Furst Forum

The Lilian R. Furst Forum in Comparative Literature is a lecture series organized in 2005 as a graduate student initiative, with financial support from the Department of English & Comparative Literature. The Forum features two kinds of speakers:

  1. professional scholars from a variety of humanistic fields at UNC interested in sharing their research with an interdisciplinary audience.
  2. advanced graduate students in the Department of English & Comparative Literature wanting to share their work with colleagues and faculty in a professional setting.

The Forum is named in honor of Marcel Bataillon Professor of Comparative Literature Lilian R. Furst (retired 2006), whose distinguished scholarship and reputation as a comparatist have brought prestige to the program and to the university. The Forum generally features four speakers every semester (two faculty members, two graduate students).

All members of the UNC community are invited to attend, but the forum is also open to the general public. Light refreshments will be provided by the Mediterranean Deli.

For further information visit the Furst Forum website.

In Memoriam Lilian Renée Furst


The Fall 2013 Furst Forum Schedule:

All lectures for the Fall 2013 schedule will take place in Toy Lounge

Connie Eble
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Language in Literature: The Literary Representation of Speech and A Confederacy of Dunces
Tuesday, October 1st
Toy Lounge, Dey Hall

Linguist Connie Eble will speak about the representation of speech in literary works and the types of evidence that creative, crafted, edited written works can provide to language scholars. The main literary work used for illustration will be the 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner set in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Eble is a native of New Orleans and a widely-recognized commentator on its dialects.


Dr. Neel Ahuja
Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Staging Smallpox: Reanimating Variola in Iraq War Literature

Thursday, October 10th
Toy Lounge, Dey Hall

In 1980, the World Health Organization announced the first-ever organized extermination of an entire species, claiming "that the world and its peoples have won freedom from smallpox, which was a most devastating disease." Yet in 2003, the Bush administration announced a Smallpox Vaccination Program that eventually attempted to stockpile smallpox vaccine for every human inside US borders. How did the disappearance of a virus turn it into a privileged enemy of the state? In this presentation, I examine the use of literature to advertise the dangers of weaponized smallpox in the leadup to the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq. Documenting the association of the virus with sensational figures of the vanishing Indian, the sacrificial laboratory monkey, and the Islamic rogue, I argue that Iraq War literature constituted smallpox as a locus of racialized uncertainty and worked to affectively model its threat outside the limitations of traditional forms of scientific evidence. Tracing the circulations of rumor and speculation on smallpox threats between the domains of popular media and the security state, I contend further that smallpox reveals tensions between neoconservative invocations of American exceptionalism and the queer forms of relation constituted by increasingly expansive military interventions into biological and environmental domains.


Jameela Dallis
PhD Candidate
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Shani Mootoo's Cereus Blooms at Night: "Life Refusing to End" and the Transformative Gothic

In her talk, Dallis examines Shani Mootoo’s1996 daring, disturbing debut novel, Cereus Blooms at Night and its use of the Gothic mode’s violence, its decay, and its tangled overgrown gardens to provide the psychological and material space of transformation through the revision and rehabilitation of these feared and maligned Gothic aesthetics that ultimately provide a haven for the novel’s protagonist, Mala Ramchandin.

Thursday, November 14th ~ 4:00pm ~ Toy Lounge, Dey Hall

Jameela F. Dallis, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is William Neal Reynolds Fellow in the Royster Society of Fellows. She is the Managing Editor of The Southern Literary Journal. Her dissertation project is entitled Haunted Narratives: The Afterlife of Gothic Aesthetics in Late Contemporary U.S. and Caribbean Fiction. Her essay, “‘Life Refusing to End’: The Transformative Gothic in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night is forthcoming in Undead Souths: Beyond the Gothic (LSU Press). A second essay, "Through the Eyes of the Monster: Angela Carter’s ‘The Lady of the House of Love’” is forthcoming in Shock and Horror: A New Look at the Gothic Monster (McFarland Press).



Past Furst Forum Lectures

April 11, 2013
Dr. Robin Visser (Asian Studies)
"Shadow Plays and Queer Enlightenments in Stanley Kwan's Lan Yu"

March 28, 2013
Dr. Inga Polmman (Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature)
"The Lives of a Salamander: Temporality in/of the Cinema"

January 31, 2013
Dr. Rick Warner (English and Comparative Literature)
"Filming a Miracle: Contemplative Strategies from Dreyer to Reygadas"

November 8, 2012
Dr. Rebecka Rutledge Fisher (English and Comparative Literature)
"Love's Habitation: The Uncanny Maternal of Invisible Man."

