Meet the 2015-16 Connected Academics Fellows!


Chelsea AdewunmiChelsea Adewunmi is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Princeton University, where she focuses on performance studies, material culture, and twentieth-century American literature. Her dissertation explores the triangulation of text, textile, and texture in sartorial performance and literature. Through sites as varied as museum exhibitions, African American drama, and folk quilts, her project examines how haptic epistemologies shape feeling in both affective and embodied terms. A graduate of NYU’s Performance Studies Program, her interdisciplinary training has influenced her work within academic and nonacademic fields, including dance dramaturgy, performance curation, and script consulting.  As a scholar-practioner, she is interested in how advanced study in the humanities can inform diverse career paths, particularly in cultural institutions and the arts.

AugustineKesi Augustine is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at New York University. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary African American young adult literature as both an expression of canonical literary techniques and a representation of the expansion of consciousness that will push all readers toward our diverse future.

BresslerMalkah Bressler is a doctoral candidate in English literature at Fordham University specializing in eighteenth-century British and transatlantic literature. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Ecologies of the Novel: The British Novel in Caribbean Narratives,” explores how conventions of the novel—the picaresque, the sentimental, and the gothic—influence mid- and late-eighteenth-century travel narratives and journals about the Caribbean and, in particular, the representation of plantation society and the natural world of the Caribbean islands. Malkah has a long-standing interest in nonacademic careers for academics. As the vice president of Fordham University’s Graduate Student Association, she is excited to relate her experiences with the proseminar to Fordham’s graduate students as well as to the administration at Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

BurtonCatherine Burton is a doctoral candidate in English at Lehigh University, where she teaches undergraduate courses in composition, literature, and publishing. She is currently completing her dissertation, and her research focuses on human/nonhuman relationships and the ethics of representation in Victorian and postbellum American literature. She has published on coal-mine canaries and the risks of recognizing sentience in fin de siècle Britain. Catherine is committed to interdisciplinary modes of inquiry and practice, and she looks forward to establishing productive connections between literary studies and other disciplines, programs, and communities.

ColemanTara Coleman is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at Rutgers University. Her dissertation uses poetic and film theories from various Chinese and Western sources to analyze how lyricism becomes the formal basis for an alternative historicism in contemporary film and poetry from mainland China and Taiwan. Previously, she completed an MPhil in English literary studies with a comparative focus at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In conjunction with her experience teaching English as a second language, her broader research interests include translation, world literature and world cinema, and questions of transnationalism, especially the dialogues these areas of inquiry open up among scholars, artists, and their audiences.

DurkinAnita Durkin holds a PhD in American literature from the University of Rochester, with interests in identity politics and aesthetics. Her publications include articles in African American ReviewArizona Quarterly, and an upcoming work in J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, as well as poetry in various reviews and anthologies. She has taught full-time at Boston University and has held part-time teaching positions at the University of Saint Joseph in Connecticut and at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria. She is a first-generation university student, born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut. She previously worked for the Working Families Party, where she petitioned for the party’s official recognition by the state of Connecticut. Her interest and activity in politics and public policy, especially women’s health policies, economic inequity, and systemic racial disparities, continues unabated.

HornblassElana Hornblass Dushey is a recent PhD from Fordham University, having specialized in late American and Jewish American literature and subspecialized in modern Hebrew literature and French New Wave film. Her dissertation examined Jewish American approaches to Israel in contemporary fiction. While earning her degrees and working as a teaching and senior teaching fellow, Elana taught undergraduate courses in composition, literature, and film at Fordham University and St. John’s University. She earned her master’s in literature from St. John’s University in 2005 and her bachelor’s from Yeshiva University / Stern College in 2002. Currently, Elana works part-time as director of communications for Hornrock Properties, a real estate development company, and lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children.

FinstonManoah Finston is a seventh-year doctoral candidate in French literature at New York University. His thesis examines Honoré de Balzac’s novel approach to chronicling the complexities of object-human relationships across the texts of La Comédie humaine. The thesis posits that in response to Balzac’s innovations authors working in and around the movement of realism became sufficiently interested in quotidian objects that their narratives began to grant ever greater ground and authority to the place of “things” in modern experience, opening a literary discourse that continues into the twenty-first century.

