All posts by Gabriele Lazzari

Organizing Your Writing Projects: A Review of Scrivener

By: Shawn Gonzalez

If you’re looking for a practical holiday gift for the dissertation-writer in your life (or yourself), consider the word processing software Scrivener. Scrivener is designed for drafting large, complex projects that involve frequent revision and rearranging. It differs from other word processors by allowing the writer to easily move between the note-taking, planning, and drafting stages of a project.

Most word processors offer a single way of looking at a project: sequentially, from start to finish. However, Scrivener allows writers to compile a variety of documents related to a single project and look at those documents from different perspectives. In Scrivener, you can easily shift between notes, outlines, draft sections, and comments within a single window. The program also offers a variety of split-screen options that are particularly useful to writers working on smaller computer screens.

I would particularly recommend Scrivener to students just beginning the first draft of a dissertation. The ability to compile all of your research and notes in a single location is especially helpful when trying to figure out where to start. My one caution would be to avoid doing a lot of formatting in Scrivener, because elements like footnotes sometimes transfer poorly when you export your completed document to another program.

Scrivener offers an extended free trial, and then costs $40 to download. It is available for Mac and Windows.

Connected Academics Proseminar. October 2016: Networking as Problem Solving

This is the second in a series of posts about the Modern Language Association’s 2016-2017 Connected Academics Proseminar written by Connected Academics Proseminar Fellow Carolyn Ureña. You can read her first post here.

By: Carolyn Ureña

For the October meeting of this year’s Connected Academics Proseminar we visited The New York Public Library, where we met with Ph.D.-holding NYPL staff members working on exciting projects in the digital humanities, as well as curating and acquiring rare books for the library’s collections. What stood out most to me during our discussion, though, was the need to rethink the meaning of “networking,” which is vital to the work of building relationships and making strides in just about anything you do, but still manages to sound like a “dirty word” for lots of graduate students. In today’s post, I’d like to suggest a two different ways of thinking about networking to make it seem more familiar.

Networking as Problem Solving

This idea came about in a discussion I had with another proseminar fellow, as we realized together that networking is happening whenever you share a problem with someone or ask for help, thereby offering them the opportunity to help you out. Countless times I have shared a challenge with a colleague or professor here in Comp Lit, not really seeking anything in particular other than to express a frustration or road block. And countless times, the person with whom I was speaking would offer me a text, a resource, or suggest an actual person I should connect with in order to help me move forward. Having a conversation, in other words, and sharing something about yourself while also learning about someone else: that’s networking.

Networking as Acknowledging Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Which brings me to my second point. Networking can be a useful way of acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. No one expects you to know everything – about your topic, your academic field, or a non-academic industry you find yourself drawn to. Acknowledging what you know and what you don’t know, and then actively taking steps to meet people who can help you address the gaps in your knowledge can both strengthen your projects and plans and help you reassess your goals.

For example, in my own work as a graduate fellowship advisor at GradFund, I was recently tasked with coming up with strategies to increase the reach of our services and make sure more students knew who we are and what we do. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I acknowledged that I wasn’t sure how to do this but considered who might, and I reached out to former supervisors in academic services roles with whom I’d been in touch on a semi-regular basis. These conversations led to new contacts who provided insights into my project I hadn’t considered, while also giving me the opportunity to test out new ideas before bringing them to GradFund.

The fact is, when it comes to networking you’re either already engaging in it or might soon be doing so without even knowing it. Sometimes it helps to reframe or rename things to help you realize how familiar they really are. It really isn’t much more difficult than having a conversation with someone known or new, and the more you do it, the easier it will become.

For more on what networking is and how to do it, check out the MLA Connected Academics website.

Fall 2016 Colloquium: “Comparative Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies: Some Meditations”

By: Penny Yeung

On Wednesday November 9, from 4:30 to 6 pm, we gathered in our new seminar room in the Academic Building to inaugurate this year’s colloquium series. Titled “Comparative Colonial, Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies: Some Meditations,” the colloquium featured a panel of four student and faculty speakers—Annabel We, Enmanuel Martínez (En. Mar.), Rafael Vizcaíno, and Professor Anjali Nerlekar—all of whose work engage in dialogue with these theoretical frameworks.

Fourth-year student Annabel We outlined how postcolonial and decolonial theory inform the methodology of her inquiry, particularly in her interrogation of privileged forms of knowledge production resulting from histories of colonial subjugation. That decolonial thinking and decolonial agents have existed alongside hegemonic Western epistemologies led Annabel to propose a shifting of the geography of reason. This critical orientation runs through her research on Japanese settler colonialism in Korea in the early 20th century, indigeneity in East Asian contexts, and the engagement of post-Liberation South Korean intellectuals with decolonial thought as it proceeded from the 1955 Bandung Conference. In this regard, Annabel proposed that literary studies could helpfully draw from the methodologies of area studies, which have historically been more attentive to and embracing of non-Western scholarships and epistemic genealogies.

