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Areas of Specialization

African Literature and Criticism

Faculty in the department teach a wealth of courses in African literatures, literary theory and cultures. In addition to a significant expertise in postcolonial theory, faculty at Penn State conduct research on Arabophone, Francophone, Italophone, Anglophone and Indian Ocean traditions in African literature and criticism. Scholars write on trauma studies, human rights discourse, the relation of history, literature and memory, post-apartheid and post-independence nationalism, sexuality rights and anti-sexual violence advocacy. We support graduate and faculty research on a range of forms, including literary, visual arts, film and new media texts, and teach courses on African feminist and queer theory, South African literatures, the literature of human rights, and North African literatures. Several faculty who teach African literature and criticism hold joint appointments in Women’s Studies and African Studies. The innovative partnership between Comparative Literature and African Studies means that graduate students can take courses in that field toward a dual-title degree in Comparative Literature African Studies.

Faculty

  • Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Rosemary Jolly

Graduate Students

  • Deena Al Halabieh
  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Derek Gideon

Colonial and Postcolonial Studies

Colonial and postcolonial theory informs the research of members of our faculty working in different geographic areas including the Americas, North and South Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia. Faculty research and teaching interests include the legacies of European empires (French, Spanish, and British) and continuous, land-based, multinational empires including the Chinese, Ottoman, and Russian Empires and the Soviet Union. The department regularly offers a graduate seminar in the foundations of postcolonial theory as well as specialized courses on human rights, slavery and colonial discourses on race and sex, critical race and gender theory, trauma studies, and postcolonial film and media studies. In collaboration with faculty in the Department of Asian Studies, the department also hosts a reading group in comparative empire studies. The department offers dual-title PhDs in both Comparative Literature and Asian Studies and Comparative Literature and African Studies.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Rosemary Jolly
  • Djelal Kadir
  • Brian Lennon
  • Sophia McClennen
  • Shuang Shen
  • We Jung Yi 

Graduate Students

  • Irenae Aigbedion
  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Rana Ali Ghuloom
  • Siting Jiang
  • Frankie Mitchell
  • Merve Tabur

Comparative Asias

Our faculty in this area specialize in the premodern and modern literary and cultural traditions of East and West Asia, including Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Turkic. Many of our faculty hold joint appointments with the Department of Asian Studies, with whom we offer a dual-title Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Asian Studies. Faculty research and teaching interests include Sinophone literature and culture; transnational Japanese writers; the literary cultures of Islam and Buddism; émigré and diaspora literatures; banned books; script and print cultures; grammatologies of nationalism; word/image and new media; literary materialism; performance studies; and the histories of Marxism and communism. A common interest is the critical examination of Asian modernities, including the East-West binary of European Orientalism. The department also supports faculty and graduate student research on inter-Asia comparison across China, Russia and/or the Soviet Union, and the Islamic world.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Eric Hayot
  • Shuang Shen
  • Reiko Tachibana
  • Nicolai Volland
  • Adrian Wanner
  • We Jung Yi 

Graduate Students

  • Irenae Aigbedion
  • Siting Jiang
  • Victoria Oana Lupascu
  • Kendra McDuffie
  • Lea Pao
  • Nobuto Sato
  • Darwin Tsen
  • Shiqin Zhang

Comparative Middle East & North Africa

In conjunction with a variety of centers and programs around campus, the department of Comparative Literature offers an innovative and theoretically rigorous comparative approach to the region of the Middle East and North Africa. With specialists in Arabophone and Francophone North African, Turkish, as well as Comparative Middle Eastern literature and culture, we emphasize interdisciplinary, transnational and transhistorical approaches to the region that move beyond the confines of Orientalist or philological methodologies. In this regard, there is an active scholarly profile around questions of the avant-garde, (post) modernism, Islam and secular criticism, gender and sexuality, postcolonial theory, language reform and heteroglossia, as well as narrative theory and literary criticism. Departmental partnerships with African Studies (including the dual-title PhD in Comparative Literature and African Studies), the Middle East Studies Standing Committee, and the Penn State Society for the Study of Religion bring together scholars from History, Anthropology, African Studies, Literature and Political Science. Penn State’s Arabic program, housed in the Comparative Literature department, offers opportunities for studying and teaching Arabic both at Penn State and abroad.

