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Incoming Comparative Literary Studies Graduate Students, Fall 2022

Comp Lit hosted a successful virtual prospective graduate student weekend in March 2022. In February and March several prospective students joined us in-person to explore Northwestern and learn more about our PhD program. Our virtual recruitment “weekend” included a group meeting with CLS Director Alessia Ricciardi and Director of Graduate Studies Harris Feinsod to learn more about the Program, an intro session with current PhD students to discuss the Program, living in the area, and get to know one another, and numerous individual meetings with CLS faculty and professors in fields of interest to our students as well as one-one-one meetings with current students and alumni.

We are pleased to welcome to the following students to the Comparative Literary Studies PhD program starting in Fall 2022:

190x218-boucetta,-youssef.jpg Youssef Boucetta is a PhD student in Comparative Literary Studies, with a home department in French and Francophone Studies. Youssef graduated Magna Cum Laude from Amherst College with a B.A in Comparative Literature. His interdisciplinary honors thesis titled: "Moroccan Darija: Of Vulgar Eloquence in the 21st century" detailed the emergence of a new poetics of Darija, the dominant Moroccan hybrid vernacular language, through digital media, film, and music. His main scholarly interests revolve around youth cultures in Europe and the Arab world, linguistic exchanges and hybridity in North Africa, new media and the digital age, literature and cinema of the banlieue, as well as postcolonial theory. As a translator, he has published a new French rendition of Borges' "Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote'' in Translation Review and a Darija version of "Borges and I '' for He is currently finishing his first feature documentary film, "Moroccan Roll," produced by Nabil Ayouch and 2M TV, for which he is a Meditalents 2022 Lab Doc Resident. Youssef is a Mellon Cluster Fellow in Middle Eastern and North African studies and speaks French, Spanish, English, Italian, and Moroccan Darija. In his spare time, he can mostly be found skateboarding.

190x218-fonseca,-nico.jpgNico Fonseca was raised in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and earned his B.A. in 2022 from the University of Pennsylvania, with majors in Comparative Literature and Latin American/Latinx Studies. He is primarily interested in documenting and explicating the connections between Marxist and Indigenous political and aesthetic philosophies, chiefly through the textual and productive analysis of the cinemas of the Americas. Nico’s undergraduate thesis concerned the interpenetration of Third and Fourth Cinema and their political prerogatives in the Western hemisphere as illustrated through a study of Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino’s Hour of the Furnaces  alongside Sky Hopinka’s Malni. Going forward, Nico is currently developing a project which extends this work across the Atlantic, highlighting the material, historical, and ideological convergences of American Indigenous and left Catalonian politics through cinema collectives. He aims to construct such a bridge through a comparative study of Indigenous anti-systemic/liberation movements and Catalonian radical politics, paired with analyses of Sky Hopinka’s filmmaking collective COUSIN and the work of the Catalonian radical filmmaking space/collective La Cinétika. Nico’s work also frequently engages with critical global political economy, the history of film theory, and the ontological turn in anthropology. Nico was formerly a Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough Collaborative, a Miami-based Urban education initiative, as well as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Research Fellow. He is a regular participant in the Critical Theory Workshop in Paris (Atelier de Théorie Critique).


Laiba Niaz Paracha (she/her) graduated from LUMS University, Lahore, in 2021, with a BA in English and a minor in Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies. She hopes to further research the work of an understudied constellation of women writers across the Indo-Persian, South-East, and Eastern regions of continental Asia. Laiba's research interests include the Urdu and Persian ghazal, and how this form of poetic expression retains the potential for a cosmopolitan imaginary landscape. In considering side-by-side the work of poets who engage in the active task of feminine and transnational world-building, she hopes to contextualize the historical and literary contributions of women writers who evade easy categorization, and highlight the ways in which their work necessitates the consistent reevaluation of feminist thought and practice.


Institute for World Literature - summer 2022


5b.-grad-iwl-mainz-210x400.jpgHeld in a different city each summer, the Institute for World Literature (IWL) is a month-long summer institute run by David Damrosch (Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard) that brings together scholars from all over the world to study literature in a global context.

The 12th IWL session will meet from July 4 through July 28, 2022 at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. The four-week program included a total of ten two-week seminars taught by leading names in world literature today, together with outstanding guest lectures and the opportunity for participants to share their work in colloquia. Participants had the chance to examine critically the latest challenges of this comprehensive and rapidly developing field, from its theoretical concepts and the history of the discipline to its forms of practice today embedded in a world market.

Since 2014, Northwestern's Comparative Literary Studies Program along with the generous support of the Weinberg College Franke Fellows in the Humanities and The Graduate School, has been privileged to send a diverse group of students to cities around the globe. Our program’s participation in the IWL is part of a multi-front effort on the part of Comp Lit to expand the curriculum of literary studies at Northwestern to include previously underrepresented national languages and literatures. We are grateful for the support of both Weinberg and The Graduate School, which has allowed us to facilitate global partnerships and valuable learning opportunities for our students.