En. Mar., sixth year Ph.D. candidate working on colonial and queer theory, presented from his dissertation’s second chapter, tentatively titled “Race, White Middle-class, Gay Male Desire and the Urban Archipelago of New York City in the 1970s”. En. Mar. began by examining the rhetoric of modernity in President Obama’s speech on June 24, 2016 naming the Stonewall National Monument to commemorate the modern gay civil rights movement in the US, and reading that alongside language that appears on the monument’s website. Citing the integral role played by two transgendered women of color in gay rights activism of the 60s, En. Mar. argued that the rhetoric surrounding the monument, by reimagining the modern LGBT movement to begin and end with the Stonewall riots of 1969, reveals a coloniality at work which renders the participation of these gender non-conforming agents invisible. Moving on to a close reading of Andrew Holleran’s 1978 novel Dancer from the Dance, En. Mar. looked at how a colonial logic underlies the problematic desire the novel’s gay white male characters have for Puerto Rican males, exoticizing the latter’s bodies through a gaze that operates through racial and class compartmentalization. He argued that from these popular and public accounts we continue to see the dark underside of colonial modernity, as per Walter Mignolo, in its failure to acknowledge queer people of color in historical representations of gay modernity.


Next, third-year student Rafael Vizcaíno, whose focus is on Latin-American and Caribbean studies, spoke about taking specific historical contexts such as the Haitian revolution and the Zapatistas struggles in Mexico as the locus of enunciation in his engagement with decolonial theory. As a theoretical framework emerging from material practices and which seeks to impact lived realities, decolonial thought, Rafael proposed, involves an actional aspect in its interrogation of systems of oppression set in place by colonial domination. This notion importantly informs his own research and teaching. A philosopher by his undergraduate training, Rafael discussed how the interdisciplinary nature of Comp Lit allows him to attempt a decolonial reading of philosophy, bringing Frantz Fanon into conversation with German critical theorists as Hegel; Walter Benjamin with feminists of color; as well as reading Caribbean writers Sylvia Wynter and Édouard Glissant for a productive blurring of philosophical and literary discourses in search of a better “beyond.”

Finally, one of our faculty members, Professor Anjali Nerlekar, presented on her work which examines the formulations of the Indo-Caribbean in literary and non-literary texts, its claims on space and identity in Trinidad, and its trans-oceanic connections with the Indian subcontinent, Europe and North America. Taking the Caribbean as a point of departure, Anjali spoke about the ways colonial, postcolonial and decolonial studies figure specifically in the theoretical lineage of her project, but underlined how such neat divisions are necessarily complicated, for example, through her reading of Harold Sonny Ladoo’s No Pain Like This Body (1972). Anjali gave a brief historical overview of the complicity between British abolition of slavery and the emergence of a new form of indentured servitude which brought in poor, illiterate Indians from the subcontinent to serve as replacement labor. She outlined how these migratory trajectories resulted in a society of segregated cultures and its accompanying stereotypes: the recalcitrant, tradition-bound Indian vis-à-vis the upwardly mobile, Westernized Afro-Caribbean. Anjali highlighted how theorizing from the position of the novelist would allow us to see the critical import of both postcolonial and decolonial discourses upon the novel’s concerns: while a linguistic analysis, harking to postcolonial studies, would show a Hindi-influenced creole that reinforces the Indian/Afro-Caribbean divide, the narrative is elsewhere critical of Indian traditions as an inadequate account of Indo-Caribbean reality. Thus both theoretical frameworks, emerging from different geographical loci of enunciation, are critical for addressing the questions of nationalism, citizenship, and indigeneity arising from geographically-specific patterns of migration.

Following the presentations, a short discussion was moderated by Professor Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel. As this first colloquium wrapped up, many of us continued our conversations and mid-semester catch-up over dinner from Delhi Garden.

Ato Quayson’s Lecture: “On the Affliction of Second Thoughts: Mode of Doubt in Postcolonial Tragedy”

By: F. Joseph Sepulveda

As part of AMESALL’s Distinguished Speaker lectures, Ato Quayson gave a compelling talk on the topic of second thoughts in postcolonial fiction. He began by showing a clip from the Indian film The Lunch Box (2013) that features a middle-aged man contemplating his image in the mirror. He lingers and appears to scrutinize himself doubtfully, as if he does not recognize himself. We then hear his inner monologue where he describes sensing the smell of his deceased grandfather, and he wonders if it is not his own smell that he has detected. Indeed, he wonders if he has not grown old. This moment of self-reflection, doubt, and misrecognition is Quayson’s departure point on what he will elaborate as the thought-image-affect nexus.  For Quayson the scene exemplifies a moment of interpellation where the man feels himself being hailed by the memory of his grandfather, and this memory confirms for him his old age.


