Hallie Nell Swanson

PhD Candidate

231 Cohen Hall

Hallie joined Penn’s Religious Studies department in 2019. A specialist in Islam in South Asia, she focuses on the relationship between Indo-Persian literary culture and Sufi thought in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century North India, with a particular interest in material texts and embodied knowledge.

Her dissertation, ‘Moving Stories: The Indo-Persian Romance, 1600-1857,’ traces how a commonsense understanding of the experience of romantic love as a way to access the divine was popularized through the narrative form of the masnavi (a long narrative poem) in Persian, Dakhni and Urdu. Using manuscripts held in archives in the United Kingdom, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the dissertation tells the story of how the masnavi tradition gradually moved out of the Sufi lodge and the court to encompass print publics.

For 2024-5, she is a Cheng-Harrell Graduate Intern at the Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, working in the Islamic department. She was previously research assistant at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, working on an exhibition project surrounding a manuscript of Persian, Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi poems from eighteenth-century Lucknow. Hallie also worked at the Gurmani Centre for Languages and Literature at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan, and served as the Resident Director for the Critical Language Scholarship in Lucknow, India. 


MSc, Modern South Asian Studies, University of Oxford


BA, Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University


Research Interests

- Persianate and Sufi literature
- literary culture
- manuscript studies
- Islamic Studies

Research Areas
- Islam
- Material and Visual Culture
- Politics and Publics
Courses Taught

Spring 2022: Teaching Assistant, “Existential Despair”
Fall 2021: Teaching Assistant, “Introduction to Buddhism”
Spring 2021: Teaching Assistant, "Satan" 
Fall 2020: Teaching Assistant, “Religion of Anime”

CV (file)