The Sino-Philippine Link: A History of Early-Twentieth-Century Asian Interaction
The “Sino-Philippine Link” explores diverse types of contact between China and the Philippines in the early twentieth century including media representations, sports competitions, research expeditions, study abroad, and migrations. It argues that this interaction, though aided by international movements and imperial linkages that sprouted new connections between the two polities, grew beyond these linkages to become autonomous and increasingly significant. Chinese scholars saw the educational and political systems of the Philippines as potential models to emulate. The Philippines was well represented in Chinese media outlets, and China was a common topic in Philippine publications. People from these polities were connected and engaged; merchandise and ideas flowed freely. A trans-regional endeavor, this project incorporates primary and secondary source material in Chinese, English, and Spanish collected in archives and libraries in China, the Philippines, and the United States. Using the Sino-Philippine link as an example, it engages with research on transnationalism, new imperial histories, Chinese diasporic studies, and area studies to suggest a modified model to examine geographic scales in historical inquiry and modern modes of connectivity. This model decenters “The West” as the fulcrum of inquiry, instead centering a less studies, but as this project demonstrates, equally significant, connection.
Language Strange: Speech and Poetic Authority from Chaucer to Spenser
This dissertation examines the impact of strange language (regional, class-based, and archaic) on Standard English through a study of poetic diction from Geoffrey Chaucer to Edmund Spenser, with other poets such as John Lydgate, William Dunbar, and Blind John Audelay. By tracing the development of English, I clarify the contributions of marginal modes of speech to the emerging standard. The time period studied includes the first recognized use of regional English to mark difference in the fourteenth century (Chaucer’s “The Reeve’s Tale”), the spread of Chaucerian language through England during the fifteenth century, and the first formal poetic experiment in dialect and archaic language in the sixteenth century (Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar). My research strategy is two-fold: 1) a quantitative analysis of poetic diction; 2) an analysis of the bureaucratic roles of poets, which shaped their linguistic backgrounds. This dissertation challenges the usual history of Standard English, which is said to have developed from a London- based norm. Poets like Chaucer and Spenser mediate language strangeness for their readers, using foreign words, regional speech, and archaic diction in their poetry to invest the linguistic margins with an enduring power, complicating and critiquing the language that became Standard English.
Romance Languages and Literatures
(De)Forming Woman: The Search for the Feminine Political Subject in Post-dictatorial Latin American Literature
This project traces the development (and deformation) of the feminine political subject in Latin America from the dictatorships of the Southern Cone to the current crisis of femicide on the Mexico-U.S. border. Stemming from a phychoanalytic reading of the forcible conversion of the feminine from object into image, each chapter seeks to explore distinct formulations of the imaginary consumption of the feminine that negatively incorporate her into the political realm. I argue that experimental narratives such as Luisa Valenzuela’s Cambio de armas and Diamela Eltit’s Lumpérica epitomize what critic Nelly Richard has called the “feminization of writing,” as texts that operate through a politic of openness that resists the constraining, devouring forces of masculine hegemony by deploying oblique strategies that disrupt its oppressive structures from within. Yet the rampant impunity of the murders of maquiladora workers in the free-trade zones of Ciudad Juarez (as explored in Roberto Bolaño’s 2666) since 1993 suggests that post-dictatorial feminism must adapt to the postmodern crises of late capitalism. While hegemony has existed in both overt and insidious incarnations since the 1960s, I argue that it has always ultimately been the subtraction of the feminine that founds the political in the Latin American imaginary.
Spatial Language and Cognition in Diidxa Za (Isthmus Zapotec)
The description of topographic features and their cultural salience will contribute to the field of ethnophysiography, the study of the linguistic and cultural representation of landscape. This dissertation presents an analysis of the linguistic encoding of spatial relations in Isthmus Zapotec, an Otomanguean language spoken throughout the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, Mexico. The project will examine Zapotec vocabulary for landscape entities (e.g. hill, river), and community practices of spatial reference, the analysis of which informs the debate on the extent to which language (vs. nonlinguistic factors, e.g. local topography) shapes spatial cognition. To date no analysis has been performed on the salience of local topography and its influence on reference to small-scale space in Zapotec. In order to explore these issues, I collect data on landscape representation in the lexicon, route descriptions, and data on perspective-taking in discourse and memory in small-scale space, along with participants’ demographic data. Isthmus Zapotec has been selected for this project due to its endangered status and the uniquely varying topography of its speaker communities (e.g. low mountains, lagoons, flat plains). This dissertation will expand our knowledge of landscape terminology and spatial reference across cultures and the sociolinguistic profile of Isthmus Zapotec speakers.