Quayson persuasively described–through close readings of Henry James, African literature, and Fanon–what he calls the “viscerality of thought,” that is, the way that inner dialogue can produce thought affliction. His concluding reading of Fanon’s famous scene of interpellation as a Negro in metropolitan France highlights his investment in readings that engage the body, affect, and inner dialogue. He asserts that Fanon’s theory occurs through moments where his black body is not simply interpolated by the other but becomes “discombobulated” by such hailing. He essentially calls for reading Fanon and others as writing a theory that emerges from the body and takes place through a reflection on subjection as it occurs in the reiteration of repetitive encounters, where experience and its interpretation occur simultaneously and “generate a discursive delirium.” Exploring postcolonial film, fictions, and theory ranging from Lacan to Fanon, Quayson’s talk was thought-provoking for those of us interested in psychoanalytic, postcolonial, and affect theory.



Vicente L. Rafael’s Book Talk: “Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation”

By: Gabriel Bamgbose

On Tuesday, October 25 2016, Vicente L. Rafael, a professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, graced Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel’s Comparative Literature graduate seminar, Introduction to Literary Theory: From World Literature to Pluriversality, with his visit to discuss his latest book, Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation, published by Duke University Press this year. The conversation took place in the Comp Lit Seminar Room. Yolanda opened the floor with an introduction of the guest, his intellectual project, and a question of how the book came into being. Rafael explained that the book was rather accidental, unlike his previous book projects, which were well conceived as a unified project and followed through as such. By this he meant that the book was a product of series writing for lectures and invitations. Moreover, it was a product of several years of involvement with Translation Studies. He talked enthusiastically about how his involvement with the Nida Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics had been instrumental in his intellectual project in Translation Studies. He provided a general background on the complicated linguistic and cultural context of the Philippines, which he explained as a plurilingual world. Of importance is the historical “fact” that there was no monumental culture (as opposed to the situation of China or India) in the Philippines, until the arrival of the missionaries and colonialism–of course multiple colonialities–that produced an environment of political instability, economic dependency, lack of ideology or, ironically, excess of ideologies, and identitarian undecidability as an existential condition, which should not be seen as a mark of shame but as a critical resource to draw on.


With the background provided, the stage was set for students in the class to engage him with questions. The conversation glided from the concept of the accidental, the uncanny, and the repressed in the context of language, translation, and identity as central themes of the book; the notion of the literary and the gift of language with its force in his writing style; the issues of language and power relations, and the status of slang as a subversive language belonging to no one, yet available to everyone; the question of translation, conquest/war, untranslatability, and machine translation; the hegemonic status of English, the “wildness” of accent, and the semiotic power of sonic monstrosity; translation and the practice of self writing; language, memory, code switching, and creolization; to the idea of mistranslation as a structural necessity, the condition for the possibility of translation, as well as its continuity and change in different contexts. The conversation vigorously benefitted from putting Rafael’s ideas in critical conversation with the work of other scholars in Translation Studies and Comparative Literature, especially with the work of Emily Apter. The conversation, colored with wide-ranging ideas that drew on the diverse interests of the students, began at 2:00 pm and ended at 5:00 pm.

Everyone working on the politics of language and translation will find Rafael’s Motherless Tongues a very useful resource. And the fact that it presents powerful arguments crafted in a beautiful language also makes it an enjoyable read!


Graduate Student Summer: Archival Research in Hawai’i

By: Virginia L. Conn

As a result of a generous grant from the Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies (RCCS), I was able to pursue research in the lian huan hua collections at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, this summer—work which will set the foundation for my future dissertation research. The grant was used to purchase a plane ticket to Honolulu and a hostel in the city for nine nights, during which time I was allowed daily access to the special collections’ lian huan hua archive housed at the Hamilton Library.

Lian huan hua literally means “linked serial pictures,” and can be very loosely translated as “comics.” They were widely published in mainland China beginning in the 1920s, but reached their peak in the 70s and 80s following the Cultural Revolution—largely promulgated as a way to bring information to the illiterate masses. Because they were printed on cheap materials and made for mass consumption, originals have largely been lost. UH Manoa, however, holds one of the largest extant collections in the US, and I had the privilege of being able to access them during the latter part of the summer.


While in the archives, I was primarily looking for depictions of mass mobilization among the people, as well as images of the impact of technology on labor. The lian huan hua were used as a tool of education and propaganda in the state’s move towards modernization, and as a result there were many examples of the impact of trains, mining, agricultural improvements, electricity, telephone lines, and shipping techniques on the development of the country, as well as their impact on individual lives. Of course, the lian huan hua were used as pedagogical tools, largely for children and the illiterate, and the narratives being presented are idealized in the extreme. This does not detract from their value as historical tools, however, and indicates the way that the publishers sought to establish and shape mass opinion of the nation-building process.

As my own research involves the impact of technology on laboring bodies and the way those bodies are subsequently mobilized, the lian huan hua collection was an invaluable resource. Its significance in presenting top-down propaganda about the state’s development following the Cultural Revolution indicated the way the national narrative would be shaped for many years and provided a valuable point of entry for further analysis. I am indebted to the RCCS and the UH Manoa special collections staff for allowing me the opportunity to access these materials. Many thanks!