The University of Toronto will now offer Avestan and Pahlavi language courses at the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations, thanks to a $250,000 USD commitment from the Persian Heritage Foundation.
The limited-term lectureship is named in honour of Ehsan Yarshater, a professor emeritus of Iranian studies at Columbia University, the first president of the International Society of Iranian Studies, and founder and editor of the Encyclopaedia Iranica.
Lectureship named for Iranian studies pioneer
“We are honoured to have a lectureship in Avestan and Pahlavi languages named for Dr. Yarshater,” says says Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a professor of Iranian history at U of T. “With doctorates in Persian literature from the University of Tehran and in Old and Middle Iranian from the University of London, Dr. Yarshater has been a pioneer in Iranian studies and in disseminating and making accessible scholarly research to both Persian and English language readerships. As a scholar, visionary academic administrator, and founder of major scholarly publication series, he has been a tireless advocate and source of inspiration and support for many students and scholars in Iranian studies.”
Expanding U of T’s strengths in Iranian culture and history
The lectureship will expand on the University’s historic strengths in Iranian culture and history by creating a robust offering of Persian languages. Since 2007, the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations has been unique among leading North American universities in regularly offering undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of Zoroastrianism. The addition of courses in Avestan and Pahlavi strengthens the department’s capacity to foster advanced study of Zoroastrianism. The first Yarshater lecturer will be Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina, recruited from Stanford University.
“We are grateful for the support of the Persian Heritage Foundation in launching the Yarshater Lectureship,” says Timothy Harrison, chair of the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations. “By offering Old and Middle Iranian languages, the University of Toronto is developing one of the most comprehensive academic programs in the highly diverse field of Iranian studies, and our hope is that, with continued community support, we will make these courses a regular part of the curriculum.”
The Persian Heritage Foundation’s gift launches the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilization’s community fundraising campaign to support the teaching of Avestan and Pahlavi languages.
Read more about the first Yarshater lecturer, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina:
Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina was born to a Zoroastrian Parsi family in Bombay, India and emigrated to the United States in the late 1980s. After studying in China for a year, he pursued a PhD in Ancient Iranian Studies at Harvard University where he was supervised by Prods Oktor Skjærvø, the Aga Khan Professor of Iranian. Vevaina then served as a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer on Old Iranian at Harvard from 2007–2009.
Subsequently, he was appointed as a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities. From 2011-16, he taught ancient and late antique Iran, including Old Persian and Middle Persian language and literature, Achaemenids and the Sasanians, and Zoroastrianism at Stanford University’s Department of Religious Studies.
He is completing a book on Zoroastrian scriptural interpretation in Late Antiquity, and he is a co-editor of The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism, the largest published book-length project on Zoroastrianism.