-Universal Global: On Jewish Writing and World Literature" (co-authored with Allison Schachter), Prooftexts 36:1-2 (2017), 1-26. Access here.

"The Arab Jew Debates: Media, Culture, Politics, History," Journal of Levantine Studies 7:1 (Summer 2017), 79-103. Access here.

"Jewish Literature/ World Literature: Between the Local and the Transnational" (co-authored with Allison Schachter), PMLA 130:1 (January 2015), 92–109. Access here

​“The Nahda and the Haskala: A Comparative Reading of ‘Revival’ and ‘Reform,’” Middle Eastern Literatures 16:3 (Winter 2013), 300-316. Access here.

"Partitioned Pasts: Arab Jewish Intellectuals and the Case of Esther Azhari Moyal (1873-1948)," The Making of the Arab Intellectual (1880-1960): Empire, Public Sphere, and the Colonial Coordinates of Selfhood, ed. Dyala Hamzah (Routledge, 2012).

"Reorienting Hebrew Literary History: The View from the East," Prooftexts 29:2 (2010), 127-172.

"Historicizing the Concept of Arab Jews in the Mashriq," Jewish Quarterly Review 98:4 (Fall 2008), 452-469.