James' Master's project examined how ideas about vision - both what happens when we look at something and how we interpret visual experience - are played out in the text and later illustration of Niẓāmī Gajavī's Khamsa. The prefaces and the narratives of the five poems in the Khamsa consistently focus on the interpretation of sensory experience as a method of understanding the order of things. By engaging with Niẓāmī's ideas about interpretation, he analysed how the Khamsa ties the study of knowledge to the composition and reading of poetry. In a second strand to the project, he examined how the hermeneutic frameworks developed in the Khamsa were read anew when it was illustrated in the early-modern period. For this he focused on an illustrated manuscript produced from the Timurid self-styled sulṭān Iskandar.
His doctoral research will examine two medieval anthologies - al-Thaʿālibī's (d. 1039) Arabic Yatīmat al-Dahr and ʿAwfī's (d. c. 1230) Persian Lubāb al-Albāb. He will ask how the compilers create critical and aesthetic contexts for the appreciation of literature by close reading their selections of poetry and the material that introduces them. His research will focus on what the compilers considered good poetry in there respective languages to be and why, and how they encouraged their readers to engage with the frameworks that they developed.