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Director's Message

As we look back on the past year in CLS, I hope that, like me, you will recall with satisfaction the many convivial encounters, productive and inspiring events, and stellar achievements of our community.  Two of our graduate students, Azadeh Safaien and Sorrel Dunn, did brilliant jobs of defending their dissertations in the past academic year. Azadeh defended “Toward a Minor Theory of Trauma: Literature and Cinema of the Iran-Iraq War.”

Sorrel’s project , “ Natures of Color: The Literary Environment of Adalbert Stifter and Paul Scheerbart, ” won the annual prize for best dissertation in CLS; Azadeh secured a tenure-track position nearby at the University of Illinois, and we hope to see much more of her in the future as a result.  Not only did Azadeh serve as a postdoctoral fellow in CLS and Mena, we should note, but she also taught a crucial class for us on World Literature.  Another CLS alumna, the wonderful Maïté Marciano, held a vising assistant professorship last year in CLS and French, working diligently to help our seniors consolidate their research projects, and this year has earned a VAP position in French at Centre College.  Ariel Weiner won a prestigious DAAD fellowship to complete her dissertation in Germany; Jesùs Munoz garnered a highly competitive Paris Program fellowship in Critical Theory; and Xinyi Wei obtained a Weinberg Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching award—we congratulate all three on these important achievements!  

These feats may strike us as all the more impressive when we remember that our graduate students rarely have the luxury of teaching in only one field.  They teach language courses, 300-level literature classes, and, like Xinyi, may be asked to TA for classes in other departments such as Philosophy.  To help her colleagues prepare for this diverse range of challenges, Micol Bez last year organized several highly effective pedagogical seminars during the spring quarter.  (Thank you, Micol!)  This year another student in CLS will succeed her in facilitating discussion of the latest challenges and approaches to successful teaching.  More generally, we should note that in the last four quarters many of our graduate students including Maria Romanova, Soumya Shailendra, Ishan Mehandru, Connie Kang, Mauricio Oportus, Xena Amro, Micol Bez, Laiba Paracha, Nico Fonseca, Yousef Boucetta, Raina Bhagat, and Sihan Wang made significant scholarly contributions by presenting their research at professional conferences and forums.

At the undergraduate level, Inbo Gottlieb Fenves, Rosalie Liu (Under the Webcam: Representation of lesbian Character and Technological Surveillance in Spider Lilies), and Tomer Cherki (Setting up the Punchline: Exploring the Dark Humor of Avimelech Goes Up by a Whirlwind of the Heavens in Translation) all received honors for writing outstanding senior theses after joining with Madison McClellan and Samuel Rosner to present their work at the CLS undergraduate colloquium.  Inbo in fact won the prize for best honors thesis in CLS with an essay titled “An Elegant Hope: Towards a Literary Geometry of the Smooth” that was not only radically interdisciplinary in weaving together concepts from mathematics, philosophy, and literature but also dazzlingly accomplished.

After emerging from the worst conditions of the pandemic, we have come together once again to arrange conferences, talks, and seminars on a variety of timely topics.   In particular, our graduate students have made possible some truly exciting and meaningful intellectual exchanges.  With the help of Professors Laura Brueck and Rebecca Johnson and the participation of several of her graduate student peers including Soumya, Ishan, and Micol, Xena Amro put together an enthralling conference on translation: “Translation Practices Across Institutional Borders: From the Scholar to the Public.”  In the spring quarter, the graduate students invited Lee Edelman to give a talk entitled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora: On Queer Theory as Literary Theory”; the event was packed, and the ensuing discussion was riveting.  Finally, on May 9 and 10, Mauricio Oportus organized a major and thrilling conference titled “Let’s Hear about It: Podcast, Literary Studies, and the Public Humanities” with the participation of Elizabeth Hopwood, Christopher Cantwell, and Ulrich Baer. 

Over the course of the last year, we also welcomed back some of CLS’s dearest alumni who are now accomplished faculty members of other well-respected academic institutions.  In October, for example, we had the pleasure of hosting Benjamin Robinson, who is now an assistant professor of German Studies at NYU, for his talk on “Climate Justice.”  In February, we reunited with Maziyar Faridi, who recently became a professor of Film Studies at Clemson University, for his talk: “Haunting Friendships: Notes on the Sovereignty of the Image in Cold War Modernism.”  During their campus visits, Ben and Maziyar also kindly agreed to lead workshops on professionalization for our graduate students.  In May, CLS and Mena co-sponsored a thrilling talk by R.A. Judy entitled “Sentient Flesh: Thinking in Disorder, Poesis in Black.”

In April, our graduate students, led by Youssef Boucetta and Micol Bez, experienced a stroke of inspiration when they organized the first-ever movie night in Kresge with the projection of several films in a row (“A Gentle Night,” “Wasp,” “Holy Spider,” “Starfuckers,” “Adam,” “Toward Tenderness,” “Don’t Believe in Monuments,” “I and the Stupid Boy”), which the audience enjoyed with good food in good company.  Another happy event took place in January when we held a book launch party for three of our beloved core faculty members to celebrate the publication of Susannah Young-Ah-Gottlieb’s Auden and the Muse of History, Tristram Wolff’s Against the Uprooted World: Giving Language Time and Ryan Dohoney’s Morton Feldman: Friendship and Mourning in the New York Avant-Garde.   These genial gatherings are all the more crucial in the wake of the isolation we all experienced under the shadow of Covid, and I for one sincerely hope that movie night will become a cherished tradition in CLS. 

This year we welcome nine new graduate students to the program, the largest incoming class that CLS has ever had.  Please join me in cheering the arrival of Griffin Berlin (Mena), Klaudia Cierluck (Slavic), Sophia Elzie (Classics), Hannah Kadin (English), Shamiri Kothari (ALC), Eamon (Dibyajyoti) Lahiri (ALC), Emily Landkamer (German), Marta Lasota (Slavic), and Barbarita Polster (English).  Our program is growing bigger and better.  This is possible in large part because of the outstanding contributions of our DUS and DGS, Tristram Wolff and Corey Byrnes, who have worked ceaselessly to help our undergraduates and graduates fulfill their potentials.  We all know that Tristram and Corey are fantastic scholars, but we should also recognize them for being incredibly generous, perceptive, and thoughtful leaders of our community as a whole.  Last but never least, let me extend my warmest thanks to Phil and Annie, whose unfailing resourcefulness and good humor help our program to thrive.