About Persepolis

Persepolis and Persepolis Institute

Persepolis, the Western name for the famous palatial Achaemenid shrine called “Takht-e Jamshid” [throne of (the mythological king) Jamshid] in Persian, is a half-hour’s drive north of the city of Shiraz. In ruins since Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 330 B.C.E., Persepolis stands as vivid testimony to such features of Persian culture of the day as adaptability and eclecticism, religious and ethnic tolerance, valuing of family and friendship, love of the national language and literature, and devotion to nature and spring.

Such cultural features relate to orientations at Persepolis Institute, a group of Austin-based Persian (Dari, Farsi, and Tajiki) language experts who serve as research and instructional consultants for Persepolis’s non-academic language research and writing projects and instructional programs.

Two core elements in Persepolis orientations are, first, the privileging of authentic texts, i.e., oral and written texts by Iranians for Iranians and, second, primary focus on Persian language situations and texts which relate to Iranian orientations which Americans have difficulty “reading” or understanding. A Persepolis textbook called Reading Iran Reading Iranians: Second Edition Revised (2002) illustrates this focus. Likewise, various Persepolis instructional programs with titles that begin with “RIRI®” [= reading Iran reading Iranians] highlight the special attention given at Persepolis to appreciating Iranian perspectives.

Coordinating all Persepolis Institute activities is its founder Michael Craig Hillmann, former Language and Cultural Affairs Officer for the American Peace Corps in Iran and former Director of Courses at Academy of Language in Tehran. The author or editor of a dozen Persian readers, textbooks, and glossaries/dictionaries, Michael Hillmann brings to Persepolis research/writing projects and instructional programs Iran-based experience in designing non-academic, proficiency-based Persian instructional materials and courses, especially advanced courses which deal with Persian language listening and speaking skills beyond levels which university Persian programs can develop in students.

Between 1993 and 2006, Persepolis’s chief activities were textbook and reader compilation and an intensive, 180-hour, summer, Persian course in Austin. As of 2007, Persepolis shifted its emphasis to a series of dictionary and textbook projects.

Since 2000, Persepolis Institute has numbered among its administrative, instructional, and research consultants: Javad Abedi, Behrad Aghaei, Mardin Aminpour, Koorosh Angali, Adam Cameron, Navid Hayeri,  Aman Masoomi, Azita Mokhtari, Ali Akbar Pejmanaryan, Carmen Taleghani-Nikazm, George Rivas, Maryam Sadeghi, Ramin Sarraf, Maryam Shariati, and Jasper Zanjani.

Persepolis Activities and Services

* On-site consultation on teaching methods and materials at government and university  sites for proficiency-based Persian language courses and programs. Suggestions and  recommendations for methods and materials after an on-site visit with supervisors,  instructors, and students, and perusal of existing course materials.

* Proficiency-based Persian course syllabus design for government and university language  programs. Lesson-/syllabus-writing to meet specific aims in specific language courses  and programs.

* 2-day, 3-day and 1-week intensive Persian language seminars and courses on site around  America throughout the year, e.g.,  Persian Dictionaries Seminar, Persian Vocabulary Seminar, Advanced Persian Listening Seminar, and Persian Grammar Seminar.

* Persian language test design and writing.

* Web-based Persian text lessons for self-study review. Short reading lessons consisting of  an authentic text on a timely subject, along with canning, skimming, and gisting  exercises, a Persian-English glossary, English translation of the text, and an answer key.

* Lectures (in English or in Persian) on Iranian culture.

* Technical Persian-English and English-Persian translation.

* English translation of  Persian literary works, e.g., lyric verse and prose fiction.

* Persian textbook writing.

Reading Iran Reading Iranians: Second Edition Revised (2002).

Persian Vocabulary Acquisition: Second Edition (2003).

Basic Tajiki Textbook and  Reader: Second Edition (2003).

Persian Listening (2008).

Persian Reading and Writing (2010).

Persian Grammar and Verbs (2012).

Persian Conversation(s) (2015).

* Persian reader compilation.

Persian Newspaper Reader: Second Edition (2000).

Persian Fiction Reader: Second Edition (2000).

Advanced Persian Reading: Autobiographical Writing (2012).

