Organization of Graduate Students in Comparative Literature
Several people are in our department are to be congratulated for having completed their degrees! OGSCL would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the following students:
Elizabeth Fitzpatrick defended her master’s thesis, and Roger Strittmater and Jana Evans Braziel successfully defended their Ph.D. dissertations.
Congratulations also to Kelly Faughnan and Neil Hartlen who completed their comprehensive exams at the end of the Fall semester and to Anita Mannur (uh, that would be me!) who just completed her exams. Best of luck to people who will soon be taking exams including Alfonso Ferreras and Ignacio Lopez.
We would also like to extend our congratulations to Shu-Chen Huang who has
been awarded the Graduate School Fellowship for 2000—2001. Good job!
Comp Lit Grad Students at ACLA – by Anita Mannur
In February, four graduate students in the department—Neil Hartlen, Shu-Chen Huang, Jana Evans Braziel and I—trekked down to New Haven, CT for the annual conference of the American Comparative Literature Association to present papers at a session that Jana and I organized, "Comparative Diasporas/ Interdisciplinary Approaches." For those of you who are not familiar with the ACLA, the format differs from that of other conferences. Papers are organized into seminars of 9 -12 presenters spread over the three days of the conference. Typically, four papers are presented each day in two-hour sessions and presenters are encouraged to attend the seminar for all 3 days. In spirit, this allows for greater in depth discussion of topics and it allows for connections to be made between a range of papers organized around the same topic. Over the course of the three days, we heard papers on exchanges in gay cultural theory from France and the US, close readings of Caribbean novels, analyses of Turkish migrant worker communities in Germany, adopted Chinese girls in the US, border theory in Chicano studies, Asian Canadian writers, nationalism and postcoloniality in the Scottish context, ‘cyborg’ diaspora and mestiza ecriture, Chinese women writers in Africa and novels of the Black Atlantic Slave Trade.
Check out the ACLA website for further information. http://www.acla.org
Language Usage – by Craig Sinclair
N.B. Following a lengthy anthropological debate on the matter I no longer use the word ‘American’ to refer to citizens of the USA. Instead I will write ‘USers,’ as it was ultimately decided that this was both more PC and more SGC (socio-geographically correct).
I once failed to get a job providing English subtitles for ‘American’ films. One of my crucial mistakes in the post-interview quiz was my inability to name all of the (United) States that began with the letter ‘C.’ Neglecting to list the Carolinas (I always thought they began with ‘South’ and ‘North’) conveyed (to my potential employers at least) my gross inadequacy in dealing with the USA & Americana. My inability to answer (correctly?) displayed a line of reasoning that was inherently English, and I was being asked to think as a USer; more specifically one who consumes a large number of a narrow variety of Hollywood films on Video and DVD. Didn’t we speak the same language? Hadn’t I spent my life consuming USer culture? How different could we be?
I puzzled over this when I came here last August and was unable to procure a Tuna sandwich on brown bread without any tomatoes. I thought an elementary process like this should prove no problem, but not only did the subtler nuances of my timbre proved incomprehensible, my word choices also possessed no signifiers to substantiate them. After my initial foray I took recourse to the stereotypical tourist measure (and thoroughly erudite communications-theory-approach) of pointing at the sign. As this was an impossible distance away (and seemed to be scaring people) I then failed to elicit any response by asking auf Deutsch and eventually resorted to writing my request down (although my block capital handwriting was also indecipherable). Fortunately, a good-natured lady in the growing line translated for me, her own lexicon swollen by an earlier affection for the Beatles. I was finally able to enjoy a meal I have rarely had since because I still can’t get my mouth around the necessary vowels.
Despite my best efforts, I am still frequently unaware of my own cultural inconsistencies and faced by a cognitive barrier that has no shared language. Such flagrantly un-academic writers as Bill Bryson (& whoever wrote the infamous You say tomato, I say tomato… song) have pointed out the differences in dialect and word usage, but I suspect the USer ones amongst them have rarely had trouble being understood abroad. As USer culture has proven ever more globally pervasive its tones have become eminently recognizable. USers of US-English meet others who have learnt the US style, leaving many people untrained to grapple with and unable to interpret a British-English voice that has subsequently become a patois of itself.
I now use class time to explain the words I use unconsciously and the words I had been previously unaware of the polysemy of, to students eager to expand their international vocabularies, while I myself attempt to synthesize this new language. There are consequently several UMass freshmen who know far too much Cockney rhyming slang and are able to comprehend rapid Mancunnian mutterings, while I am still unable to order a sandwich (sub/ hero/ grinder/ etc.). I therefore hope you will join me in accepting this language differential and welcoming a new strand in Comp Lit where we must all be more careful which language we USe.
