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John D. Yohannan (1911-1997)

by Thomas Yohannan (son)

Posted: Monday, July 02, 2001 at 01:46 PM CT

John D. Yohannan (1911-1997)

John David Yohannan was born May 10, 1910, in Dilman (Salmas), Persia. His parents were Dr. David Yohannan, a physician who had studied medicine at the Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, and Mariam (Yauvre) Yohannan, of Urmia, Persia. Following his father’s death in Hamadan — in flight from Urmia in 1918 — he, his mother, and his sisters Louise and Helen emigrated to the United States of America, via Baquba (Mesopotamia), Bombay, and England.

Yohannan grew up in Flint, Michigan, Yonkers, New York, and New York City. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1935, gained his Master’s degree from Columbia University (thesis on The Persian Poet Hafez in England and America) in 1939, and then completed his Ph.D. at New York University (thesis on Persian Poetry in England to FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat) in 1947.

He served in the U.S. Air Corps Military Intelligence from 1943 through 1946. He married Catherine Parandes (1920-2000) of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1943. They had two children: Timothy (1945-1998) and Thomas (b. 1952), who lives in Barcelona, Spain.

Yohannan’s academic honors included a Blumenthal fellowship from New York University in 1941, a Ford Foundation Grant in 1954, and Fulbright lectureships at the Universities of Salonica and Athens in Greece 1958-1960, and at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, in 1963.

He taught for almost 40 years, with the interruption of his wartime military service, at the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. He was instrumental in setting up the Comparative Literature Program at the latter institution. Among the books in comparative and Oriental literature which he produced is the Treasury of Asian Literature, first published in 1956 and still in use as a college textbook for survey courses. Yohannan also served on the editorial board of the journal Literature East and West for more than thirty years.

He retired from the City University as Professor Emeritus in 1976, and soon thereafter moved to Haddam, Connecticut, where he resided with his wife until his death in 1997.

A selected bibliography follows. A more comprehensive listing of books authored by Yohannan may be found at:



  • ‘Tennyson and Persian Poetry’, Modern Language Notes, LVII, 2, Feb 1942, pp. 83-92.
  • ‘Emerson’s Translations of Persian Poetry from German Sources’, American Literature, XIV, 4, Jan 1943, pp. 407-420.
  • ‘The Influence of Persian Poetry upon Emerson’s Work’, TBID, XV, 1, March 1943, pp. 25-41.
  • ‘Did Sir Richard Burton Translate Sadi’s Gulistan?’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, Oct 1950, pp. 185-188.
  • ‘The Persian Poetry Fad in England, 1770-1825’, Comparative Literature, IV, 2, Spring 1952, pp. 137-160.
  • ‘One Hundred Years of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’, EPETIRIS, University of Athens, Greece, 1960, pp. 259-274.
  • ‘Teaching Persian Literature in English Translation’, Middle East Studies, IV, 1, Fall 1962, pp. 6-8.
  • ‘Joseph in Egypt and Elsewhere, East-West Review’, Kyoto, Japan, I, 3, Winter 1965, pp. 254-270.
  • ‘Thomas Mann’s Joseph in Egypt as a study in Comparative Literature’, Annuaire de Literature Comparée, I, 1965, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, pp. 257-267.
  • ‘The Fin de Siècle Cult of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat’, Iran Number, Review of National Literatures, ed. Javad Haidari, II, 1, Spring 1972, pp. 74-91.


  • New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1952, ‘There Was a Lot of Wit in Omar’, P. 4, Arthur J. Arberry’s Omar Khayyam: A New Version.
  • New York Times Book Review, Dec 28, 1952, ‘About 4000 Years Ago’, P. 6, Theodor H. Gaster’s The Oldest Stories in The World.
  • New York Times Book Review, May 26, 1966, ‘Whitman and Mysticism’, Section 2, p. 5, V. K. Chari’s Whitman in the Light of Vedantic Mysticism.
  • Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1982, P.152, ‘’Review of Poetry of Asia: Five Millenniums of Verse in Thirty-Three Languages, ed. Keith Bosley, Wetherhill, 1979.

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