Current Dissertation Topics and Research Interests

* = Dissertation in Progress

Advisor: Christie McDonald, [Sylvaine Guyot, Ann Blair (History)]
"French moraliste writing from Blaise Pascal to Joseph Joubert"

Situated somewhere between the fields of literary criticism, intellectual history, cultural history, philosophy and theology, my dissertation will study the development of French moraliste writing from the late seventeenth to the end of the eighteenth century; from the works of renowned seventeenth-century moralists such as Blaise Pascal, François de La Rochefoucauld, Jean de La Fontaine, Jean de La Bruyère, and the Marquise de Sablé, to those of eighteenth-century authors such as the Marquis de Vauvenargues, Alexis Piron, Antoine de Rivarol, Nicolas Chamfort, and Joseph Joubert. I aim to re-examine the idea that moraliste writing arose chiefly from the late-seventeenth century political context of aristocratic writers disillusioned by their loss of feudal power under absolute monarchy, and theological context of these writers' Augustinian or "Jansenist" beliefs. Contrary to these assumptions' basis in the biographies of the great moralistes of the late seventeenth century, moraliste writing continued to thrive throughout the eighteenth century in a diverse array of political and religious (or even irreligious) contexts - Royalists and Jacobins; aristocrats and bourgeois; Catholics, neo-Epicureans and neo-Stoics. What, then, motivated writers with such disparate views to use a style typified by the earlier moralistes? How was moraliste writing influenced by the social milieu with which it has become inextricably linked, the aristocratic salons organised chiefly by female hostesses? And can these writers' often cynical witticisms inspire us to moral improvement, as individuals or as a society? These are just some of the questions that I hope to address.

Advisor: Janet Beizer[Virginie Greene, Alice Jardine] 
Writing Ennui & Reorienting Attention in 19th Century France and Beyond: Baudelaire, Flaubert, Huysmans, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Proust

Advisor: Susan Suleiman; [Verena Conley, Reda Bensmaia (Brown University)]
“Their Algeria". Exile, Memory, Traumatic Legacies in contemporary Franco-Algerian Literarture.

My dissertation focuses on questions of haunting memory after traumatic violence and the possibilities of reconciliation.

Advisor: Sylvaine Guyot

Research interests: French Renaissance literature; national identity; music; poetry.

Advisor: Susan R. Suleiman, [Virginie Greene, Michel Collot (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3)]
La représentation de l’espace dans le récit

While the study of space is commonplace in contemporary literary criticism, its scope is often limited to the analysis of a single work or, to establish broader remarks, must draw from classic sources in anthropology or sociology. This thesis aims to offer a typology of the modes of representation of space that is specific to the poetics of narratives, an approach that should facilitate comparative literary research. Most case studies in this essay will focus on international French language works from the second half of the twentieth century. This thesis is written in French.

Advisor: Susan Suleiman

Interests: French contemporary literature; cultural history of contemporary France; representations of heroism in contemporary French literature and cinema; popular literature; the figure of the "Français moyen"; literature and politics; poetics of documentary.

Advisor: Sylvaine Guyot

Research interests: Contemporary French theatre (the body in performance, limits of performance); Sociopolitical implications of performance. 

Advisor: Susan R. Suleiman [Amaleena Damle (Cambridge)]
The Words of Others: Remembering and Writing Genocide as a Non-Witness

In my dissertation, I propose an examination of the representation of genocide in recent French and Francophone literature (from the 1980s to 2007) by non-witnesses, that is, people who did not literally or personally experience genocide. Because of this lack of immediate personal knowledge and their role as indirect witnesses, the authors who interest me in my dissertation must find new ways to appropriately convey and empathetically represent acts of extreme violence against a specific group of individuals. I aim to show the importance and the meaningful possibility of integrating commemoration and remembrance, as a posteriori processes, into a constructed and moving web of memory, a complex dissemination, that incorporates different memorial modes (collective and cultural), fields (History, Politics, Philosophy, Literature), as well as stances and approaches.

Advisor: Janet Beizer

Interests: 19th century novel, especially realism and naturalism; intersection of medicine and literature; French renaissance poetry and its history.

