Tag Archives: Potluck

Grad Student Potluck: Enmanuel Martínez

By: Annabel We

Every year, ABD students in the program present a working draft chapter of their dissertation to the faculty and their graduate colleagues over food, potluck style.

Enmanuel Martínez (En. Mar.) is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate working on archive theory, Caribbean and diasporic studies, decolonial thought, and queer theory. The title for his dissertation is “The Archipelago and the Archive: Reading Local Archival Practices and Mediums in Insular and Continental Caribbean Literatures.” A 2012 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow and a 2015-2016 graduate fellow in the “Archipelagoes” seminar of the Rutgers Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA), En. Mar. also served as the co-organizer of our Program’s spring 2014 biannual graduate student conference.

En. Mar. began his presentation with a genealogical and etymological framework and proposed that we think ‘arche-’ and ‘archons’ of archive and archipelago together. Then En. Mar. mapped the topics of each of his dissertation chapters for us, which include soundbites and diasporic poetry, competing archival sovereignty between the U.S. and the Caribbean, and the specificity of climatic and ecological constructs of the archive in the Caribbean exemplified by the archival ‘mold’ (life) as opposed to ‘dust’ (death).

The chosen chapter of the presentation was “Of Cassette Tape “Letters” and Basement Refrigerators: Housing the Archive of the Caribbean Diaspora,” a project that takes hold of existing debates in archive theory and various thinkers of geographic, transnational, and historical ‘theory,’ including Trouillot, D. Taylor, Hall, Y. Bonilla, Said, and Muñoz. En. Mar.’s reading examined the cassette tape ‘letters’ in Schwarz-Bart’s play Your Handsome Captain (1987) and the refrigerators in Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007) to ask what such archives, of the diaspora from the below, might entail for not only archive theory but also for the diasporic constituency.

En. Mar. focused on mobility, domestic archive, creolization of the archival medium, orality, and ephemera/ the ephemeral. Preliminary conclusions that he shared with us suggested: 1) rethinking the archive as mobile, mirroring diasporic migration and 2) theorizing the non-sovereign archives of the Caribbean that are neither within nor outside the nation.

A lively conversation ensued that returned to the question of domesticity and the archive, on top of various other archives recommended to En. Mar. for his consideration.

Ghosts in the No Man’s Army: The Fit Women in Jinhwa Lee’s Potluck Colloquium

By: Josué Rodriguez, Second year Ph.D. candidate

“Get Behind the Girl He Left Behind Him: Join the Land Army” – WLA Recruitment Poster


Our second and final potluck presentation for the semester here at Comparative Literature was given by fifth year PhD candidate Jinhwa Lee, who presented an engaging draft of her dissertation chapter, entitled “Queer Crisis of WWI: Performative Supplement of the Literary.” Jinhwa took us through her readings of The Return of the Solder, a 1918 novella by Rebecca West, and the short fiction piece “Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself,” written by Radclyffe Hall in 1926 but published in 1934.



Her reading focused on the First World War’s impact on England’s national self-image, or, more specifically “the ways in which the national war project exposes a nation’s constitutive rupture in its mobilization of normative bodies.” In this context, the use of these texts as “performative supplements” mentioned in the subtitle of Jinhwa’s chapter becomes important, for she expressed a desire to look at the texts as “alternative historiographies.” As such, not only do the war strained bodies and amnesiac minds offer examples of “queer temporality,” but the way these texts are constructed offers a more ethical attitude of reading, one “that embraces the idea that queer(er) future is possible.”
In her reading, we were able to discuss the shifting expectations of a national idea of maleness that is cyclically broken and mended, only to be broken again by the constant return to the front line. An initial framing for this sense of brokenness within the nation as masculine ideal was the idea of the “No Man’s Land” as borrowed from Gilbert and Gubar.

In Jinhwa’s reading, not only were the trenches themselves a vast abyss of annihilation, but this was also “a symbol for the state, whose nihilistic machinery [the citizen] was powerless to control or protest” (Gilbert and Gubar). As a result, English women were being invited to take on occupations and places in society that were traditionally exclusive to men. In this way, “No Man’s Land” also speaks to this new, if temporary, shift in gender norms. As some recruitment slogans expressed, in wartime, “Every man is a soldier, every woman is a man.”

land army

In fact, some of these slogans from the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), the WAAC (Women’s Land Army), and the WLA (Women’s Land Army) recruitment posters figured central in our ensuing discussion that night. For instance, some of us offered interpretations of one poster’s slogan, “Every fit woman can release a fit man.” While some read this “release” as women’s enabling men to join the battlefield by taking their place in civil society, others noted that the word implies a kind of giving “birth,” which would then serve as a re-integration of women’s traditional role as “mother” within this new national context even while the woman herself is physically represented as a kind of substitution for traditional maleness. Ultimately, Jinhwa’s elegant combination of sharp, critical analysis, evocative music, and memorable images served as enlivening reinforcements to an already promising project.

Hunger Satisfied, Two Ways: Lina Qu’s Graduate Colloquium

By: Carolyn Ureña, Fourth Year Ph.D Candidate

One of our most cherished traditions at Rutgers Comp Lit is the graduate student colloquium. Held twice a semester, the evening consists of a potluck dinner to which both faculty and graduate students make culinary contributions, followed by a scholarly presentation by an advanced graduate student. Whether it consists of an excerpt from an upcoming conference paper or a dissertation chapter-in-progress, the colloquium is a much anticipated rite of passage and an opportunity to socialize with friends and faculty outside of the classroom. Given the wide range of topics studied by folks in Comp Lit, the bi-semester colloquia call us “home” from our various commitments, courses, and projects across the campus for a night that highlights the collegiality of our program.

“Hunger is a tough topic, especially when you’re hungry” – Lina Quimage

First up this semester (Spring 2015) was fourth year Ph.D. candidate Lina Qu, whose presentation “Hungry Women and Women’s Narratives of Hunger” could not have been a more fitting subject after enjoying a delicious meal together. The multicultural fare included homemade arroz con pollo, falafel, mattar paneer, roasted cauliflower, and a beautiful fruit and custard tart, among other sweet and savory additions.

The intellectual main course was Lina’s presentation in which she discussed the metaphorics of hunger in contemporary Chinese literature. Drawing on the tendency to universalize images of third world starvation in politically expedient yet problematic ways, Lina’s work offered a “historicized and gendered reading of Chinese women’s storytellings about their experiences with starvation,” thereby shifting our attention toward women’s understanding of their own subjectivity. By honing in on the representation of women’s hunger – be it for food (as in Lina’s presentation) or intimacy and self-care (as in her project at large) – Lina’s work sought to illuminate how gendered and classed conceptions of who is allowed to take on the social roles of providers or consumers ultimately serve or subvert Chinese nationalist and collectivist discourses.
Lina’s attention to the ways embodied experiences of hunger manifest in literature and film drew many interesting questions from her audience, including how we might define the boundary between need and desire, as well as the perennial question for comparative literature scholars: why literature? And why this literature? Both concerns usefully linked back to Lina’s discussion of the eroticization of female hunger, for as she reminded us, not only is the open mouth a conduit to the stomach; it also serves as a portal for stories about oneself. That women’s stories about themselves remain a threatening prospect, across cultures, was something we could all sink our teeth into.