Graduate Program News and Updates
- Incoming CLS Grads, 2023-2024
- The Institute for World Literature, Summer 2023
- Current Graduate Student Updates
Graduate Student Spotlight: Xinyi Wei
Congratulations to Xinyi Wei, winner of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award for 2022-2023! This was the second year in a row that a CLS student has earned this honor (Wenhan Zhang, 2022). View pics and a video of the the event here.
Comp Lit hosted a successful virtual prospective graduate student weekend in March 2023. A large number of 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 to learn more about the Program, meetings with numerous current PhD students to discuss the Program, living in the area, and to get to know one another, many individual meetings with CLS faculty and professors in fields of interest to our students, as well as a Saturday in the city with many current students, which included a brunch and dinner at students' homes and a Chicago River boat tour.
We are pleased to welcome to the following students to the Comparative Literary Studies PhD program starting in Summer/Fall 2023:
Griffin Berlin (MENA) is interested in contemporary literature of the Mediterranean. Griffin's interests are informed by his studies in ecology, art history, and environmental studies. He likes to think about literature as material, text as image, and books as networks. During undergrad, he focused on Francophone literature of the Maghreb, particularly from Algeria. He looks forward to expanding his focus across the Mediterranean and MENA regions at Northwestern. He's also interested in translation theory and practice. He works in Spanish and French, and plans to work in Italian and Arabic during his PhD. Griffin is from a small town on the central coast of California and currently lives in Connecticut.
Klaudia Cierluk (Slavic) comes from Pyrzyce, a small town in western Poland. She holds a BA in English Studies from the Humboldt University of Berlin and an MA in Comparative Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam, where she wrote her thesis on the intersection of affect theory and Witold Gombrowicz’s concept of form. Her Ph.D. project aims to examine modern and contemporary Polish literature as world literature by exploring the ways in which – through migration, translation, and itineraries – Polish and Latin American cultures and literary scenes have become entangled, developed ties, and impacted each other. She wishes to obtain a comprehensive sense of how Polishness has been deconstructed in Latin America in the past century and what hybrid forms of expression arose as a result of this phenomenon. Her further academic interests include ecofeminism, trauma studies, forms of short fiction, as well as themes of mental illness in literature. She co-edits Berlin Quarterly, an English-language literary magazine, and is a passionate writer and translator (working from English, German and Spanish to Polish and from Polish to English). Her works have appeared in LCB diplomatique, Berlin Quarterly and biBLioteka, to name a few.
Sophia Elzie (Classics) is a native Floridian who is braving the Chicago winters to join CLS at Northwestern with a home department in Classics and a Mellon Cluster fellowship in Theatre and Performance Studies. Trained as a classicist, Sophia holds a BA in Classical Languages and Literature from Agnes Scott College (2020) and an MSt in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature, St. Hilda's College (2021). Her primary research interest is in the reception of Greek and Roman tragedy in postcolonial literature. Immediately prior to coming to Northwestern, Sophia worked as an Academic Advisor for undergraduate students at Agnes Scott College. In her spare time, Sophia enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, and walking (or just as often napping) with her dog, Jasper, and cat, Macchiato.
Hannah Kadin (English) graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 2023 with a B.A. in Comparative Literature. Her honors thesis, “Apocalyptic Surpluses: A Symptomatic Reading of 21st Century Anti-Utopian Narratives,” used “surplus” as an analytic category in the reading of narrative literary forms that emerge from conditions of environmental destruction across the Americas. Her research interests include the history of literary and critical theory, decolonial theory, Latin American and Caribbean studies, utopia, ecology, the avant-garde, Marxism, and the history of Chicago’s experimental arts communities. She is a founding editor of axium, the first journal for comparative criticism at her undergraduate institution, and has creative writing published in Meetinghousemagazine. Hannah joins the Comparative Literary Studies PhD program as a Mellon Cluster Fellow in Critical Theory and with a home department in English.
Shamini Kothari (Asian Languages and Cultures) is a PhD student in Comparative Literary Studies. They are interested in the intersections between identity, affect and visual-literary culture. Their focus lies in questions surrounding power, caste and sexuality through the sensory in popular culture. Shamini holds a Masters in Sexual Dissidence from University of Sussex and had four years of teaching experience at Ashoka University with courses ranging from 'Family and Kinship', 'Intimacy and Image' and 'Food in Literature and Cinema.' She is also the co-founder and former member of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's queer-support group called 'Queerabad'. She has previously presented at various conferences including the Queer Asia conference at SOAS with a paper on the visual politics of graphic novels in India and at the Excess: Critical Femininities conference at York U. on ambivalent femininities and their negotiation in Indian Cinema. Their aim at Northwestern continues to be to learn across media and engage with these questions through a grounded, context sensitive research methodology that hopefully trouble fixed frameworks of gender and sexuality in South Asia at large.
