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Michelle Quay

Michelle Quay

PhD Student, Middle Eastern Studies


In 2005, I was very lucky to have the opportunity to start learning modern Persian at the age of 15. Though my education in Persian was informal and conversational at first, I continued to work on my Persian, and later Arabic, language skills at the University of Chicago, where I received my BA in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in 2011. I then returned to Los Angeles (affectionately known as Tehrangeles) to work on my MA in Iranian Studies at UCLA, granted to me in 2013. My focus was also on Pre-modern Persian literature.  

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Current Research

My research focuses on the treatment of gender in Pre-modern Persian mystical poetry, particularly the poetry of the 12th century poet Farid al-Din 'Attar. In the course of my research, I hope to place 'Attar's treatment of gender within the larger context of Persian Sufi poetry, by comparing him to other notable Persian Sufi writers of the pre-modern period, including Sana'i and Jami. So far it has become clear that 'Attar's portrayal of women allows for them to play many roles (heroine, warrior, princess, saint, sage, prostitute and temptress, to name a few), but my research hopes to address whether this prevalence and perceived interest in women is unique to 'Attar, or if it can be traced as a consistent theme throughout broader Persian Sufi literature.  


Pre-modern mysticism in Persian and Arabic, Islamic lyric poetry (ghazal), Persian Metrics, Translation practice, Medieval Courtly and Popular Persian Romances.