College of Liberal Arts


Meet the Graduate Fellows


There are many compelling intersections that are visible in the first cohort of Mellon ESI fellows’ dissertation projects, scholarly interests, and fields of specialization. Some of these connective veins are thematic, for example, interests in narrative forms and layered meanings and voices, in enunciative vibrations and resonances, and new and evolving modes of expression. Topical junctions are also evident in the fellows’ research, like the in-depth investigations of statecraft and processes of cultural negotiation. Some of the fellows are combining qualitative and quantitative research methods, while others share investments in connecting scholarly research to policy papers and legal briefs. Nearly all of the first cohort is committed to public history and historical memory, and the enhancement of historical empathy and understanding. Several of the fellows’ scholarship synthetically interweaves ethnographic research, oral histories, testimony, journalism, memoirs, and personal archives. Each of the awarded ESI fellows demonstrates commitment to public institutions and the visionary ideals of shared educational resources.

Chris Babits

Chris Babits is a PhD candidate in the Department of History. Chris' research focuses on United States religion, gender, and sexuality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His dissertation, "To Cure a Sinful Nation: Conversion Therapy and the Making of Modern America, 1930 to the Present Day," addresses the political, medical, and cultural history of sexual orientation change and gender identity therapies. Chris is dedicated to producing public-oriented scholarship. He has written for the American Historical Association, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, among other venues. Chris' research, writing, and teaching highlights the transformative powers of historical empathy. In an age as divided as the current one, Chris believes that scholars have the responsibility to not only make sense of what happens around us, but also to foster respectful discussion about controversial issues. Supervisor: Dr. Robert Abzug. Dissertation Concept Paper.

T.J. Bolt

T.J. Bolt is a Ph.D. candidate in Classics. His dissertation “Bathetic Engagement: The Aesthetic Development of Bathos in Imperial Latin Epic Poetry,” is about the Latin poet Statius in which he investigates the relationship between sudden shifts in poetic register, contemporary Roman politics, and the Greco-Roman literary tradition. As part of the Engaged Scholar Initiative, T.J. will work in the expanding intersection of Digital Humanities and Classics, developing and using digital methods and tools to analyze Latin poetic style. His research not only contributes to further understanding of literary style and politics, but is also an effort to make ancient texts more accessible to both specialists and general audiences. T.J.’s firm belief that Latin and Greek literature is relevant to the modern world and large popular audiences has led him to explore connections between modern cinema, specifically horror, and ancient literature. Supervisor: Dr. Pramit Chaudhuri. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Kristin Canfield

Kristin Canfield is a Ph.D. candidate in English. Her dissertation, “In the Year of 39’: Modernist Writers, Memory Culture, and the Language of Photography,” examines how Anglophone writers turned to the archive on the eve of the Second World War. The project asks how writers managed documentary materials in their everyday lives and contributes to ongoing debates about visual culture in literary study. For Kristin, teaching and writing about cultural memory on a campus that continues to struggle with its Jim Crow history has emphasized the urgency of this project. Prior to coming to UT, Kristin was a Fulbright Scholar in Poland in 2012 and worked for public education in New York. Supervisor: Dr. Ann Cvetkovich. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Christine Capetola

Christine Capetola is a Ph.D. candidate in American studies. Christine’s dissertation “Hyperaural Blackness: Black Pop Stars, New Musical Technologies, and Vibrational Negotiations of Identity in the Mid-1980s and Beyond,” draws connections between black pop stars who were early adopters of digital synthesizer technology in the mid-1980s (such as Janet Jackson) and some of their contemporaries (such as Blood Orange), asserting that the vibrations from these 1980s pop songs resonate in not only aesthetic but also political ways in our contemporary moment.  As a Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow, Christine will be creating a repository for musical performances and political texts from the 1980s, inviting visitors to think critically about the contemporary American political context through a deep engagement with the Reagan years.  By situating performance as a starting point, Christine seeks to make accessible the study of the sights, sounds, and feelings of historical moments to anyone who has access to a computer. Supervisors: Dr. Ann Cvetkovich and Shirley Thompson. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Giuseppe Castellano

Giuseppe Castellano (B.A. Columbia University 2009, M.A. University of Texas at Austin 2016) is a fourth-year PhD student in Classical Archaeology with excavation experience in Morocco, Italy, and Romania. His dissertation “Cross-Cultural Currencies: Silver and Bronze in Italy and Sicily,” addresses cultural contact between Greek colonists and indigenous peoples in ancient Sicily and South Italy through the lens of pre-monetary currencies and coinage, with a particular focus on technical elements like weight standards, metallic composition, and methods of production. His results indicate that native populations did not passively adopt Greek coinage, but rather that monetary practice in colonial Italy was heavily influenced by both indigenous and imported tradition and by local cultural, political, and economic conditions. Alongside a traditional dissertation, Giuseppe intends to create an interactive currency conversion website, Trapezites (trap-ed-ZEE-tace, from the Greek for “money-changer”), allowing users to discover the complex and fascinating world of ancient monetary practice. Supervisor: Dr. Adam Rabinowitz. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Paul Edgar

Pursuing a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, Paul Edgar is interested in the international history of the ancient Middle East, the continuities it shares with the 20th and 21st centuries, and how history and historiography shape political and military discourse. His ESI dissertation “‘The Race Is Not to the Swift’ The Influence of Small Powers among Hegemons in the Bronze Age,” has two objectives: First, he will develop history-based tools for local political leaders in order to illuminate contemporary challenges and expand policy options. Second, he will employ similar materials amongst the most diverse student bodies in Austin public schools in order to foster a broader understanding of the dynamic relationship between history, community, and civic virtue. Before graduate school, Paul was an Army Ranger and served multiple tours in the Middle East. He often thinks about the dissonance between history, community, and policy when he hears the sincerely spoken phrase, “Thank you for your service.” Supervisor: Dr. John Huehnergard. Dissertation Concept Paper.

Amy Vidor

Amy E. Vidor has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Texas at Austin (2019). Her research interests include in memory, trauma, and gender studies, twentieth-century intellectual history, and francophone literature. She completed her Bachelors’ degrees in English and French at the University of Southern California (2012) and her Master’s degree in History and Literature at Columbia University (2014). She is an advocate for using the humanities to facilitate critical conversations and incite change. Her research and teaching benefits from engaging with scholars in different fields and outside organizations. As an Engaged Scholar Postdoctoral Fellow, she is developing a pilot practicum and website for humanities graduate students interested in pursuing career pathways beyond the academy. Dissertation Concept Paper.