Dibyajyoti (Eamon) Lahiri (Asian Languages and Cultures) holds a BA in English and an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. His academic interests are in narratology, illness narratives, Dalit studies, media studies, and the ecological humanities. He intends to study configurations of time and space in South Asian stories of epidemic, focusing on how they facilitate the articulation and resolution of the outbreak as a cosmological disorder, especially in the absence of a biomedical resolution. He is also interested in exploring a long-standing tradition in Indian eco-horror cinema wherein environmental messaging is necessarily mediated (often to the point of obscurement) by the heavy involvement of supernatural themes. This stands in stark contrast not just to Western eco-horror, but also to popular Asian genres such as kaiju. In a 2021 paper published in the journal Science Fiction Film and Television, he has attempted a preliminary investigation into this phenomenon, going on to discuss the socio-cultural factors leading to the recent emergence of media texts that depart from this trend. Outside of academia, he is a herpetology enthusiast and takes a keen interest in evolutionary biology. He likes to play and study chess in his spare time, as well as enjoying slow-burn horror movies.
Emily Landkamer (German) was born and raised in Aichi, Japan, where she lived until moving stateside for college. She received her BA from Emory University with majors in English and History, before pursuing an MA in Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. At Northwestern and in the German department, she hopes to persist in her study and analysis of Walter Benjamin. Emily devotes much of her intellectual energies to thinking about critical theory and the philosophy of history but has an enduring fascination with phenomenology and aesthetics. She is excited to be part of the recent revival of scholarly interest in Mishima Yukio, her favorite Japanese author, of whom she has undertaken the occasional translation. She is convinced that investigating the aesthetic sensibilities of pre- and post-war Japanese authors will prove fruitful for aesthetic and political theory writ large. She lives with her stocky dog, Pooba, and has lately been invested in the many writings of W. G. Sebald.
Marta Lasota (she/her) (Slavic) was raised in the D.C. area by Polish immigrant parents. She earned her B.A. in English from Harvard University, where she was also co-captain of the Harvard Fencing Team. Graduate studies brought her to Chicago and she immediately fell in love with the city. Marta recently completed her MA in the Humanities at UChicago, focusing on Comparative Literature. At Northwestern, Marta will be affiliated with the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and will also be a Mellon Cluster Fellow in Gender and Sexuality Studies. She hopes to continue studying the relationship between trauma, spirituality, and queerness within contemporary Polish and Latin American literature. She also intends to research “the unspeakable” and how depictions of traumatic and spiritual experiences in Argentinian/Chilean dictatorship literature as well as in Polish Holocaust literature converge around what Bataille calls, “limit experiences.” Previously, Marta has worked with PEN America on their Free Expression Programs team and is currently an intern with Grants and Awards at the Poetry Foundation. She is deeply passionate about the power of storytelling and in using the literary arts to build community within Chicago. In her free time, Marta enjoys creative writing, rock climbing, and hanging out by the lake. She is so excited to be part of CLS and is looking forward to meeting everyone.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Barbarita Polster (English) received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art, with emphases in Visual & Critical Studies and Visual Culture, respectively. Since 2018, she has served as a Lecturer at both SAIC and North Park University (Chicago). Her critical writing has appeared in Artforum (forthcoming), The Brooklyn Rail, ArtSpiel, Wrong Life Review, and Shifter. The study of code-switching/code-mixing frames her current work, as applied to a range of research, including a semiotic code-switching when applied to visual and literary texts, a sociocultural code-switching in exchanges between people of different backgrounds, and an infrastructural code-switching in the anthropological study of the repurposing of public goods and services according to specific material needs. Understood as a historical bellwether, the cultural texts of Latin America and the Caribbean provide insight into contemporary questions of democracy, economy, and society; the region's cultural producers operating at the intersection of all three of these modes point to the revolutionary potential of their time. Drawing theoretical connections between such concepts as Bakhtin's heteroglossia and Glissant's creolité, she proposes the application of this loose framework to undergird further research into the cultural production of this region. In addition to her studies, she is a practicing artist, with a forthcoming solo exhibition at The Ohio State University at Lima in Fall 2023.
Held 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 13th IWL session met July 5-27, 2023 at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusertts. 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.
