Program in Comparative Literature

Summer 2019 Newsletter for the Program in Comparative Literature

Thu, July 25, 2019
Summer 2019 Newsletter for the Program in Comparative Literature

Director's Note


Exactly a century ago, the end of World War I was marked by the founding of the League of Nations and the creation of the first programs of study in Comparative Literature in the United States. Exactly fifty years ago, a group of colleagues met on the UT Austin campus and created our own graduate program. In both 1918 and 2018, the inspiration and commitment for these undertakings relied upon the conviction powerfully expressed by Senator J. William Fulbright that “having people who understand your thought is much greater security than another submarine.” While some of our program’s founders are gone, and we miss our beloved late colleague Sid Monas especially in this anniversary year, both long-standing and newly arrived colleagues among the faculty and students continue the mission of our program, one which was recognized by our external reviewers whose Fall 2018 report noted that the Program “is poised to be a full participant in an increasingly globalized and interconnected world” and that it is a “crown jewel” to be “protected and burnished until it shines not only inside UT-Austin but everywhere else as well.” The excellence of our students, alumni and faculty, who combine intellectual with institutional agility, continues the legacy of Comparative Literature itself as creating spaces where international humanities can intervene in repairing, reinforcing and enhancing a too-often frayed global fabric.

In both the early and the mid twentieth century contexts, difference and diversity were often framed in terms of race, ethnicity, nation, and empire as the global conflicts of the period attest. At the same time, questions of gender and sexuality, of what it means to be human and humane, were being contested in ways which Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw captured with her 1989 coinage “intersectionality.” Our annual GRACLS conference chose as its theme for 2018-19 “Beyond the Breakdown: Reviewing our Disciplines and our World” and extended our explicit transnational and multilingual project to include the many worlds and boundaries that exist for intersectional identities. In dialogue with Drs. Alison Kafer and Sami Shalk, we took time to consider, in dozens of papers and in a collegial and inclusive plenary conversation, the many borders and boundaries which divide but also invite and demand crossings. In the pages that follow, you will read about both our local initiatives and communities and about how the members of our program consistently engage with and shape the field, both nationally and internationally, through their projects, presentations, and publications. Award-winning teaching, major translation projects, conference keynotes, and community-based interventions epitomize how research, teaching and service are mutually reinforcing, creating both a strong program and enhancing diverse learning communities in Austin and beyond.

Svetlana Boym invites us to be suspicious of “restorative” nostalgia, which attempts a transhistorical reconstruction of the lost home, and to undertake instead wistful, ironic, doubt-filled “reflective” nostalgia. This newsletter participates in such reflective nostalgia, which is to say it does not follow a single plot, instead inhabiting different time zones while cherishing shattered fragments of memory and individual details. We hope that you enjoy the many stories that emerge and return from our “home” in Calhoun Hall. 

I would like to end by thanking Anne Bormann for her nearly two years of service as our graduate program coordinator. Without her efforts, and the invaluable assistance of our own graduate student, Alex Thomas, we would not have this beautiful newsletter. In the next couple of weeks we will be welcoming our new program coordinator, Elizabeth Davis.


- Dr. Elizabeth Richmond-Garza


You can view the entire Summer 2019 Newsletter here.

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