On mOther tongue
This year will mark the publication of the seventh volume of mOther tongue – a student produced journal of the arts featuring the work of students (grad and undergrad) from the five colleges, written in both their native language and English translation. The journal also features visual artwork, and this year, editor Joshua Clarke explains that "we have decided to rock the boat a bit by suggesting that art is a form of communication almost parallel to language. Therefore, if the student expresses himself or herself through art, they should not be limited by what language they speak."
The journal is funded by the Comparative Literature department, the UMass Arts Council, and the Student Affairs Cultural Enrichment fund. Despite cuts in funding, Clarke feels that this issue will be the most spectacular. Along with the largest number of contributors to date, color artwork will be included for the first time.
Clarke, an undergraduate Comparative Literature student, is editing the journal for a second year. When asked about the journal, he says he finds "mOthertongue a vital project, because through its publication, we are able to simultaneously create a mutual respect of various cultures and awareness of the unifying similarities of creative expression."
Inquiries can be directed to Clarke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Women's Studies and Comparative Literature
Beverly Weber and Anita Mannur (yes, your illustrious newsletter compilers!) are joining the Women's Studies program to complete a certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies. Comparative Literature has been well represented in the program; Shu-Chen, Jana, and Jeannine are also currently completing their certificates as well. All three have also taught in the women's studies department. Shu-Chen and Jeannine have been teaching assistants for Introduction to Women’s Studies and Jana has taught a range of courses including Junior Year Writing and Theorizing Women’s Issues.
Both Beverly and Anita have worked on integrating the study of gender into their research and teaching. Beverly’s work includes writings and conference papers on Christa Wolf as a feminist theorist; most recently, she has written on feminist and queer perspectives in contemporary German popular film.
Anita, meanwhile, has been thinking about how race and ethnicity bear on questions of gender. She is particularly interested in the categories "women of color"and "Third world" women. Specifically, how do these terms signify in different national, and subnational contexts? She will also teach a course through the departments of history and women’s studies at the MIT on Race and Gender in Asian America during Spring 2001.
After completing a series of five courses, both will integrate their work on feminist theory into their dissertations. Beverly intends to write on feminist theory of the grotesque, while Anita will explore how gender and race are implicated in discourses around culinarity in South Asia.
Graduate Student Profile: Yehudit Heller
In the future, we would like to provide a small write-up about a graduate student in the department in each newsletter. Yehudit Heller is a graduate student in the department from Israel. We include here a selection of her poetry. Yehudit writes poetry in Hebrew, and some of her poems have been translated into English. Recently, Agha Shahid Ali read a selection of Yehudit’s poetry at the Augusta Savage Gallery. The two collaborate closely, and remain the sole translators of each others poetry. "End of a Visit" is from Yehudit’s first collection, The Woman in a Purple Coat and "Jerusalem Light" is from a forthcoming collection, Salt Women.
End of a Visit
You are going away again,
as you have so many times.
have you packed everything?
One never knows
what one really needs.
Check again, examine the luggage --
so often we leave the necessary behind.
You are packing, I see you --
Your suitcases, one on top of the other,
just as you pile the fears.
And the compressed thoughts
like the swollen purse dangling from your shoulder.
You collect all the parts of yourself.
And then, as is always your way,
you leave the door
You don't look back.
I tell you, Don't worry.
I myself, as before, will close the door.
With golden eyes
she rose dazzled before dusk
the mountains beneath the her
and all the hills
filling like panes with liquid suns
In this hour
she lights her towers
or perhaps after blessing the fire
she has raised her hands
to cover her face with light
Serving on the Graduate Student Senate --by Jennifer Rodgers
What does being a GSS senator entail? Sitting, mostly. The GSS meets once a month for 2-3 hours (generally on the second Tuesday of the month, starting at 7:15 p.m.) Most of the meeting tends to deal with appropriations—figuring out who gets money for what. In this way, GSS senators tend to find out about future campus events long before the general public. There is generally also considerable discussion of campus current events—GEO contracts, privatization, etc.
If a GSS senator sits on two campus committees, his or her department qualifies for matching funds (that is, they get money based on how many members of the department pay the Graduate Senate Tax). Sitting on committees generally means an additional one to two meetings per month, generally during the day. There are committees on everything: childcare, parking and transportation, space and calendar, disability issues, finance, you name it. Some are GSS committees, some are Faculty Senate committees, and some are not—administrative committees, task forces formed by the Chancellor, and others.