October 9, 2012
Joe Wallace (English and Comparative Literature)
"Robert Herrick's Religious Fictions"

September 27, 2012 
Clayton Koelb (German, English and Comparative Literature) 
“Franz Kafka: Literary Life After Death"

April 4, 2012
Dr. Tony Perucci (Communication Studies)
"Logic Strike: The Poetics of Ruptural Performance."

March 1, 2012
Dr. Ruth von Bernuth (German Studies)

"The Wise Men of Chelm: Eastern European Jewry’s Favorite Folk Tradition and Its German Origins."

January 25, 2012
John Ribó (English and Comparative Literature)
"Ground Zeroes, New Worlds: "Race" and Post-Apocalyptic Mutants in Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao."

December 6, 2011
Dr. Gabriel Trop (German Studies)
“Attraction and Perturbation: Towards a Theory of Aesthetic Intensity.”

November 16, 2011

Dr. Jessica Wolfe (English and Comparative Literature)
"Winged Words: a chapter in the history of a trope."

October 12, 2011
Sarah Parker (Comparative Literature)
“The Bones of the Skull: The Subtlety of Early Modern Anatomy.”

September 14, 2011
Rebecca Nesvet (English and Comparative Literature)

"Mary Shelley’s Gothic “Life of Pascal.”

April 7, 2011

Allison Bigelow (English and Comparative Literature)
"‘hallandome como me hallo yndefensa’: The Translation of Gender into theColonial Sciences of the Americas.”

March 17, 2011
Dr. Juan Carlos González Espitia, (Romance Languages and Literatures)
"Syphilis as the most autochthonous and universal disease of the New World."

February 24, 2011
Pablo Maurette, (English and Comparative Literature)

"Prolegomena to any future metaphysics of touch."

February 10, 2011
Dr. Shayne Legassie, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Hollywood Horror and the Gothic Fly."

December 2, 2010
Michael Rulon, (English and Comparative Literature)

"Healing the Wounds of War in Women's Writing of the Algerian Revolution."

November 16, 2010

Dr. Richard Langston, (German Languages and Literatures)

"Mapping and Coring: Orientation as the Filmification of Literary Knowledge."

October 26, 2010
Dr. Richard Cante, (Communication Studies)

"Post-Cinematic Theatricality, Post-Theatrical Cinema, and Other Enactments of Circuitry Between Contemporary (Global) Media."

April 7, 2010
Wil Kaiser, (English and Comparative Literature)

"The Grain in the Vox Populi: Dos Passos and the Logic of Radio Culture in 1930s America."

March 17, 2010

Jonathan Risner, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Blood Runs: Argentine Horror Cinema Comes to the U.S."

March 4, 2010
Euan Griffiths, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Medieval Translation: Adaptation and the Aesthetic of the Original."

February 16, 2010

Dr. Ellen Welch, (French)
"National Characters: Playing Against Type in Lully's Ballet des Muses and Molière's Le Sicilien (1666-7)."

December 2, 2009
Catherine Clark, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Queering the Classics: Antiquity in the Poetry of Female Modernists."

November 10, 2009
Sarah Cantrell, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Harry Potter Goes to France: Exploring the Worlds of Erik L'Homme's Le Livre des Etoiles (The Book of the Stars)."

October 27, 2009
Dr. Anne MacNeil, (Music)
"On Jacob's Boat: Pleasure Cruising in 16th-century Mantua."

September 29, 2009
Dr. Sharon James, (Classics)
"Rethinking the Role of Rape in Menander's Romantic Comedy."

September 15, 2009
Dr. E. Jane Burns, (Prof. of Women’s Studies, Adjunct Prof. of English and Comparative Literature)
"The Head of a Woman and the Tail of a…: Hybridity and Dynasty in the Roman de Melusine."

April 22, 2009
Paul Worley, (English and Comparative Literature)
"If we don't tell them who will? The Storyteller and Indigenous Agency in Yukatek Maya Literature."

