SOAS University of London

Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Jack Clift

BA (Oxford), MPhil (Oxford)
  • Research


Clift Jack - CCLPS IMG PHD - 485 186 56
Jack Clift
Email address:
Thesis title:
Historical fiction and historical imagination in Hindi and Urdu literature
Internal Supervisors


After completing a BA in European and Middle Eastern Languages (Spanish & Arabic), I worked for a short time in film and television production, before returning to the University of Oxford to begin an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies. My doctoral research at SOAS forms part of the European Research Council-funded Multilingual Locals, Significant Geographies project, which is led by Professor Francesca Orsini.

PhD Research

My doctoral research focusses on Hindi and Urdu historical novels from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. My thesis interrogates these historical-fictional works along two main trajectories. On the one hand, I explore the interaction of the ‘historical’ and the ‘fictional’ in such works, investigating how Indian and Pakistani authors conceptualise a pair of categories that are often starkly dichotomised in both popular literary imagination and academic scholarship. At the same time, I consider how best to read narratives in Hindi and Urdu side-by-side, taking into account the shifting political and cultural contexts that inform the literatures of these two languages while maintaining productive comparisons between them. The majority of the authors included in my study were active in the 1950s and 1960s, writing in the immediate aftermath of the Partition of British India and the independence of India and Pakistan; they include Krishna Sobti, Qurratulain Hyder, Acharya Chatursen Shastri, Naseem Hijazi, Rangey Raghav and Sadiq Hussain Siddiqi Sardhavni, amongst others.

In addition to my primary doctoral research, I am currently participating in a collaborative project with Dr Richard D. Williams (SOAS) that investigates translations of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress into Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali in the latter half of the nineteenth century across the Middle East and South Asia. This work traces changing patterns in the production of such translations, charting how shifts in the relations between the colonial establishment and missionary groups in places such as India impacted the rationales offered for their creation.

More broadly, my research interests include comparative literary studies, translation studies, and gender and sexuality studies. My previous work has compared expressions of nationalism in Spanish and Arabic literatures from the mid-twentieth century; and has investigated the use of Arabic by an Islamic reformist group in North India during the twentieth century.


Conference organisation
Conference papers
  • March 2018. ‘A Pilgrim Progressively Translated: John Bunyan in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali’ with Dr Richard D. Williams (SOAS), South Asia Seminar Series, British Library.
  • March 2018. ‘“I did not move, I did not scream”: Reading gender, violence and silence in Hindi and Urdu fiction,’ Comparative Perspectives on Gender in the Literatures of the Horn of Africa, the Arab World, and India, SOAS, University of London.
  • February 2018. ‘Re-reading South Asia: Krishna Sobti, Qurratulain Hyder and the act of “reading together”,’ Questioning South Asia, Habib University, Karachi, Pakistan.
  • November 2017. ‘Data Management in Multilingual Locals, Significant Geographies (MULOSIGE),’ Data Management in the Asian Humanities and Social Sciences, SOAS, University of London.
  • September 2017. ‘A Pilgrim Progressively Translated: John Bunyan in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and Bengali’ with Dr Richard D. Williams (SOAS), Circulating Translation in the 19th Century from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Arabian Sea: Texts in Practice, University of Oxford.
  • July 2017. ‘Progress of the Pilgrim’s Progress: Translation and circulation in the Middle East and North India,’ Literature and Circulation Colloquium, Institute for World Literature 2017, University of Copenhagen.
  • June 2017. ‘History against historical fiction? Reading Hindi and Urdu in post-Partition India,’ Decolonising the Cultural Institution, SOAS, University of London.


  • Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)
  • Multilingual Locals, Significant Geographies (MULOSIGE)


Comparative literature, literatures of South Asia, literatures of the Middle East, translation studies, gender and sexuality studies, visual and material culture.