Advisor: Sylvaine Guyot [Tom Conley, Sophie Houdard (Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3)]
"Trafiquer le passé: élaboration et usages de figures exemplaires (1624-1660)"

(Dual Track with Italian)
Advisors: Tom Conley, [Christie McDonald, Eileen Reeves (Princeton); Yves Hersant (EHESS)]
Knowledge and Representation through Baroque Eyes: Literature and Optics in France and Italy ca. 1600-1640

At the intersection of literature and the history of optics and optical technologies, my dissertation offers a critical examination of works by Traiano Boccalini (1556-1613), Béroalde de Verville (1556-1626), Théodore Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552-1630), Tommaso Stigliani (1573-1651), and Scipione Errico (1592-1670). I argue that the tensions that arise between the natural eye and optical instruments in the first half of the seventeenth century, embodied by the notion of mediated vision, offer a model for writers whose works engage with the role of vision in the acquisition of knowledge and stage the more general epistemological anxieties of that period.

Advisor: Janet Beizer

Interests: 19th and 20th century literature, Marcel Proust, psychoanalysis, illness and suffering, grief, humanity and problems of justice.

Advisor: Françoise Lionnet

Tyranny of the Border: Criminality and the Modern/Colonial Gender Binary from the Trujillo Massacre to the Haiti/DR Deportation Crisis

My research focuses on the Trujillo Massacre in 1937 in which Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo, ordered the execution of thousands of Haitians living in the borderlands of the Dominican Republic. I look back at a nexus of colonial-era laws, policies, literature, and other writings in the French and Spanish imperial contexts to gauge the intersections of criminality, gender, sexuality and race and colonialism. One of my key research questions is how the Haitian-Dominican border, the criminality associated with it, and the modern/colonial gender binary came to be co-constructed through colonialism, and what the implications of this were for the Trujillo Massacre, as well as for women and gender and sexual minorities – among the most vulnerable populations on the border – in the present-day deportation crisis.

My framework and methodological approach is a combination of intersectionality and decolonial (as opposed to post-colonial) studies. In addition to offering historical and theoretical context, I closely analyze three key literary texts, all of which represent the Trujillo Massacre in different ways: Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones (1998), Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa's The Feast of the Goat (2000), and Dominican-American author Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007). I focus particularly on significant historical episodes, e.g. the fact that Haitians had to correctly pronounce the word “perejil” (parsley) in Spanish or be murdered by knife blows, which is why it is also known as the Parsley Massacre. My work also puts forth an epistemological critique; a survey and analysis of relevant scholarship from dominant Euro-US academia, as well as Haiti and the DR and their diasporas, both about the historical contexts as well as the literary analyses. Finally I offer my own perspective on the intersections of the gender binary, sexuality, criminality, and the border, as they are pertinent to both the Trujillo Massacre and the current deportation crisis.

Advisor: Virginie Greene

Research Interests: the post-conquest Anglo-Norman world, 11th and 12th c.; multilingualism and translation; genre

Advisor: Janet Beizer

Interests: 19th century literature and culture, le fantastique, gender and sexuality, film, and crime fiction.

Advisor: Francesco Erspamer [Jeffrey Schnapp]
Clocks, Poetry, and Time Consciousness in the Italian Tradition.

While nineteenth-century historiography mythicized the birth of the self-conscious individual in Renaissance Italy, the Trecento – as century of both Petrarch and the mechanical clock – witnessed crucial transformations of the symbols and expressions of time and time-consciousness. Social and poetic innovations – connected to dynamic applications of the multifaceted concept of ingegno, and the desire to escape or transcend the constraints of space and time – contain the roots of an abstract, increasingly self-referential temporal pivot. Against this backdrop, I plan to explore the values and transformations of temporal expression through the unique role of the poetic word, in relation to the Word (Logos), and in the journey toward extra-temporal truth: from the universalizing expression of Dante; to the fragmented, possibly idolatrous, poetry of Petrarch; to the reconception of the extramundane, infinite reality in the poesia del nulla of Leopardi and Ungaretti. Toward what end, and through what time, do these verbal engines ultimately move? 