April 6, 2009
Dr. Diane Leonard, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Proust and Ruskin: Narrative in the Fourth Dimension."

March 17, 2009
Anna Panszczyk, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Disassembled Dolls: How the Parts Remember and Rename the Whole."

March 3, 2009
Camille Passalacqua, (English and Comparative Literature)
"Making Witnesses by 'Making Generations' in Gayl Jones's 'Corregidora'."

February 10, 2009
Dr. Jessica Wolfe (English and Comparative Literature)
"Hobbes' Homer and the Idols of the Agora."

November 18, 2008
Jennifer Flaherty (English and Comparative Literature)
"Ophelia's Afterlife: Reaching Adolescent Girls through Shakespeare's Doomed Heroine."

November 4, 2008

Dr. Federico Luisetti (Italian)
"The Image of Time: Rossellini's Delays, Deleuze's Crystals."

October 8, 2008

Dr. Sahar Amer (Asian and International Studies)
"Medieval Arab Lesbians."

September 18, 2008

Dustin Mengelkoch (Comparative Literature)
"The Disintegration of Natural Law: Statius, Buchanan and Grotius."

April, 2008
Kevin Eubanks (Comparative Literature)

"Authenticity and the Jargon of History in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus"

March 20, 2008
Dr. Hassan Melehy (Asst. Prof. of French)
"Shakespeare's Sonnets and Time."

February 8, 2008
Dr. Inger Brodey (Asst. Prof. of Comparative Literature, Adjunct Asst. Prof. Asian Studies)

"Entertaining Grief in the Culture of Sensibility."

January 25, 2008

Thomas Spencer (Comparative Literature)
"Hölderlin's Theological Word."

November 26, 2007

Will Nolan (Comparative Literature)

"Eadweard Muybridge: The Zoological Space and the Emergence of Cinema."

November 12, 2007

Kinitra Brooks (Comparative Literature)

"The Transcendental Black Maternal in Phyllis Alesia Perry's Stigmata."

October 8, 2007
Dr. John McGowan (UNC Institute of Humanities, Prof. of English & Comparative Literature)

"Liberalism as Secular Comedy."

August 30, 2007

Kara Getrost (Comparative Literature)
"From Innocent Play to Imperial Survey: Forming Adolescence through British and German Adventure Novels of Sub-Saharan Africa, 1870-1905."

April 10, 2007
Dr. Li-ling Hsiao (Asst. Prof. of Asian Studies)

"The World on Puppet Strings: Embedded Realities in Chinese Culture."

March 5, 2007

Dr. Michael Silk (Prof. of Classics and Comparative Literature, King's College London)
"Hughes, Plath and Aeschylus: Allusion and Poetic Language."

March 2,2007

Dr. Michael Silk (Prof. of Classics and Comparative Literature, King's College London)
"The Invention of Greek: Poets, Macedonians and Others."

November 16, 2006

Sean Knierim (Comparative Literature)
"Responding to the Mexico City Earthquake of 1985: Through the Words of cronistas, through the Loans of the World Bank."

October 27, 2006
Dr. Nadia Yaqub (Prof. of Asian Studies)
"The Palestinian Cinematic Wedding."

October 6, 2006
Dr. Maria DeGuzman (Director of Latina/o Studies; Prof. of English)

"Afro-Latino Critique of Enwhitened Idealism: Miguel Algarn's 'Nuyorican Angels' of Night."

September 7, 2006
Carrie Matthews (Comparative Literature)
"Anarchist Modernism in Paris: Prose Poems and Innovations of Genre in the Work of Charles Baudelaire and Gertrude Stein."

March 3, 2006

Dr. Brooke Holmes (Prof. of Classical Studies)
"Antigone in the Future Perfect (Oedipus at Colonus and After)."

April 7, 2006

Eileen Anderson (Comparative Literature)

"Resisting Anglicization: Strategies of Identity Formation in Irish and Puerto Rican Communities Within the United States."

February 2, 2006
Dr. Gregory Flaxman (Asst. Prof. of English)
"The Philosophy of Fiction, the Fiction of Philosophy: Gilles Deleuze and the Politics of Style."

November 15, 2005
Dr. Eric Downing (Comparative Literature: Classical Studies)

"Benjamin's Eidols: Ancient Atomism and Early Photographic Theory in Berlin Chronicle."