Romance Studies doctoral students examine a wide variety of cutting-edge topics in literature, film, and the cultures and societies in which literary productions are enmeshed. The list below details some of our students’ recent dissertations.
French Language & Literature
Aesthetic Objects in Contemporary Francophone Literature & Cinema
Decadence Embodied: Anorexia, Allegory, Marrow
Student Jenai Engelhard Humphreys
Advisor Dorothy Kelly
My research argues for the recognition of a contemporary phenomenon of literary decadence, one that can be understood only in relation to the aftermath of France’s colonial past and subsequent loss of empire. My work calls into question Camille Paglia’s formulation that “excess” is the “hallmark of decadence.” I examine texts in which decadence becomes a mode of asceticism, a constraint/restraint, and a quest for purification that pushes both aesthetic and corporeal limitations to their outermost edge. My vision of decadence is thus epitomized not by excess, but by hunger and lack.
Confessional Fragments: Religious Belief Expressed through Body Parts in 16th Century French Literature
Student Stephanie Shiflett
Advisor Irit Kleiman
Through a method of close textual and visual analysis, this study argues that in an era when openly stating one’s personal religious beliefs could have fatal consequences, the digestive tract, heart, and other parts of the body sometimes took on the work of expressing religious belief. This process resembles synecdoche but differs in that, instead of the part representing the whole, the part swallows it.
Tout Cela Pour Dire: La quête du transmissible dans l'écriture de l'indicible et le cinéma de l'inmontrable
Student Didem Alkan
Advisor Odile Cazenave
This interdisciplinary work examines the representation of violence and trauma in contemporary literature and film and brings together the representation of three different types of violence: extreme, social, and intimate. The artist’s acknowledgement of the limitations of language in such contexts affects the representation itself and enables a different kind of representation: alternative discourses that would sensitize readers/spectators. These new discourses make them active participants in the symbolization process, allowing them to fill the semantic, unrepresentable gaps through their imagination.
Hispanic Language & Literatures
Digital Picaresque Studies & the Academia Picaresca
Student Bente Shoen
Advisor James Iffland
This dissertation contributes to the Digital Humanities in general and to the study of the picaresque novel in particular. Its immediate goal is to coordinate and enhance the dialogue of scholars and readers of the picaresque, a field currently characterized by strong disagreement and a lack of communication. In order to accomplish this objective, I created an extensive digital bibliography and textual archive whose search capacity and structure were designed to host and foster dialogue among critics and lay readers alike.
El Norte Tampoco Existe: First-&-Third World as Show (Essays on the Epistemology of the Spectacle from Guy Debord, Santiago Álvarez, Gregory Nava and Arthur Tuoto, 1965-2016)
Student Daniel Cuenca
Advisor Rodrigo Lopes de Barros
The history of US – Latin America relations has been dominated by discourses of development since the earliest stages of independent nationhood. In the 20th century, these discourses found an epistemological anchoring in the geopolitical concepts of 1st World and 3rd World, as well as in the related notions of Empire and Neo‑Colony. As cultural concepts, these binary categories exceed the economic substrate to which they claim reference. This dissertation examines this excess as a function of spectacular media and focuses on the degree to which these categories may constitute compromised epistemological dogmas firmly governed by the very capitalist status quo that they attempt to counter
On the Edge: Liminal Spaces in the Novels of Benito Pérez Galdós
Student Amir Effat
Advisor Alan Smith
Liminal spaces in Benito Pérez Galdós’s novels offer profound insights into the society, characters, and practices of representation in his art of fiction. Through examining settings that lie at the intersection between public and private, domestic and commercial, interior and exterior, such as balconies, display windows, patios, and corridors, this study aims to reveal previously unexplored aspects of Galdós’s work
**Winner of the Premio Peter Bly award given by the Asociación Internacional de Galdosistas for the best dissertation of the year on a topic related to Galdós.**
Plumas de rayo y viento: Cesar Vallejo in Blas de Otero
Student Carolina Blazquez
Advisor Alan Smith
By examining the way that Vallejo’s España aparta de mí este cáliz (1938) informs Otero’s Pido la paz y la palabra (1955), this dissertation reopens the question of the social role of art, focusing specifically on the so-called “poesía social” of Spain during the 1950’s. It also explores the role of the reader and the circulation, often clandestine, of Vallejo’s poetry during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
Walt Whitman's Prophetic Voice in Hispanic Lyric Poetry: The Paths of León Felipe, Federico García Lorca, and César Vallejo
Student Christopher Eldrett
Advisor Alan Smith
This dissertation explores the prophetic tradition in lyric poetry, focusing on the example set by Walt Whitman and carried forth in Hispanic letters most notably by León Felipe, Federico García Lorca, and Cesar Vallejo. By “prophetic” I do not wish to suggest a “predictive” voice but rather one that, like the words of the biblical prophets, speaks to an entire community at large, by turns profoundly critical, but also appealing to human dignity.