Faculty

  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Anna Ziajka Stanton

Graduate Students

  • Deena Al Halabieh
  • Rana Ali Ghuloom
  • Merve Tabur
  • Rebekah Zwanzig

Comparative Modernisms and Modernities

Our department is home to a wide range of work on various problems around the notion of modernity and modernism. With work on the concept of global modernity, alternative modernisms, and modernity as such, our faculty brings to this paramount issue in literary and cultural studies formidable world wide and deep historical perspectives. Modernity means different things in different places at different times; our cluster of scholars working on modernity ask how the concept translates (or does not translate) across cultures or historical periods. Is modernism a Western concept, a worldwide inevitability, or both? Having received multiple book awards for research in the field modernism, our faculty is well suited to advising graduates and teaching undergraduates in this formidable field of inquiry. Work inside the department is sustained by a broader community interested in these topics across the modern languages at Penn State where the Modernist Studies Association was founded more than a decade ago. Locally our students participate in the graduate-student-organized Modernist Studies Workshop, which supports reading groups and invites speakers to campus; we also bring renowned thinkers on modernism to the Comp Lit Luncheon talks. Nationally and internationally, our faculty and our graduate students regularly attend the MSA and EAM (European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies) conferences.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Robert Caserio
  • Jonathan Eburne
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Eric Hayot
  • Djelal Kadir

Graduate Students

 

  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Max Jensen
  • Victoria Oana Lupascu
  • Aurelie Matheron
  • Frankie Mitchell
  • Kyle Posey
  • Nobuto Sato
  • Elizabeth Schoppelrei
  • Merve Tabur
  • Darwin Tsen

Critical Theory and Philosophy

Departmental teaching and scholarship range widely across philosophical and critical traditions, from the classical texts of Greek, China, and India, through medieval theories of allegory or religion, to contemporary aesthetic, literary, and critical theory. In addition to a large group working in and around postcolonial theory, we have faculty working in fields related to Marxism, narrative theory, feminist, queer, and gender theory, deconstruction, and, more broadly, post-Kantian theory in all its guises. We also work on, teach, and study theories of media and mass culture, including theories of world literature, and do theoretical and philosophical work connected to the wide variety of regional traditions we cover. All PhD students take a yearlong departmental sequence on philosophies and theories of literature (CMLIT 502/503). Taught by six different faculty as a series of five-week courses, the sequence covers topics and classics in ancient and modern theory, focusing comparatively on the movement and development of ideas across time and across networks of international or global space. Together with the Department of Philosophy, the department hosts the doctoral minor in Literary Theory, Criticism, and Aesthetics.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Robert Caserio
  • Jonathan Eburne
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Eric Hayot
  • Djelal Kadir
  • Brian Lennon
  • Anna Ziajka Stanton

Graduate Students

  • Rana Ali Ghuloom
  • Morgan Bozick
  • Juliana Chapman
  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Derek Gideon
  • Elizabeth Hayton
  • Max Jensen
  • Kelly Lehtonen
  • Aurelie Matheron
  • Rhett McNeil
  • Lea Pao
  • Kyle Posey
  • Merve Tabur
  • Darwin Tsen
  • Rebekah Zwanzig

Feminist Theory and Gender Studies

The department does research and teaching across a broad range of areas connected to feminst theory, queer theory, gender, and sexuality, covering geographical regions and languages from north to south, east to west. Thanks to strong connections with the department of Women’s Studies, with whom we are pursuing a dual-title PhD agreement, the department engages scholars in these areas from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives. Our faculty study such topics as constructions of race and sex in South Africa, the sensual aspects of religious experience, the relations between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS among racially stigmatized populations, or the history of kissing in Japan. Our graduate classes and our research are consistently informed by theoretical texts on feminism and queerness, written not only in Europe or the United States, but also in Russia, China, Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Argentina, and elsewhere. We thus are committed to thinking feminism and gender from a broadly historical perspective that draws on ideas and experiences that take place across the entire planet. Our graduate students have taught CMLIT 101, Race, Gender, and Identity in World Literature, and advanced students may teach CMLIT 406, Women and World Literature.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Robert Caserio
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Sophia McClennen
  • Shuang Shen
  • We Jung Yi 

