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Check out the Department of English and Comparative Literature Graduate Lecture Series’ exciting spring line-up! The Graduate Lecture Series serves as a venue for the department’s PhD students to publicly share their research, enhance the intellectual community of the department, and discuss shared research interests. Lectures will take place in Donovan Lounge (Greenlaw 223) unless otherwise indicated. Contact Ellie Rambo with questions at

Spring 2022 Schedule—Graduate Lecture Series

Jan. 28 (Friday), 12 pm  – Adhy Kim – “The Korean Demilitarized Zone as a Speculative Landscape”

“The division of Korea is an ongoing legacy of the Cold War with ramifications for Korean diasporas as well as for Koreans on the peninsula. This paper looks at the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – a heavily fortified border and eco-reserve for endangered species – as a speculative landscape for Korean American writers.  Looking at the poetry collection DMZ Colony (2020) by Don Mee Choi and the novel Slow Hot (2021) by Andy Choi, this paper examines how Korean American writers are creatively re-interpreting Korean historical memory in order to re-think the impasse of national division. Don Mee Choi and Andy Choi belong to a feminist, anti-militarist Korean/American political formation that inherits aspects of the South Korean minjung movement of the 1970s and ‘80s, a grassroots solidarity movement against American and South Korean state violence and a key driver of South Korea’s democratization. I argue that Korean American writers are revitalizing minjung into the twenty-first century. While Korean literary scholar Paik Nak-chung famously asserted that minjung literature of the 1980s needed to preserve realistic modes of representation to capture the spirit of the movement, these diasporic writers are taking up more speculative modes of representation to open up new ruptures in our present moment and to re-ignite visions of an alternative modernity to the Cold War division system. I ask how speculation can confound geopolitical alignments and invite alternative ways of understanding place and identity – “imaginable ageographies,” in Tina Chen’s words – that re-orient Asian Americans away from complicity with U.S. empire.”

Feb. 15 (Tuesday), 1 pm – Kristján Hannesson – “Tabula Infecta: Petrarch, Pliny and the Aesthetics of the Catastrophe”

Francesco Petrarch, reluctant to finish his texts, subjects them to constant revisions and modifications, leaving many of them incomplete. His inability to complete texts frustrates his positivist humanist ideal, contributing to the very fragmentation that humanism ought to remedy. Reading Pliny the Elder’s study of visual art in the Natural History, Petrarch alters his idea about the epistemological implications of the incomplete work. When an artist dies at work, Pliny writes, the incomplete work acquires an added emotional appeal. The viewer sees the outlines not only of the painting itself but of the artist’s very own mind at work. The incomplete artwork thus becomes a nexus of the artist’s thought process and the product it generates, experience and reflection, quite distinct from the classical fragment. This talk discusses how the epistemological possibilities Petrarch discovers in Pliny lend a new aesthetic dimension to his life-writing and influence the course of his humanist project.”

Feb. 23 (Wednesday), 11 am – Hannah Skjellum – “‘His light will shine on’: Randall Kenan’s cultivations of queer Black souths in writing and life”

We lost Randall Kenan too soon: when he suddenly passed in August 2020, the world felt his loss suddenly and profoundly. Those who had known him, worked with him, and felt inspired by his work became reverent pall bearers to his legacy, holding up Kenan’s life and work as a testament to the ways in which inspired what we know today as Black LGBTQ Southern literature. As Black queer scholar E. Patrick Johnson said in a WUNC radio special on Kenan in September of 2020, “There would be fewer Black, gay writers if it weren’t for Randall Kenan. The work that I’ve done on…[and] the work that so many others of my colleagues who are working in Black literary, Black queer literary, and cultural studies would not have been possible without Randall Kenan. His light will shine on through his work, and through those of us who have been impacted by it.” What sings out to me in our continued mourning of Kenan is the ways in which he created space for Black queer matters and Black queer life through what we now know as his groundbreaking novel, A Visitation of Spirits (1989). Throughout his life, he continued to create space for Black LGBTQ voices and people—not only in his literary work, but also through his growing webs of connection to poets, authors, and other Black LGBTQ artists. This talk will then explore the ways in which Kenan cultivated Black queer spatial aesthetics in his work as well as in his life.”

March 23 (Wednesday), 1 PM  – Bailey Fernandez – “On Purpose: Chris Burden and the Philosophy of Action”

“The work of American artist Chris Burden (1946—2016) came in both early and late periods. The early work, which consisted of transgressive, often dangerous performance art pieces such as Shoot (1973) or Trans-Fixed (1974) frequently put the artist’s body at risk. The second, consisting of pieces such as The Flying Steamroller (1993), The Big Medusa (1993), Metropolis II (1998), and Urban Light (2005), drew on the artist’s undergraduate background as an architect and structural engineer. While the two periods seem distinct, I argue that a reflection in the documentary Burden (2016) — that the artist’s early work “often looked more dangerous than it was, due to all the careful planning that was involved” —suggest a way in which the earlier work can be understood in terms of the later. Namely, I argue that his early works can be understood as plans for the body. Further, through a consideration of Michael Bratman’s “planning” approach to the philosophy of action — that branch of analytic philosophy which deals with the relationship between “act” and “intention” — I argue that Burden’s work models a challenge to the intellectual paradigms concerning author intention and aesthetic responsibility which have dominated theories of literature and the arts for the past half century.”

April 12 (Tuesday), 2 PM – Ryan Carroll – “Carmen Maria Machado’s Victorian Vampires and the Queer Utopianism of Literary Criticism”

“Carmen Maria Machado’s introduction to the 2019 edition Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 vampire novel Carmilla plays a complex metafictional trick on the reader, casting doubts over narrative integrity of Le Fanu’s text—and Machado’s own. I will explore the interplay between LeFanu’s original and Machado’s metafictional editorial work, suggesting that it can shed light on the tensions between factuality and fictionality inherent in parsing an archive and on literary criticism’s ability to creatively envision new possibilities through rereading, reinterpreting, and remaking a text. This insight is deeply relevant not just for theorists of the Victorian and Neo-Victorian, but also for any researcher interested in fiction and fictionality, archival work, and the ethical importance and creative potential of literary criticism—which is to say, all of us.”

Please check back for updated abstracts and details on the following talks later this semester:

April 18 to 22 – Lindsay Ragle-Miller – “Polyamory in Boccaccio’s Decameron

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