Advanced Persian Reader (2015).

* Persian glossary/dictionary compilation.

Basic Tajiki Word List (2003).

Persian-English Biotechnology Glossary (2005).

5,001 Common Persian Words (2016).

Dictionary of New Persian Words (2016).

Hippocrene Persian-English  English-Persian Practical Dictionary (2016).

Persian Slang Dictionary (2016).

Persepolis Courses and Seminars

Long-Distance SKYPE Video Conference Tutorials

One-on-one or small group lessons on predetermined subjects with specially designed materials for students of Persian at any level who have access to the Skype video-conferencing application.

Persian Vocabulary Seminar

The one-week, intensive, 28-hour Persian Vocabulary Seminar (= PVS) involves lecture and discussion about Persian word forms and completion of exercises designed to help Seminar participants recognize patterns which Persian words exhibit, especially Arabic loanwords which make up more than 50% of everyday and technical vocabulary in Persian.

Americans studying Persian and their instructors have long recognized that learning and remembering Persian vocabulary is the chief challenge in improving Persian skills beyond Basic Persian. PVS addresses that challenge in its detailed presentation of descriptive rules for why Persian words exhibit the forms they have. PVS aims to make it substantially easier for Persian specialists to make good guesses about unfamiliar vocabulary in the context of written and spoken texts, to pronounce many unfamiliar words correctly, and to remember new vocabulary through appreciation of shared word forms and relationships within families of words.

Seminar texts mostly come from a textbook called Persian Grammar and Verbs (2012), half of the sixty units in which treat vocabulary forms and patterns and present texts which illustrate those forms and patterns. Persian Grammar and Verbs lessons also feature review exercises and tests which seminar participants complete to  reinforce their appreciation of vocabulary acquisition issues. Seminar participants also work on their own with The 5,000 Most Common Persian Words (2013), a self-study guide to Persian vocabulary.

During the last seminar session, participants get introduced to Persian Vocabulary Acquisition: An Intermediate Reader and Guide to Word Forms and The Arabic Element in Persian: Second Edition (2003), which they can use in self-study after the seminar, along with its audio CD, to continue working on vocabulary acquisition and maintenance.

Persian Dictionaries Seminar

The two- or three-day Persian Dictionaries Seminar (= PDS) consists of lecture, discussion, and practice, using materials in the 118-page Persian Dictionaries Syllabus (2005), which contains these sections: (1) Persian Dictionary Terms, (2) Persian Dictionaries: Issues, (3) Persian-English Dictionaries (Hayyem, Aryanpoor [1,2], Neghat-Dari, Olson-Tâjiki, Dunwoody-Tâjiki, Emami-Farhang Moaser [2005], Uses of Verb Parts in Neologisms Not Cited in Persian-English Dictionaries, and Hayeri et al., Dictionary of New Persian Words [2012]),  (4) English-Persian Dictionaries (Aryanpoor, Bateni, and Haghshenas), (5) Persian-Persian Dictionaries (Dehkhoda’s Loghatnâmé, Mo’in’s Intermediate Persian Dictionary, Farhang Moaser One-Volume, Sokhan One-Volume, and Sokhan Eight-Volume), (6) Specialized and Technical Persian Dictionaries (Journalism Dictionary, Dictionary of Political Terms, Computer Dictionary, Economics Dictionary, Military Terms Dictionary, Dictionary of Argot, Law Dictionary, and Language Academy word lists).

Persian Grammar Seminar

The five-day, twenty-five hour Persian Grammar Seminar is  a course for advanced students of Persian which meets daily from 8 am to 1 pm. Seminar participants also spend another three hours each day reviewing that day’s class work and preparing for the next day’s seminar sessions. Several weeks before the seminar begins, participants receive a packet of materials for review before the first seminar session, and self-study perusal of seminar materials continues after the last seminar session.

Persian Grammar Seminar makes use of a new textbook called Persian Grammar and Verbs (2012) as the course syllabus. An audio CD of all seventy textbook texts accompanies the textbook. Persian Grammar and Verbs is part of a series of four-skills Persian textbooks. The other books in the series are: Persian Listening; Persian Reading and Writing,  and Persian Conversation(s).