Graduate Students

  • Rana Ali Ghuloom
  • Morgan Bozick
  • Elizabeth Hayton
  • Elizabeth Schoppelrei
  • Merve Tabur

Human Rights, Medicine, Ethics

Our faculty research relations between narratives of all kinds (and in all kinds of media) and the lived experiences of people in a variety of geographical areas. These experiences include legal oppression, adverse health determinants, and implication in complex, competing claims of local, national, international and global jurisdictions. Our faculty study concepts of individual human rights, the sovereign rights of nations and international bodies to exercise forms of biopolitical power, and local forms of customary law, and show how interactions among these shape and are shaped by aesthetic culture. Complementary to our focus on global approaches to law, human rights and literature, we offer studies in the critical medical humanities. These fields overlap in a variety of ways, including faculty research and teaching on global approaches to terror and torture, and on trauma studies. Investigations of forms of resilience that contest and expand canonical formulations of trauma offer graduate students the opportunity to study and participate in ongoing debates on issues ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to the health consequences of structural injustice; graduate students also serve as TAs, or teach on their own, courses like CMLIT 143, Literature and Human Rights. The department’s strong relationship with Penn State’s program in Bioethics, with the School of International Affairs, and with the African Studies Program and the department of Women’s Studies, extend these topics beyond the walls of Comparative Literature, and give students access to a wide variety of talks, conferences, and other events.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Rosemary Jolly
  • Sophia McClennen

Graduate Students

  • Deena Al Halabieh
  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Molly Appel
  • Nobuto Sato

Inter-American, Latin American, and Latino/a Literatures

Our faculty members who work in these areas have regional expertise in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Cuba, as well as comparative transatlantic (Spain and Latin America), and U.S. Latino literature and culture. We have faculty with joint appointments in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, Women’s Studies, Latina/o Studies, and the School of International Affairs. Penn State has strong history of research on Inter-American topics, bridging North, South, and Central America in order to address hemispheric culture and concerns. Our faculty’s recent teaching and research interests include canonization in relationship to cultural identity, the Baroque and Neo-Baroque, human rights across the Americas, and the mimesis of Empire in Latin America. Graduate students frequently teach CMLIT 005, Introduction to Literature of the Americas, as well as other more advanced courses in the field.

Faculty

  • Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Djelal Kadir
  • John Ochoa
  • Sophia McClennen

Graduate Students

  • Irenae Aigbedion
  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Molly Appel
  • Rhett McNeil
  • Frankie Mitchell
  • Dawn Taylor
  • Rebekah Zwanzig

Medieval and Renaissance (early modern) Literature and Culture

Our faculty work across the wide range of historical periods, more than a thousand years long, that are designated as medieval or Renaissance (early modern). Ranging from England to the Mediterranean world to medieval Japan and early modern China, our research addresses questions of authorship, culture, law, memory, identity, and textuality in a wide variety of genres and contexts. We share an ongoing interest in book history and in the readership, performance, and circulation of literary works. Our students working in these periods can benefit from the activities organized by the Committee on Early Modern Studies and the Material Texts Group, both of which draw together faculty from a variety of departments; the informal Early Period Studies Reading Group organized by graduate students; and Penn State’s resources in fields such as English, the Romance languages, classics, and history, and our digital humanities initiatives. Students interested in working across departments may be interested in the interdisciplinary graduate minor in Medieval Studies, which includes fields such as art history. The Summer Language Institute provides opportunities to study languages such as Arabic, French, Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, or Spanish if needed. Penn State’s library is rich in research material for these periods, and students learn to read medieval or Renaissance handwriting in order to work with original sources. Further, we are close to many of the major US research libraries housing important collections, such as the Folger Library in Washington, DC, where our institutional membership facilitates student access. Students have also received support for travel to archives in the UK and continental Europe, as well as travel grants to present their research at major conferences, and the faculty provide mentoring and guidance for students to publish their research. We are committed to preparing our doctoral students as teachers, as well as scholars, and students have opportunities to teach medieval literature in courses such as CMLIT 001 (Western literature through the Renaissance), CMLIT 10 (World Literatures), and CMLIT 106 (Arthurian Legend).