Advisor: Jeffrey Schnapp.

Interests: Medieval and Early Modern Italian cultural history with particular interest in illustrations of the Commedia, or stated more broadly, intersections of image and text in Dante's writing, as well as 20th century architecture and urban planning.

Advisor: Jeffrey Schnapp

Interests: relations between literature and architecture in the Italian Renaissance, with a particular emphasis on the construction of theaters.

Advisor: Professor Erspamer

Interests: medieval and Renaissance cultures; history of science; historical costume; literary translation.

Advisor: Francesco Erspamer 

Interests: intersections between Italian literature and visual culture, Renaissance intellectual history (with a focus on history of reception of art works between the XVI and XVII centuries), Machiavelli, XX century Italian literature.

(Dual Track with French)
Advisors: Tom Conley, [Christie McDonald, Eileen Reeves (Princeton); Yves Hersant (EHESS)]
Reconstructing the Baroque(n) Eye: The Optical Aesthetics of French & Italian Literatures c. 1600- 1640

By studying the intersections of literature and the history of optics and optical technologies, I seek to show that the denigration of vision as a form of knowledge and the valorization of optical instruments as ocular supplements exemplify the tensions that are at play in the first half of the 17th century. Through a critical examination of works by Giovanni Battista Della Porta (1535?-1615), René Descartes (1596-1650), Giambattista Marino ( 1569-1625), Béroalde de Verville (1556-1626), Théodore Agrippa d’Aubigné (1552-1630), Tommaso Stigliani (1573-1651), and Scipione Errico (1592-1670), this project will investigate the epistemological and aesthetic dynamics that are in motion during a period where a system of thought based on resemblance and analogy enacts and bares its own limits, and where a baroque order sets up the mechanisms of its own dismantling to foreshadow a classical aesthetic.

Advisor: Francesco Erspamer [Maria Grazia Lolla, Mary Ann McDonald Carolan(Fairfield University)
The Minor Character in Sicilian Literature

My dissertation will be an exploration of the minor characters and spaces that define late 19th and 20th century Sicilian literature, a literature which in spite of its marginal geographical origins may in fact be considered one of the great protagonists of Italian literature. The figures and spaces present in the works of Verga, De Roberto and Tomasi di Lampedusa will play a significant role in this inquiry into the minor protagonists of Sicilian literature.

Advisor: Francesco Erspamer 

Interests: European philosophy and modern/post-modern literature, particularly how existentialism has been reinvented in post-modern structures. I am also interested in Italian singer/song-writers as poets of contemporary culture.

Advisor: Jeffrey Schnapp.

Interests: 19th and 20th century literature, film, theater, and translation. I am primarily interested in the relationship between representation and ethics: e.g., how artistic choices and representational strategies define the ethical positioning of a given work of art. I am convinced that all works of art attempt to "do" something, to communicate some sort of meaning or value between subjectivities. In order to do so, however, they must inevitably participate in representation and all the distortion and loss it implies, from the metonymic erasure of memory and experience to the potentially Orientalizing, reductive translation of Otherness to semiotic form. As such, the choice in how something is represented is an ethical calculation that balances the drive to communicate value with the knowledge that the process of communication exposes it to the potential for distortion and contamination.

Advisor: Josiah Blackmore

Interests: Contemporary Brazilian and Portuguese literature; constructions of gender and sexuality; modernism; avant-garde; constructions of reality and imagination; 

Advisor: Josiah Blackmore

Interests: non-discrimination of gender and sexuality as human rights

Advisor: Josiah Blackmore  

Interests: Contemporary Brazilian literature; contemporary Latin American literature; time, space, and memory in Brazilian and world literature; existentialism and magical realism; film studies; the relationship between cinema and literature.