Manoah has taught literature, philosophy, and French language at NYU since 2010. Last year, he celebrated the publication of the landmark Dictionary of Untranslatables (Princeton UP, 2014), a volume in which he is credited as executive editorial assistant. Manoah is also a guru tutor with Cambridge Coaching, working with high school, college, and graduate students in a variety of disciplines.

FrancoDavid Franco is a PhD student in the department of French at Rutgers University. Before joining the program at Rutgers he completed an MA in Hispanic literature at Villanova University, where he was also employed as an instructor of Spanish. His research interests are French existentialism and modern narratives of disenchantment. As an undergraduate, David studied journalism at Universidad Javeriana in his home country of Colombia. He then spent the next two years working for a hispanophone newspaper in the Philadelphia area. He began a PhD in French in 2013.

GoldbergSarah Goldberg is a PhD candidate in Latin American and Iberian cultures at Columbia University. Her dissertation, “Entertaining Culture: The Rise of Mass Culture and Consumer Society in Argentina,” explores early-twentieth-century Argentine celebrity, amusement park attractions, variety shows, home entertainment, and mass-circulation periodicals of varying degrees of sensationalism. She was the recipient of the Ángel del Río Prize for her dissertation chapter “Caras y Caretas: An Entertainment Pioneer.”

When she is not researching, writing, or teaching, Sarah is an editorial assistant for the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies and a sometimes assistant at a Manhattan-based literary agency. She recently interned at Columbia University Libraries, where she collaborated with the Digital Humanities Center and completed a case study on Argentine e-books. She is always game for a good read on the history of science and may often be found talking genre fiction, music, and research adventures on Twitter.

JacobsSarah Ruth Jacobs is a doctoral candidate in American literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York; an adjunct lecturer at the New York City College of Technology; and a founding editor at the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy. Her dissertation research centers on long-term sociological perspectives on American literary reading in comparison with the consumption of other media.

KaupClaire Kaup is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the East Asian Studies Department at Princeton University. Claire’s major field of interest is the intersectionality of law and postwar Japanese literature, with particular focus on war responsibility and the “performance” of guilt and innocence in the novel. Implicit in this research is the question of how shifting notions of legality and “justice” affect literary works produced by individuals who carried out terrible acts during the war. Claire’s interests also include queer theory and the legal regulation of sexuality and gender identity in modern Japan.

Claire graduated from the University of Michigan in 2012 with a JD and an MA in Japanese studies. Her thesis is titled “Lost in Transition: Legal and Social Emergence of the Japanese Trans Community.” Outside of her academic pursuits, Claire enjoys musical theater, finding new ramen restaurants, and talking about her hairless cat at length to unsuspecting colleagues.

KouacouParfait Kouacou is a French PhD student at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His research interests explore African literature and international human rights law. He received a master’s degree in law from the University of Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire, and a master’s degree in French literature from Arizona State University (ASU). Parfait previously worked as a journalist and a human rights officer for the United Nations in Côte d’Ivoire. He also taught French at ASU, the Graduate Center, and City College of New York. He is currently a graduate teaching fellow at Brooklyn College and an adjunct lecturer at Baruch College. In the summer of 2015, he completed an internship with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in New York, during which he worked on a database for public statements of the office’s senior officials and designed, among others, a project pertaining to the promotion of human rights in New York colleges.

KrumholtzMatthew Krumholtz leads the communications division of Caritas Partners, a mission-oriented Wall Street firm. In this role he designed and developed the first investment platform for impact brokering. He oversees all marketing, public affairs, strategic communications, and brand building. In addition, he is responsible for developing innovative social impact platforms to drive multistakeholder engagement. His work focuses on building partnerships and collaboration across sectors (private, public, not-for-profit) to address targeted social issues, particularly within three areas of focus (education, global health, development). Matthew holds an MA and PhD in English from Princeton University. His dissertation, Talking Points: American Dialogue in the Twentieth Century, uncovers the lost origins of the twentieth century’s most popular and powerful forms of communication, from straight talk to the hashtag. He holds a BA in comparative literature and history from Brown University.

