Loss of a Ferdowsi scholar
The death of Jerome Clinton
By Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak
November 7, 2003
Dear Friends Colleagues,
With the heaviest of hearts, I write to inform
everyone of the passing away of my friend and our colleague,
professor Emeritus of Persian language and literature at Princeton
University. Jerome Wright Clinton died on Friday November 7,
of biliary cancer; he was 66 years old. He is survived by his
wife, Asha Clinton, his three children, Julia, Matthew, and
Gabriella, and two grandchildren, Isabel and Laura.
A native Californian and graduate of Stanford
University, Jerry received his MA in English and American literature
at the University
of Pennsylvania, spent two years in the Peace Corps in Iran,
and received his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Persian
Arabic literature. He returned to Iran in 1970 where he did his
dissertation research, completing his degree in 1972.
at the University of Minnesota and directing the Tehran Center
of the American Institute of Iranian Studies, he was appointed
professor of Persian at Princeton University in 1974. He taught
there for twenty-eight years in the Department of Near Eastern
Studies until his retirement in 2002. Jerry and his family
then moved to Richmond, Massachusetts, where he lived the rest
Jerry, a man of impeccable integrity and great
decency, was a meticulous and impressively forward-looking scholar
literature whose professional interests spanned literary theory
and criticism, translation and translation theory, and in recent
years, the esthetics of word-image relations. As early as 1969,
decades before the idea of computer-generated reference lists
would gain currency, he wrote an article in The Journal of
Iranian Studies titled "On the Feasibility of an Automated Bibliography
of Iranian Studies."
Its unassuming appearance notwithstanding,
his 1972 monograph, The Divan of Manuchihri Damghani: A Critical
Study offers important keys to approaching the Divan poetry
in Persian, including an impressive insistence on closer attention
to the texts of Persian poetry, that have just begun to be utilized
by scholars of Persian literature.
His many articles on classical
Persian literature remain landmark studies of individual works
or generic characteristics. Chief among these are two essays
on the Mada'en
Qasida of Khaqani, Xaqani's
Mada'en Qaside (I), (1976), and Xaqani's Mada'en Qaside (II), (1977),
Esthetics by Implication: What Metaphors of Craft Tell us About the Unity
Qasida, (1979), and Madness and Cure in the 1001 Nights: the Tale
of Shahriyar and Shahrizad, (1985).
Above all, Jerry was a scholar and translator
of the Persian epic, The Shahnama (Book of Kings). His work on various aspects
of that work have 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.
Most notably, his 1986 Tragedy
of Sohrab and Rostam, was later published in The Norton Anthology
of World Masterpieces.
In 2002 his rendition of the episode of Esfandiyar,
published under the title
of In the Dragon's Claws, won the Lois Roth Persian Translation
Prize. In recent years, Jerry's research was focused on the relation between
text and illustration
in illustrated manuscripts of The Book of Kings. Many of us may
still remember his perceptive presentation in the Third Biennial Conference
on Iranian Studies,
provocatively titled, What Color Is the White Div?
Impressive as Jerry's scholarship was, it tends
to pale before his vast humanity, his profound loyalty to his
friends, and his ever-present habit of 'shekasteh
nafsi' (the breaking of the self), which he had so well combined with
American self-effacement. Even in the throes of the illness that
him, he was a tremendous help to my family and me as we struggled
to come to terms
with my son's illness.
Over the thirty years I have known him, I have
numerous fond memories of occasions where his demeanor and his
of humor deflated tense situations created by undue pomposity
Yet, thinking that Jerry Clinton is not with us any more, no longer a
phone call away from anyone who may wish to reach him, I will
not relate any
at this time.
Recounting such fond remembrances must await a less weighty occasion.
service will be held, following cremation, at 3 PM on Sunday November 30, 2003,
at the Abode of the Message, New Lebanon, New York. Jerry has expressed
the wish that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the following two
Therapists with Wings
84 Best St.
Portland, ME 04103
Sufi Order Center at The Abode
5 Abode Road
New Lebanon, NY 12125
May he be showered forever with blessings
out of our world of dust and ashes.
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak is Professor of Persian
Language and Literature at the University of Washington in
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