Persian Grammar Seminar sessions focus on authentic reading and listening texts which appear in lesson modules in Persian Grammar and Verbs. Separate chapters in the textbook treat nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, masculine and feminine gender, cardinal and ordinal numbers, prepositions, and conjunctions. Separate chapters deal with one-word “regular” verbs, one-word “irregular” verbs, multi-word verbs, intransitive and transitive verbs (active and passive). Separate chapters describe and illustrate all verb tenses and moods. One chapter each treats the verbs budán [to be], dâshtán [to have], kardán [to make/do], shodán [to become], khâstán [to want], tavânestán [to be able], bâyestán [to have to]and shâyestán [to be fitting/possible], dâdán [to give], goftán [to say/tell], rasidán [to arrive/reach], gereftán [to get/obtain/receive], raftán [to go], âmadán [to come], and khordán [to eat/drink/ingest; to undergo]. Chapters on Persian noun/adjective forms and patterns deal with plural noun forms, noun/adjective words formed with present verb stems, uses of verb past stems and participles, Arabic loanword patterns, and Arabic phrases and grammar in Persian. Several of the book’s chapters describe and illustrate relative clauses and uses of ke, temporal clauses and uses of , conditional sentences, causal, purpose, and result clauses, and the sequencing of verb tense form.

Persian Grammar Seminar sessions primarily involve pre-reading and/or pre-listening and reading and/or listening activities, with recourse to and discussion of explanatory materials in the textbook when questions about morphology, syntax, and meaning arise in dealing with specific texts. The texts themselves present relevant and timely authentic materials on culture, economics, politics, religion, and society. Seminar participants spend most of their self-study time reading the descriptions and explanations accompanying the text or texts in each chapter.

About Michael Craig Hillmann

Michael Craig Hillmann is Professor of Persian at The University of Texas at Austin and President of Persepolis Institute. He has published widely on Persian language and literature and Iranian culture and specializes in lyric Persian verse and world poetry, Iranian Persian fiction from the 1920s through the 1970s, and literary autobiography. As a formalist literary critic, his views trace themselves back to A.C. Bradley’s “Poetry qua Poetry” and Elder Olson’s theory of lyric poetry. He teaches courses on Theory of Lyric Poetry, Classics of World Poetry, Classics of Persian Poetry, and The American Experience as Told through Autobiographies. From the late 1990s through 2014, Hillmann devoted much of his attention to Farsi and Tajiki Persian instructional materials development, resulting in, among other publications, a series of four Farsi Persian textbooks called Persian for America(ns)®.

Hillmann has published two autobiographical volumes entitled From Durham to Tehran (1991) and From Classroom to Courtroom (2008). In Classroom to Courtroom, he tells the story of how academics in a Middle Eastern Studies department became involved in cross-cultural conflicts that resulted in official complaints, allegations of abuse, discrimination, harassment,  and racism, and a lawsuit against a university.

Hillmann is at work on a third and final autobiographical volume called To and From a Village in Maine, scheduled for publication on occasion of the bicentennial celebration of the founding of Searsmont (ME), to where his mother’s Craig family moved from Readfield (ME) in the 1820s and where they lived until the mid-1950s.

As of mid-2015, Hillmann is preparing a monograph for publication on the subject of Sadegh Hedayat’s controversial novella The Blind Owl called The Love Song of M. Sadegh Hedayat and a Persian-English English-Persian Dictionary for publication by Hippocrene Books, as well as an Advanced Persian Reader, which Dunwoody Press will publish.


Born and raised in a Baltimore (MD) suburb, Michael Craig Hillmann (b. 5 May 1940) attended and graduated from The Cathedral School in downtown Baltimore and Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson (MD). After a year at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester (MA), he transferred to Loyola University Maryland (then Loyola College) in Baltimore, from which he graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in 1962. He thereafter served as a Teaching Fellow in English at The Creighton University in Omaha (NB), where he completed M.A. course requirements in English Literature. From 1963 to 1965, he taught college Latin and English at Mt. Michael Abbey in Elkhorn (NB), and then joined the American Peace Corps, undergoing pre-service training at The University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 1965. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, he served for two years as Instructor of English language and literature at the Faculty of Letters at The University of Mashhad, Iran.