Attending the Harvard Institute for World Literature in Mainz this July has been a very formative experience, particularly salient at this stage in my academic development. It is for me a crucial time of disciplinary migration and negotiation, as I have recently situated myself within Comparative Literary Studies, having previously trained in Continental and Analytic Philosophy. At the end of my first year, and possibly at the height of the all-too-common disciplinary identity crisis and methodological anxiety, it has been extremely useful to spend a month immersed in the contemporary debate around World Literature; it has allowed me to reflect on the disciplinary boundaries and methodological challenges of this contested category, as well as on the nature of the comparative gesture per se, in its various manifestations. The IWL is a great place to get a pulse of some of the central conversations that are going on in the field and to reflect on one’s position within such debates; it allowed me, in other words, some helpful self-reflection: is this my question? Is my project affected by it, and is this a helpful way for me to do Comparative Literature or am I looking for something quite different? For me, the verdict was somewhat mixed and still largely undetermined, but the experience was extremely useful. Furthermore, it was an exceptional occasion to present my work, get helpful feedback and be inspired by peers and professors alike, listening to remarkable speakers such as David Damrosh, Mishuana Goeman, Lawrence Venuti and Thomas Claviez. The highlight for me was listening to Herta Müller talk about inhabiting multiple mother tongues, writing, trauma, and the complex mutilations of the ethical encounter with the Other that occur under totalitarian regimes. Although, on a lighter note, the final dinner cruise on the Rhine was quite unforgettable as well! 

- Micol Bez, summer 2022 IWL participant

At the IWL this year, I got the opportunity to attend two seminars: “Tales of Unsettlement: Refugees and/in World Literature” by B. Venkat Mani and “Worlding in Tongues: World Literature and the Polyglot Turn” by Francoise Kral. Our discussions exposed me to a range of approaches to thinking about world literature across literary and linguistic geographies in a highly polarised world. I especially enjoyed participating in a colloquium on “Postcolonialism and World Literature”, learning from the exciting research initiatives being conducted by my fellow participants.

- Ishan Mehandru, summer 2022 IWL participant

current graduate student updates

XENA AMRO was awarded Best Graduate Seminar Paper for her article, “In Search of Lost Proust: The Translator and the Comparatist,” submitted to both Christopher Bush and Harris Feinsod. Xena’s paper, “Global Modernism and Foreign Readers: al-Shidyāq and Joyce in Paris” was accepted at the 2022 American Comparative Literature Association. Xena was also awarded the John Hunwick Research Fund from the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa. Additionally, she was selected to attend the Summer School on Philology and Manuscripts from the Muslim World with Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS) at Universiteit Leiden.

RAINA BHAGAT worked as a Graduate Assistantship for the Race, Caste and Colorism Working Group at the Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, with Professors Laura Brueck and Ivy Wilson. She also continued on as President of The Subcontinent Project, a TGS-affiliated group that works in and around the region of South Asia and global affairs at Northwestern and the Chicagoland area. In June 2022, she presented new material from her work on Soviet science fiction, in "Abandon Hope All Ye?: Hellish Infrastructures in Metro 2033" at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literary Association (ACLA).

CARLY BORTMAN served as the Graduate Assistant at Northwestern University Press for the 2021-22 academic year, where she supported both the Acquisitions and Editorial, Design, and Production (EDP) departments with their Spring/Summer 2022 and Fall/Winter 2022 titles. She also successfully defended her prospectus and is at work on the first chapter of her dissertation. Additionally, Carly was a copy editor and indexer for Professor Susannah Gottlieb's upcoming book, Auden and the Muse of History, out December 2022 with Stanford University Press.

NAVA COHEN helped organize the Illinois Classical Conference/National Louis University Latin Pedagogy Workshop “Regroup, Reevaluate, Refresh: Moving Forward in the 21st Century Latin Classroom” which faculty and teachers throughout the country attended virtually in December 2021. In February, along with Dr. Kerry Lefebvre, she organized a series of colloquium sessions at the Illinois Junior Classical League state convention, incorporating lectures by six faculty members from Classics departments throughout the state, as well as sessions led by teachers, graduate and undergraduate students, and secondary students. Nava co-presented "It's Not A Puzzle: Reading Success in Latin and Greek" along with Caroline Switzer Kelly (Pearson/Savvas Learning) and Susan Shelmerdine (Classical Studies, UNC) at the 2022 Classical Association of the Midwest and South conference in March at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She gave a paper at the virtual conference Feminism and Classics in May called “The Subject of Song: Helen’s Voice in Homer’s Iliad and Euripides’ Troades,” which she has also been invited to give in-person at the Illinois Classical Conference fall meeting in Rockford, Illinois in October 2022. Nava gave a paper in hybrid format at the 2022 American Classical League Annual Institute at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina entitled “It’s Not About the Family: A New Interpretation of the Certamen Between Arachne and Minerva.” Nava’s co-presentation with Caroline Switzer Kelly, “Encountering Latin as a Human Language: The Linear Approach for Reading” has been accepted for presentation in the American Classical League panel “Teaching Students to Read Latin: What Does That Mean?” at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in New Orleans, Louisiana in January 2023.

In the Spring of 2022,  MAURICIO OPORTUS PRELLER was selected as a Franke Graduate Fellow (2022-2023) by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. Additionally, his peer-reviewed article on Tomás Michelena’s Débora (1884) appeared in the Spring issue (90.2) of Hispanic Review. During the Summer, Mauricio was granted a Graduate Student Dissertation Research Travel Award by the Buffet Institute of Global Affairs, which allowed him to conduct archival research at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut in Berlin, for a period of five weeks. During this time, he also participated in the Summer Institute of Psychoanalysis in Paris, as well as in two conferences: first, at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) congress, with a paper on writing and law in Rómulo Gallegos’ Doña Bárbara (1929); and later, at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) annual meeting, with a paper (co-authored with Consuelo Díaz de Valdés) on Podcasts and the Public Humanities.

WENHAN ZHANG participated in the Paris Program in Critical Theory during the academic year 2021-2022. He presented a paper titled “The Fable(s) of the Ass and the Wolf: The Problematic Conscience in Thomas More’s A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation” at the 2022 Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference hosted by the Newberry Library. In addition, Wenhan was awarded the Weinberg College Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award.


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