If you are interested, but worry the time commitment, remember: 1) we can have two senators, and split the duties between them; and 2) no one is doing it now, so we’re not likely to complain if you don’t make it to all of the meetings, or if you choose not to serve on any committees.
Call for Materials
ACLAnet’s revised page is now up at
ACLAnet, now undergoing revision, is a searchable site for information related to international, interdisciplinary, and cross-cultural literary studies (theory and practice). Sponsored by – but not limited to – the American Comparative Literature Association, the original telnet version offered a database of syllabi, documents, and academic program descriptions; a bulletin board for posting announcements, requests for information, and calls for papers; and a space for specialized discussion groups. As we revise, we are looking for your suggestions and contributions.
Some aspects of the early ACLAnet that are now available separately will be dropped: for example, the official ACLA site publishes professional announcements, organizational information, and calls for papers; individual departments publish their own academic program descriptions; and there are plenty of specialized web sites. We return, therefore, to ACLAnet’s initial aim, which was to collect and make available educational materials from the comparative, cross-cultural, and interdisciplinary curriculum (including pedagogy), and related resources. Linked to these materials will be a bulletin board, an archive of earlier submissions, and member profiles (optional).
Right now, we are looking for 1) comparative syllabi and bibliographies to be posted on the site, and 2) your suggestions for material to be included and for ways to make the page as user-friendly as possible. We would very much appreciate hearing from you. Messages and attachments can be sent to email@example.com. (Please tell us what word-processing program you use if you send attachments.)
New Graduate Students
We look forward to welcoming several new students to our program next year:
Iris Bonaldo is a Canadian citizen. She studied at the Universite de Quebec a Montreal and earned her B.A from UMASS.
Anna Gonzalez majored in English Philology at the Universidad de Oviedo in Spain and will be in the M.A. (Translation) program.
Mario Legido majored in English at the University of Seville and studied in the Spanish department at UMASS. He has been admitted to the M.A (Translation) program.
Fernando Perez Villalon from Santiago, Chile majored in Latin American literature at the Catholic University of Chile.
Alicia Rabins received her B.A. in English and poetry from Barnard College and joins us from Jerusalem. She has been awarded the Graduate School Fellowship for incoming students.
Yi Shang has a B.A. in English from Beijing University and is interested in linguistics, poetry translation and non-fictional narrative.
Bunkong Tuon joins us from California State University, Long Beach and has been awarded a Diversity Fellowship.
New students are invited to check out the website of OGSCL at http://www.umass.edu/complit/ogscl
We also invite all new students to join the listserv for graduate students. Send your preferred e-mail address to Anita (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll sign you up!
Graduate Student News: Accomplishments and Newsworthy Items
In this section we include information submitted by graduate students noting their recent activities and academic developments. Please let Beverly know if you would like to share news for this section.
Jana Evans Braziel recently completed an extensive job search and an exhausting interviewing process. After successfully defending her dissertation on February 14, Jana accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor position in the English Department at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse starting in Fall 2000. Realizing that the time remaining as a graduate student is running out, Jana has been busily submitting articles and conference papers before she enters the profession of full-time teaching. She recently had a chapter of her dissertation, "Trans-America . . . Edwidge Danticat's (Anglophone) Crossings of L'Amérique and Haïti," accepted for presentation on the panel "American Transcultures" (organized by Ramón Saldívar) at MLA 2000 in Washington, D.C. ALL THE BEST JANA, WE WILL MISS YOU!
Lilian Feitosa is now officially in the graduate program in comparative literature and plans to take her comps next year. She traveled to France last year to learn French and plans to travel in Europe this summer. She will also teach Brave New Worlds this summer.
Enrique García will be going to Cuba for 10 days and plans to research Cuban Literature and Cinema at the national library and film institute. He is also presenting a paper titled, "La mitologia imperialista de las civilizaciones azteca y espanola del siglo XVI" for a Spanish conference at Amherst College in October.
Neil Hartlen is working on his dissertation titled Queer Across the Atlantic: The Traveling of Gay Discourses Between the U.S. and France. In this project he will be comparing discourses of sexual politics and cultures as they have developed in the different national traditions of the U.S. and France. He will be considering what analogues exist in France to U.S.-style gay literature (as a writing, publishing, and marketing strategy distinct from mainstream literary practices) and queer theory/gay and lesbian studies (i.e. the delineation of sexuality as a legitimate area of academic inquiry and valued category for analysis). Finally, he will also compare the various manifestations of homophobia across contemporary popular and intellectual discourses and the different forms of resistance they engender. Neil will also be Assistant to the Director of the UMass Paris Program, an exchange program for undergraduate students from September 2000 to June 2001 and plans to take full advantage of the excellent research opportunities! He presented a paper titled, "Sexuality without Borders or Rough Trade? Gay Cultural and Theoretical Exchanges Between the U.S. and France" at ACLA in February.
