Lital Levy

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

Office Hours Spring 2024: By appointment


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

Research Interests: Comparative literature, cultural studies, critical theory, intellectual history

My work strives to decolonize my main areas of study: comparative literature and Jewish studies. Middle Eastern studies is my secondary area. I seek to place non-Western languages and perspectives at the center of my 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 on diaspora.

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; literature and war; temporality. My comparative literature scholarship is located primarily in the contexts of Palestine/Israel (19th c. to the present); the modern Arabic renaissance (Nahda); and the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah).

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; diasporic world literature and 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. I am also the co-editor of Unsettling Jewish Knowledge (with Ann Dailey and Martin Kavka), a volume that rethinks Jewish studies through affects, the body, and the imagination. With Allison Schachter, I co-edited a special double issue of Prooftexts (2017) on Jewish writing and World Literature.

Currently, I am completing a book about Esther Azhari Moyal, the sole Jewish woman writer in the 19th-c. Nahda or Modern Jewish Renaissance. Concurrently, I am working on a world literature project provisionally titled Global Haskalah, which revises Eurocentric narrative of Jewish literary 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. Two articles/ chapters from this project are forthcoming in 2025, on Jewish-language translations of Grace Aguilar's The Vale of Cedars and on Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, respectively. 

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, 2019-2022). 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, to support my research on the Global Haskalah.


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

Unsettling Jewish Knowledge: Text, Contingency, Desire (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023):


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.