This summer, I attended the Institute of World Literature which was held at Harvard University. A rather intense but necessary experience, the seminars allowed us a chance to be critical of our fields and to discuss the varying experiences which we, students from different backgrounds, have. Professor Shaden Tageldin's seminar was exceptionally brilliant. Her pedagogical approach has reshaped my understanding of the ideal classroom environment. After seminars, we also had lectures by distinguished professors, such as Homi Bhabha, Emily Greenwood, and Lawrence Venuti. Finally, I was fortunate to socialize with colleagues who are like-minded and develop genuine friendships.
- Xena Amro, summer 2023 IWL participant
At the IWL this year at Harvard, I had the opportunity to take two seminars: Delia Ungureanu’s “The Undiscovered Country: Visionaries of Another World” and Shaden Tageldin’s “World Literature and the Haunts of Comparison.” As a rising third year at Northwestern, it was really fruitful and formative to engage in discussions with colleagues around the world in thinking further about key issues in the field. Needless to say, this exposed me to a range of new methodologies, approaches and critiques that push the boundaries of my own research project further. The “World, Poetics, Politics” colloquium was an especially exciting space to present and listen to papers-in-progress of graduate students with a diverse set of research interests and strengths in a smaller group setting. Overall, this was a wonderful experience that allowed me to connect with new academic friends both within the US and globally, as well as to participate in the latest conversations concerning world literature.
- Maria Romanova, summer 2023 IWL participant
Xena Amro (MENA) was elected to serve on the ACLA (American Comparative Literature Association) Advisory Board as the Graduate Student Representative for two years. During the winter quarter, she successfully organized the “Translation Across Borders” symposium that attracted members from diverse disciplines. She was also awarded a scholarship to attend the Institute for World Literature at Harvard University in July 2023.
Raina Bhagat (English) successfully completed her public presentation and defended her dissertation prospectus, advancing to ABD status, and is currently at work on the first chapter of her dissertation. In March 2023, she presented early versions of this chapter, titled “Subterranean Asias: Extraction in South Asian and Russian Science Fiction,” at the Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), in a seminar titled “Environment as Comparative Method,” as well as in June 2023, at Northwestern’s South Asia Academic Symposium. Most notably, in Spring 2023, Raina was awarded Fulbright-Hays and Title VIII Scholarships from American Councils in order to participate in their eight-week Advanced Russian Language and Area Studies Program (RLASP), where she is currently doing research and rigorous study in Almaty, Kazakhstan. She was also awarded a Radulovacki Slavic Studies Grant from the Northwestern Slavic department, and received additional grants from the English and Asian Languages and Cultures (ALC) departments and the Comparative Literary Studies program, the program in Science and Human Culture and the Environment, Culture and Society cluster, raising nearly $12,000 to completely defray the cost of her program.
Carly Bortman (German) completed her qualifying exam
In 2022-2023, Youssef Boucetta (French) was awarded the Best First Year Essay prize for his paper "Painting Polyglossia: Etel Adnan, the Casablanca School and the Language(s) of Visual Abstraction" which he also presented at the Northwestern MENA and Art History conference Forms of Liberation. Along with Micol Bez, Laiba Paracha, and Xena Amro, he co-organized the CLS Cinema Night around the theme "Bad Mothers and Bad Lovers", and in the spring, co-curated the French Department Ciné-Club with Maïssa Koudri. In March 2023, Youssef published "Parmi Nous, ou quand le cinéma Marocain pense au-delà du Maroc" a public-oriented piece of film criticism for Panorapost.com. This June, he shot most of the documentary “Moroccan Roll” and participated in the Northwestern/Sorbonne Nouvelle Summer Institute for Psychoanalysis in Paris. As of July, Youssef is co-organizing a public panel on Gender and Sexuality issues in Morocco and screening of “Shakespeare à Casablanca” (Sonia Terrab, 2017) with Dartmouth professor Tarek El-Ariss.
In June 2022 Nava Cohen (Classics) gave a paper at the American Classical League Annual Institute at the College of Charleston entitled “It’s Not About the Family: A New Interpretation of the Certamen Between Arachne and Minerva.” She was also invited to join the board of Calliope's Library, a project of the Society for Classical Studies. In October Nava reprised her paper “The Subject of Song: Helen’s Voice in Homer’s Iliad and Euripides’ Troades,” at the Illinois Classical Conference fall meeting in Rockford, Illinois. She helped organize the Illinois Classical Conference/National Louis University Latin Pedagogy Workshop “Rebuilding Academic Skills, Revising Curriculum” which faculty and teachers throughout the country attended in person and virtually in December. Along with Caroline Switzer Kelly, Nava gave a paper called “Encountering Latin as a Human Language: The Linear Approach for Reading” as part of 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. Subsequently, they published a version of that paper in the Classical Outlook. Based on the paper and article, Nava was asked to join the board of The Bridge, a project of Haverford College. In February, along with Dr. Kerry Lefebvre, Nava organized a series of colloquium sessions at the Illinois Junior Classical League state convention, incorporating lectures by five faculty members from university departments throughout the state, as well as sessions led by teachers, community members, graduate and undergraduate students, and secondary students. In June, along with three colleagues, Nava was recognized for service to the profession with the American Classical League's Merens Award.
