Innovative educator, champion of women writers
Berkeley feminists and world poetry lovers are saddened to learn of the death of a pioneer translator and anthologizer of women’s poetry from around the world. Deirdre Eberly Lashgari, professor emerita of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, died August 16, 2014 in Los Angeles. She was 73.
She was born April 7, 1941 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A specialist in ethnic and world literatures, Ms. Lashgari translated both classical and modern Iranian poetry, and wrote, published and lectured on Iranian fiction and film as well as on women writers of fiction and poetry in Iran, China, India, Ghana and the United States. At UC Berkeley in the ‘60s, she studied Farsi, Arabic and French, and worked to translate women’s poetry that was then still unknown in the United States. She received her PhD in 1987; her dissertation was titled: “The Agony of Leaving: Relinquishing Scenes in the Novels of Austen, Bronte and Eliot.”
In 1969, she spent a year in Iran on a Fulbright Fellowship studying Western and folk influences on modern Iranian poetry, as well as women’s changing roles in urban and village life. Upon her return to Berkeley, she invited others to join in an ambitious translation project. Circles of foreign language students began to gather regularly, entertaining each other at ongoing poetry-potlucks, which Ms. Lashgari and her colleague Doris Earnshaw organized to locate, translate and anthologize women’s poetry from diverse languages. With her collaborators (Bankier and Earnshaw, et.al.), Deirdre edited two international anthologies of poetry, The Other Voice: Women’s Poetry in Translation (Norton, 1976) and Women Poets of The World (Macmillan, 1983). She also edited and contributed to a volume of essays on women writers with the University Press of Virginia (1995) called Violence, Silence, and Anger: Women’s Writing as Transgression. The story of Ms. Lashagari’s collectivist work is told in The Berkeley Literary Women’s Revolution: Essays from Marsha’s salon (McFarland 2004).
Ms. Lashgari also taught English at Sonoma State University, Mills College in Oakland and San Francisco State University. Always a galvanizing presence in innovative education, she taught at UC Berkeley in the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and the experimental undergraduate seminar program Strawberry Creek College, as well as the first courses on women’s literature in the Comparative Literature Department. Her pioneering research and collaborative work contributed to changing forever the literary curriculum at Berkeley and other American universities, and to normalize the presence of women’s writing as part of the syllabus.
Deirdre Lashgari’s husband Woody Nance died two weeks after she did. She is survived by her first husband Parviz Lashgari, by brothers Clark and Steve and their families, by her father Ralph, and by the many scholars and students whom she influenced. Donations in her memory can be made to the Western States Legal Foundation in honor of her work in the anti-nuclear movement. Ceremonies are scheduled on both the east and west coast to commemorate the passing of Deirdre Lashgari.