MannMolly Mann is a doctoral candidate in English at St. John’s University, where she also serves as assistant dean for the Graduate Division of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and as an adjunct instructor for English 1100C: Literature in a Global Context. Molly holds a master’s of library science from St. John’s and a bachelor of arts in English literature with honors from Adelphi University. As a hybrid administrator-educator, Molly is passionate about creating alternatives to the traditional tenure track and about translating the valuable knowledge and skills developed within the academy to society at large. She is currently working to promote interdisciplinary education at the graduate level and looks forward to sharing and exploring ideas through the Connected Academics proseminar.

SegerMaria Seger is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Connecticut. In her dissertation, “At All Costs: Property and Extralegal Violence in American Literature and Culture,” she argues that as the United States economy became increasingly market-based over the course of the nineteenth century, literary portrayals of extralegal violence articulated, challenged, and transformed notions of property and ownership grounded in hierarchies of race, class, and gender. Her article “Ekphrasis and the Postmodern Slave Narrative: Reading the Maps of Edward P. Jones’s The Known World” appears in Callaloo. She is a former assistant editor of MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States and a founding organizer of the Graduate Employee Union–United Auto Workers Local 6950.

SeltzerBeth Seltzer defended her dissertation on Victorian detective fiction in June 2015 at Temple University. She has worked as a project manager at the Early Novels Database, a research assistant at Paley Library’s Digital Scholarship Center, and a program assistant in Temple’s First Year Writing Program. Throughout graduate school, she has been amazed by the sharp minds and strong work ethics of the graduate students she has encountered, and she wants them all to find fulfilling careers—on, alongside, or apart from the traditional path. She looks forward to thinking through alternative models for graduate study, exploring online learning and digital scholarship, and brainstorming extravagant plans for a better academy.

SmithChadwick T. Smith is currently a visiting assistant professor of German at New York University. Since earning his PhD from NYU in 2012, he has also taught at Rutgers University and Barnard College. His research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century German literature; science, technology, and society; and media studies—in particular with regard to intersections of literature and science as manifest within discourses of human and civic rights. From 2013 to 2015, Chadwick was an associate at NYU’s Trauma and Violence Transdisciplinary Studies Program, working with academics from clinical psychology and the humanities to find innovative ways of addressing questions of violence. He has published widely on Vilém Flusser and Friedrich Kittler and given numerous invited presentations on human rights literature in the German Confederation. Chadwick is also the translator of Sigrid Weigel’s Walter Benjamin: Images, the Creaturely, and the Holy (Stanford UP) and Helmut Müller-Sievers’s The Science of Literature  (deGreuyter).

StatumAndrew Statum was born in northern Virginia, lived a few different places, and wound up in Brooklyn, a place he has called home for going on ten years now. He has been at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, since 2008 and, after a few hiccups along the way, has decided his work is mostly about how and why nonstudent readers learn higher-order literacy skills. He records people talking about their experiences in book clubs and writes about what it all means. When he is not doing that, he is worrying that his dog doesn’t love him as much as he loves her, eating ice cream, thinking about getting back to the gym, and wondering if he is the only one seeing what he sees.

VanWagonerBenjamin VanWagoner is a fifth-year PhD candidate at Columbia University, where he is working on a dissertation titled “‘Doubtful Gains’: Articulating Maritime Risk in English Drama, 1601–1642.” Early on, Benjamin resolved that his doctoral research would contribute to economics (in which he holds a BA) by explaining some of the cultural calculus behind investment; he would dig around the roots of early modern risk in terms of maritime phenomena such as shipwrecks, piracy, insurance, and conversion. His other work has ranged widely, but it often returns to economics. He has delivered papers treating artisanship in Thomas Dekker and collective action in Piers Plowman; his master’s thesis on the polyphonic social organization of Coriolanus and T. S. Eliot’s Coriolan won Columbia’s Rachel Wetzsteon Prize.

Benjamin has a particular enthusiasm for the application of humanities research to other fields: what can our skills in archival research, intellectual organization, and qualitative analysis add to finance or business, so consumed by their own sorts of analyses?

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