P. Oktor Skjaervo

P. Oktor Skjaervo

Aga Khan Professor of Iranian Studies (Emeritus)
P. Oktor Skjaervo

A Norwegian with an early interest for languages, I learned several of them before studying French, Latin, Sanskrit, and comparative linguistics at the University of Oslo in the sixties. This in due course led me to Old Iranian studies, principally languages. After spending a year in Iran in the early seventies, I finished my studies and found myself jobless by 1979, the boost for Iranian studies in the West having evaporated together with Iranian royal ambitions. Having survived by the kind intercession of Professor H. Humbach as an assistant professor in Mainz, Germany, from 1980, teaching linguistics and Iranian studies and laying the foundation for a Scandinavian language program, I moved to the Big Apple in 1985. There I labored as an editor for the Encyclopaedia Iranica while biding my time and waiting for the retirement of Richard Frye at Harvard, whom I wished to succeed and finally did succeed in 1991.

My current approach to Old Iranian studies by far exceeds my original interests: I teach to whoever may be interested the Old (pre-Islamic) Iranian languages, religions (Zoroastrianism and Manicheism), and history.

My work over recent years has been centered on Avestan literature and the foundations of Zoroastrianism, as well as the application of Oral Literary Theory and comparative mythology to ancient Iranian literature and religion. I have also worked on developing teaching material for the old Iranian languages (Old Persian, Avestan, Pahlavi, Sogdian) and religions (Zoroastrianism and Manicheism).
For the rest I enjoy classical music (especially opera), going to the movies and dinner with my colleagues, but also working out and lying by the pool in summer, winter vacations in southern quarters, and many other nice things of life.

Professor Skjaervo's curriculum vitae and publications list.

Now that I am retired, I would like to thank all my colleagues, both faculty and administration, and past and present students for having been such a great inspiration to me and for having made my Harvard experience so enjoyable. I am now looking forward to getting back to the projects that, due mainly to administrative duties, have been on the back burner for so long—Old Iranian Mythology, Pahlavi language, translations, and other—and to keep exploring my newfound interest in Irano-Judaica. -- POS 4/1/2015


Contact Information

By appointment


People Type