Faculty

  • Patrick Cheney
  • Caroline Eckhardt
  • Robert Edwards
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Scott Smith     

Graduate Students

  • Morgan Bozick
  • Juliana Chapman
  • Elizabeth Hayton
  • Kelly Lehtonen

Migration, Diaspora, Globalization

Teaching and research in migration and diaspora studies cover a wide range of topics, including contemporary diasporic and immigrant literature and film in English and other languages, the global circulation and translation of immigrant and diasporic literature, and diasporic cultural politics. Departmental teaching and research in globalization studies overlap with migration and diaspora studies in some areas, but also extend to other areas of global concern, such as the literature of human rights, global health issues, and new media studies. Faculty research is not limited to diasporic groups in the United States, but cover a number of diasporas around the world, including the Turkish diaspora in Germany, the Japanese diaspora in Latin America, the Russian diaspora in the U.S. and Europe, and the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. Faculty members in these areas work closely with units and faculty in other departments, including the Migration Studies Project, and specialists in the Jewish, Chinese, and African diasporas in the departments of History, African-American Studies, English, French, and Jewish Studies.

Faculty

  • Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Eric Hayot
  • Rosemary Jolly
  • Brian Lennon
  • Sophia McClennen
  • John Ochoa
  • Shuang Shen
  • Reiko Tachibana
  • Adrian Wanner
  • We Jung Yi 

Graduate Students

  • Irenae Aigbedion
  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Darwin Tsen
  • Shiqin Zhang

Poetry and Poetics

The department includes scholars working on poetry from a number of language traditions, including English (and Middle English), French, German, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic. We understand poetry to encompass both the lyric tradition (from the classical examples in Greek or Chinese) and the wide variety of non-lyric forms, including public poetry, dramatic poetry, epic poetry, elegiac poetry, and the like. We thus emphasize formal, historical, and translingual approaches to the history of poetic activity, and frame those approaches within a long history of poetics ranging from the earliest aesthetic texts through formalist and structuralist poetics to contemporary theories of poetic meaning, structure, and activity. Our required graduate short course on close reading includes attention to matters of prosody and form in multiple languages. The Pennsylvania Center for the Book and the MFA program in Creative Writing (English Department) both regularly bring poets to campus.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Patrick Cheney
  • Jonathan Eburne
  • Robert Edwards
  • Eric Hayot
  • Djelal Kadir
  • Adrian Wanner

Graduate Students

  • Morgan Bozick
  • Juliana Chapman
  • Derek Gideon
  • Max Jensen
  • Aurelie Matheron
  • Lea Pao
  • Kyle Posey
  • Elizabeth Schoppelrei

Translation and Translation Studies

Students interested in translation and/or critical translation studies will encounter a wide variety of languages and ongoing faculty interests related to this core topic of comparative literature. A number of our faculty work on or write about translation, and several are prolific translators themselves. Jonathan Abel, for instance, has translated critical and theoretical essays from Japanese into English, including Hiroki Azuma’s Otaku; Thomas Beebee’s most recent published translation is of the novella Kafka’s Leopards by the Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar, and he is currently translating the last story collection of João Guimarães Rosa. Adrian Wanner has a monograph on Baudelaire in Russia, another on Russian translingual writers, and is also a prolific translator from Slavic languages, mostly into German; Brian Lennon has written on multilingual literature; Caroline Eckhardt is working through a scholarly edition of the Middle English Castleford’s Chronicle. Graduate students in the department have published translations from Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, and other languages. Together faculty and graduate students organize translation symposia and translation slams, and supervise and write dissertations related to translation, including theses based on actual translation work. Graduates of the program have gone on to develop their own careers as literary translators and language service providers.

Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Caroline Eckhardt
  • Robert Edwards
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Eric Hayot
  • Brian Lennon
  • Nicolai Volland
  • Adrian Wanner
  • We Jung Yi
  • Anna Ziajka Stanton

Graduate Students

  • Deena Al Halabieh
  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Morgan Bozick
  • Derek Gideon
  • Kelly Lehtonen
  • Rhett McNeil
  • Lea Pao
  • Merve Tabur
  • Dawn Taylor

Visual Culture, Information, and Media

Departmental interests in the history of media extend from the oral tradition through to book history and beyond to electronic, digital, and popular media, including aesthetic objects produced on cell phones, as graphic novels, or in video game form. A number of faculty work specifically on ekphrastic relationships among media, including book history, the visual arts, medical case studies, and literature, religious textuality and embodied practice, or (to mention one specific case) on surrealism’s heavily theoretical dream landscapes. This interest in media and visual culture is extended by the work of a number of faculty focused on the historical and theoretical problem of information, which we understand as a subtending force in the organization, storage, and transmission of cultural value from the earliest history of human culture to the seemingly radical novelties of the digital age. Many of our graduate courses address media theory (Flusser, Hayles, Hansen, Benjamin, Gitelman, Kittler, and so on) or media/book history, helping students to build a strong foundation for the study of the modes and material substrates of aesthetic production. The department also has strong connections with the Digital Culture and Media Initiative, the Center for Humanities and Information, both currently directed by faculty associated with Comparative Literature, as well as with the Palmer Museum of Art. Both the DCMI and CHI regularly bring visitors to campus, and CHI sponsors predoctoral and faculty fellowships for projects engaged in thinking (about) information.

 Faculty

  • Jonathan Abel
  • Gabeba Baderoon
  • Jonathan Eburne
  • Caroline Eckhardt
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Eric Hayot
  • Brian Lennon
  • Sophia McClennen
  • Scott Smith
  • We Jung Yi
  • Anna Ziajka Stanton

Graduate Students

  • Andres Amerikaner
  • Molly Appel
  • Morgan Bozick
  • Juliana Chapman
  • Siting Jiang
  • Victoria Oana Lupascu
  • Aurelie Matheron
  • Kendra McDuffie
  • Lea Pao
  • Kyle Posey
  • Dawn Taylor

World Literature in Theory and Practice

The rise of the concept of world literature as an organizing concept for literary history or literary method has left its mark on the entire field of Comparative Literature. The department includes a number of faculty who have written about world literature from both theoretical and practical perspectives, considering the various ways in which the concept of the “world” can be (and has been) mobilized in the name of the world’s various regions, languages, or historical periods, or focusing on the specific parameters of “world” as an aesthetic and critical concept. Maintaining what we see as a healthy skepticism regarding some of the more grandiose claims associated with the concept, while recognizing the optimism and spirit of epistemological inclusion that motivates the idea of world literature, we teach courses that cover both the disciplinary impact and the intellectual possibilities of the term at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Our graduate students regularly TA for our undergraduate gateway course, CMLIT 010 (World Literature), and discuss the impact of concepts like “world literature” on the discipline in CMLIT 501, a course that introduces graduate students to advanced study in the field.

Faculty

  • Magalí Armillas-Tiseyra
  • Thomas Beebee
  • Caroline Eckhardt
  • Charlotte Eubanks
  • Hoda El Shakry
  • Nergis Ertürk
  • Eric Hayot
  • Djelal Kadir
  • Brian Lennon
  • Nicolai Volland
  • Anna Ziajka Stanton

Graduate Students

  • Morgan Bozick
  • Juliana Chapman
  • Alexander Fyfe
  • Dawn Taylor