Congratulations to Sorrel Dunn (German), who recently defended her outstanding dissertation, “Natures of Color: The Literary Environments of Adalbert Stifter and Paul Scheerbart.” Dr. Dunn will received her doctoral degree at the “hooding” ceremony on June 10th.
Connie (Kang) Kang (ALC) served as the Graduate Assistant of the Climate Crisis + Media Arts Buffett Working Group and oversaw the inaugural run of the CC+MA Fund for climate-related film and media art projects. She presented at the American Comparative Literature Association annual conference in Chicago and served as a discussant at the Association of Asian Studies in Asia conference in Daegu, Korea. She received several travel and language grants to pursue summer language study in Japanese at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, and an award from the University of Kansas to begin remote Uyghur language study in the Fall of 2023.
Ishan Mehandru (ALC) presented at the 50th Annual Conference on South Asia at UW-Madison, paper title: "From blind spots to bad spots: Masculinity in Ismat Chughtai’s “The Mole” (Til)". He also contributed a chapter to Literary Representations of Pandemics, Epidemics and Pestilence (Routledge India, 2022, ed. Nishi Pulugurtha), "Forgetting Difference: The Plague in Hindi and Urdu Literature".
Laiba Paracha (ALC): I was fortunate to be studying with and learning from a wonderful cohort this year, and in what should be considered a collaborative effort involving professors, classmates, colleagues, and friends, especially Micol Bez, was able to put together with an interdisciplinary panel for the 2023 National Women’s Studies Association, titled “Asking the other questions: for the survival and care for all people”. This was accepted, and my submission from the three is titled “Towards an Alternative Sense of the Erotic: Bodies in Movement and Emancipating the Self”. I was also graciously awarded the Best Graduate Seminar Paper for my final submission to Professors Hannah Feldman and Rebecca Johnson, titled “The Insurgent Humanist: An Exploration of Mahmoud Darwish’s Resistant Poetic Sensibility”. I was awarded funding from the Asian Languages and Cultures Summer Grant to continue my study of women’s poetic work at LUMS University, Pakistan, over the summer.
Alongside completing another year of PhD coursework requirements in ALC/CLS, Maria Romanova (ALC) presented their work at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA) in Chicago. Their paper, “Re-Wilding Siberia: Ruinous Landscapes and Permafrost Protection at Pleistocene Park” formed part of the panel titled “Life in Ruins: Inhabiting Empire’s Sacrifice Zones.” Over the summer, they will also be attending the Harvard Institute for World Literature in Boston, where they will connect with leading scholars and researchers in the field to discuss new directions in World Literature. In the coming year, they are looking forward to presiding over a panel at Modern Language Association (MLA) taking place in Philadelphia in January.
Soumya Shailendra (ALC) co-founded and conceived, Translators Adda, a public facing translation workshop, with Ishan Mahendru through the Kaplan Public Humanities Graduate workshop. The workshops titled, "Translating Caste" and "Translating Sex" were hosted at the Haymarket House, and were well attended by our Northwestern community and members of the general public. Additionally, she presented papers at the Annual Conference on South Asia, American Comparative Literature Association, and Translation Practices Across Institutional Border symposium at Northwestern.
Sihan Wang (ALC): I defended and submitted my prospectus in 2022 and have been at work on my dissertation. I presented a paper, titled "From Ruins, from Ghosts: Gu Cheng and the Remapping of the Cultural Wasteland in Post-Cultural-Revolution China," at the 2023 Comparative Literature Graduate Student Conference at Rutgers University, on the theme of "(De)composition". I presented a dissertation chapter draft, "Epiphanic Femininity: The Jia Baoyu Complex in Hu Lancheng's Chan is a Flower," at the 2023 annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA).
In addition to completing her Qualifying Exam, Ariel Weiner (German) was awarded a DAAD Fellowship in Berlin, studying the German Department’s 2022-23 Max Kade Visiting Professor, Astrid Deuber-Mankowski (ICI-Berlin).