Graduate research

Ph.D. candidates


Colleen McNewColleen McNew

Advisor: Professor Francisco J. Higuero
Dissertation: Critical Approaches to Narrative Trajectories in 21st Century Spanish Novels by Women

My dissertation focuses on three novels from the 21st century: Secreta Penélope by Alicia Giménez Bartlett (2003), Mi vida según Martín by Sara Barrena (2010), and Violetas para Olivia by Julia Montejo (2011). I explore the ways in which these narratives depict the construction of truth, meaning, and identity in order to prove that none is ever absolute nor singular, but rather subjective and multiple. Once the subjectivity and multiplicity of experience are embraced, each novel demonstrates how one can then reformulate history, propose alternative histories, or even create one's own personal history and identity.

French Studies

Sarah CoulsonSarah Coulson

Advisor: Professor Alina Cherry
Dissertation: Life on the Margins: Représentations of Exclusion in Four Contemporary French Novels

Exclusion is well-represented in contemporary French literature. Each novel analyzed in my study portrays a distinct form of marginalization. In Annie  Ernaux's La Place (The Place), the narrator is marginalized because of her working-class background. In Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras, a young bourgeoise with a small child suffers from the rigidity of her middle-class life and the lack of opportunity available to women in the 1950s. Les Choses (Things) by Georges Perec describes a young, lower-middle-class couple who, unable to participate in the dream of abundance for all, achieve happiness only by fantasizing about high-end consumer goods. Trois femmes puissantes (Three Strong Women) by Marie NDiaye explores the connection between France and Senegal in three novellas whose marginalized characters live in exile.

Mandeta Gjata Mandeta Gjata

Advisor: Professor Alina Cherry
Dissertation: How to (Re) write the Great War? Recreating History in Contemporary French Novels from Traces of the Past

My dissertation explores the theme of traces, the representation of World War I, and the relationship between history and literature in three novels: Claude Simon's L'Acacia (1989), Jean Rouaud's Les champs d'honneur (1990), and Jean Echenoz's 14(2012). I am particularly intrigued by the reasons why these authors, who did not actively participate in the war, have turned to this historical event. What are their intentions? What prompted them to write about a historical event that appeared, at least at first glance, long forgotten? Why tell the war memories? Is it to leave a trace of life, to undo the passage of time, to fight against forgetting or against death by acquiring a certain immortality through writing? My work considers the authors' approaches to archival traces and history, and the intertwining of fiction and history.

Sandra Rodriguez BontempsSandra Rodriguez Bontemps

Advisor: Prof. Alina Cherry
Dissertation: Global Wanderings: The Poetics of Movement and Stasis in the Works of Jean-Philippe Toussaint and Jean Echenoz

My dissertation explores various facets of global travel and practices of spaces as reflections of the complex nature of our hypermodern existence. I focus on the narrative paradoxes stemming from two authors' intention to reconcile conflicting phenomena – the urge to move and inertia – which constantly reoccur in their works. Drawing on the theoretical insights of Gilles Deleuze, Roland Barthes, Gérard Genette, Michel de Certeau, Marc Augé, and Bertrand Westphal, I argue that the authors design, through their poetics of "detour" and "flight" and their aesthetics, an open cartography of mobile spaces in which the text and the world interact in ways that offer us insights into the unique spaces, and forms of movement and intersubjectivity that define our globalized, postmodern way of life.

German Studies

Corrina PeetCorrina Peet

Advisor: Professor Anne Rothe
Dissertation: Embracing Otherness: Counter-Colonial Discourses and Practices in Post-Unification East German Culture

My dissertation engages postcolonial theory to explore the diverse counter-colonial discourses and practices evident in post-unification East German popular culture. Drawing on the postcolonial theories of Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak, and the recent scholarship on counter-colonial East German discourse like Paul Cooke's From Colonization to Nostalgia: Representing East Germany since Unification, I discuss the East German socio-political situation in 1989. I argue that, following the collapse of the Soviet empire, a postcolonial conflict occurred in East Germany in 1989/90. Responding to the East German counter-colonial uprising, West Germany quickly took control via the 1990 elections. Funded and organized by West German parties, the elections led to the victory of Helmut Kohl's conservative party and shortly thereafter to unification.

Language Learning Studies

Adrion DulaAdrion Dula

Minor Advisor: Professor Kate Paesani 
Presentation: Pronunciation Teaching Using Automatic Speech Recognition

Despite evidence showing the importance language learners place on pronunciation, recent studies point to numerous deficiencies in contemporary and non-technology based pronunciation curricula, materials, and methodologies (Hismanoglu and Hismanoglu, 2010). Automatic speech recognition programs such as Apple iPhone's Siri and Google's search by voice and dictation applications offer students implicit yet individualized pronunciation feedback on the intelligibility of their speech while students complete real-world communicative activities; such as sending a voicemail or browsing the internet for apartment rentals in France. My research explores students' perceptions of using ASR technology to teach French pronunciation with a communicative and task-based approach. Specifically, I examine introductory-level French students' in-class use of ASR applications, as the programs provide indirect pronunciation feedback in the form of textual representations of speech.