Jerome Clinton, scholar of Persian language and literature, dies

By Patricia Allen

Princeton NJ -- Jerome W. Clinton, professor emeritus of Near Eastern studies and a scholar of Iranian culture and society, died of cancer Nov. 7. He was 66.

Clinton taught Persian language and literature, as well as courses in Near Eastern literature, translation, classical Islamic civilization and the cultural history of Iran. His most widely acclaimed work was the study and translation of the Iranian national epic, the Shahnama (The Book of Kings).

"He was a treasured colleague, whose humanity and profound integrity was respected by all who knew him," said Andras Hamori, chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Clinton's work "helped define the field of Shahnama studies for over two decades and his translations of episodes from it have been a staple of university classrooms," said Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, professor of Persian language and literature at the University of Washington in Seattle. Karimi-Hakkak was a longtime friend and colleague of Clinton.

In an obituary that appeared in The Iranian, an online publication, Karimi-Hakkak wrote: "Jerry, a man of impeccable integrity and great decency, was a meticulous and impressively forward-looking scholar of Persian literature whose professional interests spanned literary theory and criticism, translation and translation theory and, in recent years, the esthetics of word-image relations."

Clinton wrote "The Divan of Manuchihri Damghani: A Critical Study," co-wrote "Modern Persian: Spoken and Written" and translated "The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam" and "In the Dragon's Claws" from the Shahnama. He won the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize in 2002 from the American Institute of Iranian Studies for "Dragon's Claws."

While at Princeton, he created an electronic archive of the Shahnama for the Educational Technologies Center. The Shahnama Project Web site contained Persian miniatures from the University library's illustrated manuscripts.

"His scholarship had a major effect on the study of classical Persian poetry, and his two books of translation from the great Persian epic, the Shahnama, have made this medieval work accessible to English readers in beautiful, vigorous, contemporary form," Hamori said.

Clinton was the recipient of two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the J. Paul Getty Grant Program for translation of Persian works and curriculum development. He was awarded the Princeton 250th Anniversary Curriculum Development Grant.

A native of San Jose, Calif., Clinton earned his A.B. from Stanford University, an M.A. in English and American literature from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. and Ph.D in Persian and Arabic literature from the University of Michigan.

Clinton served in the Peace Corps in Iran from 1962 to 1964 and taught in schools in Tehran and Amman, Jordan, from 1964 to 1970. He returned to the United States in 1970 to teach at the University of Minnesota. In 1972, he was named director of the Tehran Center of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. Clinton joined the Princeton faculty in 1974 and was granted emeritus status in 2002.

Survivors include his wife, Asha Clinton, and three children, Julia, Matthew and Gabriella. Memorial contributions can be made to the following two charities: Therapists with Wings, 84 Best St., Portland, ME 04103; or Sufi Order Center at The Abode, 5 Abode Road, New Lebanon, NY 12125.

 

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