Yehudit Heller has written several poems in Hebrew that have recently been translated in collaboration with Agha Shahid Ali. Shahid recently read a selection of Yehudit’s poetry at UMASS.
Shuchen Huang has been awarded the graduate fellowship. She has written two short essays (which will appear in Asian American Playwrights: A Critical Sourcebook ed. Miles X. Liu) forthcoming 2001 and four essays which will appear in Asian American Autobiographers ed. Guiyou Huang. She also presented a paper "The ‘Exotic’ Home(land): Chen Ping (Sanmao) in West Sahara" at ACLA, in New Haven, in Feb. 2000 and will give another at the Association of Asian American Studies in Arizona, in late May, 2000. Shuchen will not be teaching or taking classes on campus next fall. She plans to focus on writing her dissertation at home in Acton. However, she will check email regularly, so you can still contact her that way! (Shuchen@complit.umass.edu)
Dale Hudson presented a paper titled "Aesthetics/Ideology: Oscillations in Miró’s Imagery" at the "Rethinking the Avant-Garde: Between Politics and Aesthetics" Conference in South Bend, IN (Notre Dame University) in April, 2000. He plans to take his comps next fall.
Anita Mannur has accepted a one-year lectureship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She will be teaching two courses: "Introduction to Asian American Studies: Literature, History and Culture" in the Fall and "Race and Gender in Asian America" in the Spring. She has a couple of conference papers coming up. She will present at the Children’s Literature Conference in Roanoke, VA in June, 2000 and will also present a paper titled ‘An Epic of Diaspora’: The Place of Mississippi Masala in Asian American Studies at the American Studies Association meeting in Detroit in October, 2000. She has also recently been admitted to the certificate program in Advanced Feminist Studies in the Women’s Studies Department. She plans to spend her time wisely in Boston by eating good food and buying books, and maybe work on her dissertation!
Mariela Mendez presented a paper titled "Alfonsina Storni: Entrecruce de genero" on March 17 at the LASA (Latin American Studies Association) Congress in Miami.
Alix Paschkowiak presented a paper titled "Spiritual Fruit & Flowers: Language as Produce and Language that Produces in Piers Plowman" at the 34th Annual International Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI May 4-7, 2000.
Craig Sinclair notes that he has "spent this semester working on my top secret ‘Project Bernard,’ under the guidance of Messrs. Lenson & Collier. This will be revealed to the world/ UMass campus at its grand-public-sneak-peek on the 12th of May somewhere in the Campus Center’s labyrinthine corridors. I am part of a panel on Interdisciplinary Stuff, itself part of the English department’s annual(?) Graduate Student Conference. I am currently working out how/ when/ where/ if this can be published, so please come along to heckle and advise. Cheers."
Beverly Weber presented a paper at the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference, University of Kentucky, April 2000 entitled "Hybrid Identities: Towards an Interrogation of Germanness." She is currently the German-English translator for the Buddenbrooks Haus in Lübeck, Germany. Current projects: translating the texts for several new permanent exhibits, selected texts from the conference which will be part of the new opening, and selected texts for the exhibit catalogue. She will be presenting a paper titled "In/Out/Trapped: Reading Anne Duden’s Opening of the Mouth in the Shadow of the Wall" at PAMLA (Pacific MLA) in November, 2000. She has also recently been admitted to the certificate program in Advanced Feminist Studies in the Women’s Studies Department.
OGSCL Holiday Party
At the end of the fall semester, OGSCL hosted a holiday party for faculty and students. Judging by the number of people who showed up and had fun, the party was a huge success. OGSCL hopes to host another party at the beginning of next semester to greet new students. Below are some pictures from the party, courtesy of Caroline Dothee.
From left to right:
Lilian Feitosa, Caroline Dothee
Ignacio Lopez and Enrique Garcia
Pictured (l -r): Yehudit Heller, Lilian Feitosa,
Bill Moebius, Caroline Dothee
Edwin Gentzler, Anita Mannur,
(This newsletter was compiled by Beverly Weber and Anita Mannur. It can be viewed online at http://www.umass.edu/complit/ogscl )