Advisor: Josiah Blackmore

Portuguese and Brazilian literature and history; migration and transnationalism; documentary filmmaking

Advisor: Josiah Blackmore [Sergio Delgado, third member TBD]
Illustrated Fiction in Twentieth Century Brazil (working title)

Starting in the 1930s, as illustration became less common in new fiction titles across Europe and North America, Brazil saw some of its most celebrated authors collaborate with artists on book covers, frontispieces and interior pictures. The circumstances of this peculiar trend’s late success in Brazil are interwoven with the country's artistic communities, their discourses and the migrations of their members. Vis-à-vis said cultural history, this project aims to examine not only what an illustration does in an era when film is increasingly the dominant visual storytelling medium, but also to what extent the graphic book has become embedded in Brazilian visual culture. The primary subjects of this exploration are viewing-readings of select novels and short stories illustrated by Tomás Santa Rosa Jr., Axl Leskoschek, Hector ‘Carybé’ Bernabó, and Napoleon ‘Poty’ Lazzarotto.

Advisor: Mary Gaylord [Josiah Blackmore, Luis Giron]
Dissertation topic: Early Modern Iberian Lyric

My dissertation addresses poetic representations of writing in the work of Spanish and Portuguese authors throughout the 1600’s. These self-referential instances are read in relation to the different strategies concerning the circulation and distribution of written material. I am also interested in exploring how spaces of social interaction in which writing poetry played an important part, such as academies or religious institutions, contributed to the shaping of a burgeoning authorial awareness detached from court-centered patronage. 

Advisor: Mariano Siskind

Interests: Latin American literature from the 20th and 21st century, crime, terror and science fiction and their developments and intersections, transpositions in film and literature, tensions between modernism and avant-garde, constitutions of power and community in contexts of political struggles, biopolitics, world literature.

Advisor: Mariano Siskind, [Sergio Delgado]

Interests: 20th-Century and Contemporary Latin American Narrative; Latin American Cinema; Aesthetics; Critical Theory; Film Studies

Advisor: Lorgia García-Peña

Interests: contemporary US Latinx literature and performance; Queer, Feminist, Post-Colonial and Critical Race theories; Diaspora; the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, nationality, etc.; the relationships between Apocalypse and Utopia as seen in contemporary US Latinx and Latin American literatures and performances; and Queer Utopianism.

Advisor: Mariano Siskind
The Imagined Zócalo: Literary and Visual Representations of Public Space in Mexico

This dissertation explores various artistic discourses that have addressed the main Mexican public square known as the Zócalo. The space is the political and social center of the country because of its particular history. Much of its symbolic force is due to the enormous artistic and cultural production that has mythologized it for over 500 years. The various governments that have controlled the country have used the Zócalo and its representations to strengthen their political discourse. Simultaneously, other groups write about the Zócalo to propose the dominant power. The goal in writing this analysis is to understand the multiple and sometimes conflicting discourses generated by the space.

Advisor: Doris Sommer

Interests: contemporary Latin American literature and visual culture; our history and theory; relations between ethics and aesthetics; cultural agency.

Advisor: Brad Epps [Doris Sommer, Sergio Delgado]
Intimate Subjects: Sex Work and Economies of Desire in Latin American Literature and Film

This dissertation focuses on contemporary literary and filmic representations of prostitution in Latin America during moments of economic flux.

Advisor: Doris Sommer

Interests: Contemporary Latin American literature, oral tradition and popular music in relationship with identity politics, violence, social and political struggle; the Hispanic romancero and its derivations throughout Spanish America; Colombian literature; decolonial studies; nation and region; education.

Advisor: Mary Gaylord [Luis Girón Negrón, Laura Bass]
Found in Translation: Barezzo Barezzi and the Spanish Pícaros

This dissertation seeks to further our understanding of a literary phenomenon known as the picaresque, which although considered a cornerstone of the modern novel, continues to evade the restrictive definitions of literary critics. It is not intended to be an exhaustive study of the novel, of picaresque or of genre, but rather it aims to draw from various discourses in early modern Spanish and Italian texts in order to elucidate seventeenth-century notions of a literary grouping that includes the anonymous Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache (1599, 1604), López de Ubeda’s La Pícara Justina (1605), and a handful of other books that were published in close temporal proximity and appear to share similar premises. As one of the most significant printers of the Spanish picaresque, Venetian printer, editor, and translator, Barezzo Barezzi, produced five editions of the Vita del Picaro Gusmano d’Alfarace, four adaptations of the Lazarillo and the Vita della Picara Giustina Diez, and in 1627, Cervantes’ Novelas ejemplares. His 1622 version of the Lazarillo, provocatively titled Picariglio Castigliano, interpolates a multi-lingual apocryphal adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ La Gitanilla, recounted by the squire in an attempt to console Lázaro after being frightened by a misread funeral procession. Barezzi’s poignant editorial choices will thus serve as a portal into the business of a new class of book merchants and the inchoate market of the libros de pícaros.