In September 1966 in Mashhad, he met Sorayya Oraee Abbasian, an undergraduate student in History at The University of Mashad. They married in Mashhad in June 1967. Michael and Sorayya returned to America in June 1967 and that summer he served as an Instructor in a Peace Corps training program at Reed College in Portland (OR). Then followed two years of graduate study at The Oriental Institute of The University of Chicago.

After receiving an M.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and a Fulbright dissertation grant, Hillmann returned to Iran in September 1969 to conduct research on the ghazal poetry of Hafez (d.c. 1390). There followed four years of graduate study in Persian Literature at The University of Tehran. At the same time, in the spring of 1970 Hillmann joined the American Peace Corps training staff in Tehran, thereafter designing and implementing pre-service and in-service Persian language training programs, first as a Persian Instructor and thereafter as Language and Cultural Affairs Officer.

Sorayya and Michael’s only child, Elizabeth Craig Hillmann, was born in Tehran in 1970. In late 1972, Hillmann co-founded The Academy of Language, a private school which offered all levels of English instruction to native speakers of Persian and all levels of Persian to native speakers of English.

In late 1973, Hillmann returned to The University of Chicago, where he completed a Ph.D. degree program in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in May 1974. In August of that year, Hillmann joined the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin, thereafter developing the first university program in contemporary Persian iterature in North America and inaugurating a Peace Corps-inspired elementary and intermediate Persian language program sequence.

In 1977, Hillmann established Persepolis Institute, a Stateside continuation of the non-academic, advanced Persian language training and research activities of The Academy of Language in Tehran. In 2007, Persepolis Institute numbered eight UT Austin students, staff, faculty, and alumni among its teaching and research consultants, offered eleven weeks of Advanced Persian seminars and mini-courses in Georgia, Maryland, and Texas, and had six research projects for new Persian textbooks and dictionaries.

Hillmann spent the summer of 1975 in Tehran with UT Austin and Social Science Research Council research grants. In 1982, with a UT Austin sabbatical grant and an SSRC travel grant, Hillmann and his family spent six months at William Goodenough House at The University of London. With similar grants, Hillmann spent the summer of 1984 in Paris. With a UT Austin faculty leave grant and a fellowship from Durham University (UK), Hillmann spent the fall of 1986 as a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Durham University.

In 1989, 1991, and 1996, Hillmann made research trips to Iran, supported by grants from Iranian academic and research organizations. In 1994, Hillmann served as Will and Ariel Durant Professor in Humanities at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City (NJ). Also in the mid-1990s, Hillmann returned to graduate school at Texas State University (San Marcos), from where he received an M.A. in English Literature in 1997. Sorayya and Michael spent the Fall 1997 Semester in Paris, where Michael was a Visiting Scholar at Institute d’études iraniennes at Sorbonne nouvelle (Université de Paris III). Hillmann received a Dean’s Fellowship for the Spring 2000 Semester, which he used to conduct research at The University of California at Los Angeles and elsewhere.

Sorayya Hillmann graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1979, with a B.A. degree in Middle Eastern Studies. She then served several years on the staff at UT’s Perry-Castaneda Library. There followed several years in the restaurant business as co-owner and manager of Green’s Upstairs Garden in downtown Austin. Sorayya turned to residential real estate in 1987. As a real estate broker, she began her own company, Hillmann Realty, in 1998. In 2000, Sorayya was a founding member of Society of Iranian-American Women in Austin, an organization which each year sponsors a variety of cultural events in Austin.

Daughter Elizabeth Craig Hillmann Garrett graduated from St. Stephen’s Episcopal High School in Austin in 1989. After attending Hollins University in Roanoke (VA) for two years, she transferred to The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque (NM), where she was active in Pi Beta Phi Sorority and from where she received a B.A. in Psychology in 1993. She then began an M.A. degree program in Psychology at Hood College in Frederick (MD), receiving her degree in 1995. A second B.A. degree program, this time in Education, followed at College of Santa Fe in Albuquerque. Elizabeth spent two years as a psychologist in Albuquerque, and another two years as an elementary school teacher.

Elizabeth and Jeffrey Douglas Garrett, who also graduated in 1993 from The University of New Mexico where he was president of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, married at St. Stephen’s Chapel in Austin in March 1998. The couple moved to Los Angeles in mid-2000, where Elizabeth continued to teach elementary school and Jeff continued his career in commercial land development, while completing a Master’s degree in Real Estate Development at University of Southern California. Their first child, John Craig, was born in Los Angeles in June 2001. Moving to Scottsdale (AZ) in 2002, where Jeff established Evergreen Retail Group, Elizabeth gave birth to their second child, Catherine Grace, in October 2003. Their third child, James Maximilian, was born in October 2005. Elizabeth is active in the Junior League in Phoenix, as she was earlier in Albuquerque and Los Angeles.

Car trips since 2000 have taken Sorayya and Michael to Tucson and Phoenix (AZ); Los Angeles and San Francisco (CA); Reno (NV) and South Lake Tahoe (CA/NV); Denver, Ft. Collins, and Vail (CO); Durango (CO); Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos (NM); annually for five years to Augusta (GA); almost annually to Baltimore (MD) and Cape May (NJ); and almost annually to Belfast, Camden, and Searsmont (ME).

Avid exerciser, for one or other of them, it’s rollerblading once or twice a month at, brisk walking or bicycle-riding almost everyday in West Austin, occasional tennis, occasional kayaking on Town Lake and Lake Austin, river and lake fishing in Mid-coast Maine most summers, regular golf driving range practice and occasional rounds of golf, and skiing with Austin Skiers and with family (since 2000) to: Beaver Creek, Big Bear, Breckenridge, Durango, Heavenly, Keystone, Lake Louise, Liberty, Mammoth, Park City, Santa Fe, Taos, Vail, White Tail, Winter Park, and Wisp.

Sorayya and Michael collect owl images and figurines from around the world, and Michael collects Iranian postage stamps with culture-specific images. Michael has a special interest in autobiographical writing. First came From Durham to Tehran (1991). Then came From Classroom to Courtroom (2008). To and From a Village in Maine, the final volume in the trilogy, is in progress.

Academic/Research Interests

• Persian language instructional materials development and language program design.
• Medieval Persian lyric verse.
• Modernist lyric verse around the world.
• Persian art and carpets as cultural expression.
• Persian literature from 1921 to 1978 as social commentary and cultural expression.
• Zora Neale Hurston’s writing in the context of the American literary tradition.


• Unity in the Ghazals of Hafez. 1976.
Persian Carpets. 1984.
• A Lonely Woman: Forugh Farrokhzad and Her Poetry. 1987.
• From Durham to Tehran. 1991.
• Iranian Culture: A Persianist View. 1992 (second edition).
• ‘The Blind Owl’ as Narrative. 2007.
• From Classroom to Courtroom. 2008.
• The Love Song of Sadegh Hedayat. 2012.

Language Textbooks and Readers

• Persian Fiction Reader: Second Edition. 2000.
• Persian Newspaper Reader: Second Edition. 2000.
• Reading Iran Reading Iranians: Second Edition Revised. 2002.
• Tajiki Textbook and Reader: Second Edition. 2003.
• Persian Vocabulary Acquisition: Second Edition. 2003.
• Basic Tajik(i) Word List. 2003.
• Persian Listening. 2008.
• Persian Grammar. 2012.
• Persian Reading. 2010.
• Persian Conversation(s). 2013.

Edited Volumes

• Hedayat’s ‘The Blind Owl’ Forty Years After. 1979.
• Major Voices in Contemporary Persian Literature. 1980.
• Literature and Society in Iran. 1982.
• Iranian Society: An Anthology of Writings by Jalal Al-e Ahmad. 1982.
• False Dawn: Persian Poems by Nader Naderpour. 1986.
• Sociology of the Iranian Writer. 1985.
• Nationalism and Asian Literatures. 1987.
• Forugh Farrokhzad A Quarter-Century Later. 1988.
• By the Pen. By Jalal Al-e Ahmad. 1988.
• Special Hedayat Issue-Iran Nameh. 1992.