Advisor: Doris Sommer [Mariano Siskind]
Footnotes to Empire: Marginal Advantages in Puerto Rican, Cuban & Filipino Narratives

An analysis of historiography, folklore and travel chronicles written around the turn of the century in the three countries whose fate was at stake in the Spanish American war. Primary focus is on the rhetorical strategies employed by colonized writers that engage literarily in the struggle for belated political autonomy. I argue that through marginal literary practices, as opposed to centrally canonical novels and poetry, the authors attempt not only to legitimate their political and geographical marginality, but to turn it into the source of their cultural authority.

Advisor: Mary Gaylord

Interests: Spanish, English and Italian early modern literature and culture; Queer, Gender and Sexuality Theories; Translation Theory; Digital Humanities; Visual and Performance Studies; Mediterranean Studies.

Advisor: Doris Sommer, [ Mariano Siskind, Alejandra Ortiz Wallner (Freie Universität Berlin)]
Urban fictions: power, bodies, practices, knowledge’s and other urban poetics…

Overall the project deals with the production of urban spaces and urban bodies. Particularly, the project intends to explore the fictional and theoretical representations of the lettered city and the lettered body dynamically intersecting with other cities and other bodies. Thus, the research operates fictional and nonfictional literary imaginaries to examine issues as modernity and modernization processes; power, knowledge’s production and social practices; urban wandering, spatial intersections and space porosity; body and language permeability; violence and pleasure topographies; urban remains and cultural memory.

Advisor: Sergio Delgado

Interests: 20th century Latin American literature; consumer culture; theories and uses of the “ready-made”; tableaux vivants and immobility; environmental and land art; ecocriticism. 

Advisor: Doris Sommer

Interests: 19th century transatlantic studies; history of ideas; post-and decolonial studies; estudios canarios; marxism and theory.

Advisor: Mary Gaylord

Interests: Colonial Latin American, Golden Age, and contemporary border literatures, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora; Baroque aesthetics (barroco de Indias) and the Neo-Baroque in 20th century Latin American literature; history of science and mathematics; intersections between philosophy and poetry.

Advisor: Luis Girón Negrón
Suicide in the Spanish Middle Ages: representation and attitude towards self-murder.

This study seeks to trace the representation of and attitude regarding suicide in some of the most representative works in the Spanish Middle Ages. Starting with a foundational text (Las Cantigas de Santa María) by Alfonso X el Sabio, we will examine his attitude and his ideology concerning the highly dialectical phenomenon of self-murder. The research will focus on a constitutive etiology of suicide and its ramifications, in order to understand some of the causes that lead to suicide. 

Advisor: Bradley S. Epps

Interests: Transatlantic Studies, border spaces; isolation
and periphery in Hispano-African, Canary Islands and Caribbean texts. Her research focuses on Hispano-African literature of Equatorial Guinea and the insular spaces within the transatlantic triangulation of Canarias-Africa-Caribbean. Her interests are linked by a single idea: the need of amplify our conventional understanding of Hispanism, and to include forms of cultural productions that have often been marginalized from academic discourse.

Advisor: Doris Sommer [Mariano Siskind]
Cultura y concreción populista 

My proposed project investigates the relationship between Culture and Politics during the Getúlio Vargas Regime (Brazil, 1930-1945) and the first Peronism (Argentina 1945-1955). My purpose is to explore the conditions of cultural production in a time of populist hegemony, to investigate the connection between artistic strategies and State agendas, official programs and intellectual discourses.

Advisor: Sergio Delgado

Latin American theater and film as they intersect with memory politics and periods of economic crisis and precarity. Other research interests include affect theory; documentary theater and film; site-specific performance; and sound technologies.