Selected Articles and Essays

• “Hâfez and Poetic Unity through Verse Rhythms.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 1972.
• “Hâfez’s ‘Turk of Shiraz’ Again.” Iranian Studies. 1976.
• “Manûchihrî: Poet or Versifier?” Edebiyat. 1976.
• “Al-e Ahmad’s Fictional Legacy.” Iranian Studies. 1976.
• “Sexuality in the Poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad and the Structuralist View.” Edebiyat. 1978.
• “Rezâ Barâheni: A Case Study of Politics and the Writer in Iran, 1953-1977.” Literature East & West. 1980.
• “Revolution, Islam, and Modernist Persian Literature.” Iran: A Revolution in the Making. 1981.
• “Language and Social Distinctions in Iran.” Modern Iran: Continuity and Change. 1981.
• “The Modernist Trend in Persian Literature and Its Social Impact.” Iranian Studies. 1982.
• “Persian Carpets as Reflections of Iranian Society.” Folia Orientalia. 1984.
• “Cultural Dilemmas of an Iranian Intellectual.” Lost in the Crowd. 1985.
• “Nader Naderpour and Thirty Years of Persian Poetry.” Literature East & West. 1986.
• “Iranian Nationalism and Modernist Persian Literature.” Literature East & West. 1987.
• “Modern Persian Fiction: An Iranian Mirror and Conscience.” Persian Literature. 1988.
• “Forugh Farrokhzad: An Iranian Life That Was Poetry.” Zendehbad. 1988).
• “Hafez.” Great Lives from History-Ancient and Medieval Series. 1988.
• “Omar Khayyam.” Great Lives from History-Ancient and Medieval Series. 1988.
• “Jalal al-Din Rumi.” Great Lives from History-Ancient and Modern Series. 1988.
• “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1975).” Masterplots: Nonfiction-II. 1989.
• “Orientalism by Edward Said (1978).” Masterplots: Nonfiction-II. 1989.
• “Cultural Analysis of a Modern Persian Carpet.” Oriental Rug Review. 1989.
• “Translation as Interpretation: Ferdowsi’s Rostam and Sohrab.” Iranshenasi. 1989.
• “Hedayat’s The Blind Owl: An Autobiographical Nightmare.” Iranshenasi. 1989.
• “Shah Abbas the Great.” Great Lives from History: Renaissance to 1900. 1989.
• “Buf-e Kur.” Encyclopaedia Iranica. 1990.
• “Ferdowsi’s Sohrâb as a Laudable Anti-patriarchal Force in Iranian Culture.” Iranshenasi. 1990.
• “Ruhollah Khomeini.” Great Lives from History: Twentieth Century. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1990.
• “Forugh Farrokhzâd’s Autobiographical Voice.” Women’s Biographies and Autobiographies in Modern Iran. 1990.
• “Translation as Poetry: Ferdowsi’s Story of Siyavash.” Iranshenasi. 1993.
• “Translation as Medievalism: The Case of Nezami’s Haft Paykar.” Iranshenasi. 1996.
• “The Blind Owl as a Modernist Fiction.” Daftar-e Honar. 1996.
• “Suhrab Sipihri.” Encyclopaedia of Islam: New Edition. 1996.
• “Dust Tracks on a Road as Literary Autobiography.” Zora Neale Hurston Forum. 1996.
“Telling Iranian Tales in America.” Adabiyat Internet Discussion Group. 1997.
“Tiptoeing Past Armenian-Iranian-American Dreams.” Iranian Studies. 1997.
• “Buf-e Kur-e Hedayat’ [Hedayat’s The Blind Owl]. Iranshenasi. 1998.
• Forugh Farrokhzad in the Twenty-first Century.” IAMA Journal. 1998.
• “Hafez and the Persian Ghazal, and Wilberforce Clarke’s Translation.” The Divan-i Hafiz. 1998.
• “Technique’s in Hedâyat’s Fiction.” Encyclopaedia Iranica. 2003.
• “The Title of Hedayat’s Buf-i Kur.” The Necklace of the Pleiades. 2007.
“How Modern Persian Poetry Got Modern: A Review of Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak’s Recasting Persian Poetry.”“Anecdotal Notes on (Mis-)Reading Chubak.”