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Robert Vega, Director FAC 18 / 2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200 78712-1508 • 512-471-7900

Faculty Profiles - French & Italian

Dr. Daniela Bini - Italian and Comparative Literature, Chair of the Department of French & Italian
Dr. Paola Bonifazio - Italian Cinema
Dr. Jean-Pierre Cauvin – Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century French Literature and Cultural History
Dr. Karen Pagani – Eighteenth-Century French Literature and Philosophy; Secularization
Dr. Guy P. Raffa - Medieval Italian Literature
Dr. Cinzia Russi - Romance Linguistics
Dr. Hélène Tissières – Francophone Studies

DR. GUY P. RAFFA


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., Italian, Indiana University – Bloomington, IN; B.S., Mathematics & Computer Science, Duke University – Durham, NC

Area of Specialization: Medieval Italian Literature (Dante)

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
After graduating from Duke and working for a year and a half as an associate actuary in the corporate offices of a major insurance company, I decided to return to school for graduate study in Italian. I made this early career change for two reasons: first, because I wanted to deepen my knowledge of Italian culture by spending time in Italy and by taking courses there and in the U.S. (as an undergraduate I had taken Italian language courses as well as electives on Italian literature and art); second, because I knew that I wanted to teach at the university level, and I believed I would be happiest and most productive teaching, studying, and conducting research on Italian literature.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
I combined my mathematical and scientific interests with my graduate work in Italian literature and medieval studies to write a dissertation titled "Dante's Mathematical Imagination."

What topics do you teach at UT?
I most often teach courses that focus on early Italian literature and culture (Dante's Divine Comedy in particular), and I occasionally offer courses on modern Italian literature—usually centered on writers, such as Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino, whose work bridges the "two cultures" divide between the humanities and the sciences. When I teach medieval and Renaissance topics, I emphasize how works from these earlier periods influence and relate to modern and contemporary culture. For example, I am currently designing a course for first-year students—"Dante's Hell and Its Afterlife"—organized around modern works (literary and cinematic) indebted to Dante's Inferno.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
My primary scholarly field is medieval Italian literature—Dante above all—with additional interests in modern Italian literature and interrelations of the humanities and the sciences. I recently researched and wrote The Complete Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the "Divine Comedy" (University of Chicago Press, 2009). I combined an abridged version of the textual commentary from this book with images and audio selections from Dante's Divine Comedy to build the Danteworlds Web site. This multimedia Digital Humanities project is used by many students (at UT and elsewhere) as well as by other Dante teachers and researchers.

What is your current research focus at UT?
My current research project is a book-in-progress titled Dante's Bones. Beginning with the Florentine poet's death and burial in Ravenna in 1321, I focus on the amazing adventures of Dante's mortal remains—from the theft of his bones in 1519 and their accidental rediscovery in 1865 to their disinterment and examination in 1921. This research follows Dante in his afterlife on earth as he evolved from an object of civic rivalry between Florence and Ravenna during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance into a symbol of Italy for the Risorgimento, then into a proponent of nationalism and imperialism under the fascist regime, finally to become the global cultural icon that he is today.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Italian studies in the U.S. or around the world?
As Italy marks its one hundred fiftieth birthday as a nation, many Italian Studies scholars are turning their attention to the intersections of Italian nationhood and identity: What does it mean to be Italian today? How does the nation respond to ethnic, racial, regional, sexual, and religious differences among its inhabitants, particularly as people from other parts of the world—fleeing poverty, war, or political repression—come to live and work in Italy. These more recent demographic changes also encourage reflection on the role played by such differences in Italian society during earlier times.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
Learning to do academic research properly is a crucial part of an undergraduate education. My most memorable research experience occurred during a study-abroad program when, although outside research wasn't required for the assignment, I realized that I needed to consult critical and philosophical works on the topic of humor in order to develop and support my argument for a literary essay on Samuel Beckett. I still recall the excitement and satisfaction of finding relevant books in Oxford University's famous Bodleian Library and incorporating ideas from them in my paper. For undergraduates in the humanities (including Italian Studies), I believe research skills are best acquired as integral parts of core courses in the field, such as presentations or written assignments that require the discovery and use of valid materials beyond the course texts.

What makes a good grad student?
A deep passion for the field is a necessary starting point for success in graduate school, but it isn't enough. Successful graduate work requires abundant energy and intense discipline to study and learn a vast amount of material in a relatively short period of time. Graduate students in Italian Studies must also be able to balance course work and teaching duties (as teaching assistants or assistant instructors). The best graduate students are able to think critically and independently—to question existing assumptions and paradigms—from a position of knowledge.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to an Italian graduate program?

  1. Prepare extra hard for the Graduate Record Examinations (a significant factor in university-wide fellowships) and write an intellectually substantive personal essay.
  2. Impress undergraduate teachers with your academic work so they can write detailed, persuasive letters of recommendation.
  3. After your undergraduate education, take a year or so off (if feasible) before beginning graduate studies—use this time to work, perhaps to travel; this break from the academic world could help you decide for sure that graduate study is the right choice.

What are the top five Italian programs in the US?
Currently, I would say that there are six top-tier US graduate programs in Italian Studies (with their order depending on area of specialization): Yale, UC Berkeley, New York University, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Texas at Austin. The UT graduate program is new (2009-10 is our first year), but I believe it already belongs in this elite group based on the strength of the faculty and on outstanding research collections in Italian Studies and related fields.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Students who enter the Italian Studies program at UT are expected to earn a PhD, with the MA earned as a stage toward doctoral work. Like PhD students in other humanities programs, they generally aspire to a teaching position at a college or university. However, the knowledge and training they receive in Italian Studies also equip them for non-academic careers that place a premium on advanced language competence, international cultural expertise, and research skills.

Download Dr. Raffa's Profile

DR. CINZIA RUSSI


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., Linguistics, University of Washington – Seattle, WA; M.A., Linguistics, San Jose State University – San Jose, CA; Laurea (MA equivalent), Foreign Languages & Literatures, Università Gabriele D’Annunzio – Pescara, Italy

Area of Specialization: Historical Linguistics

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I wanted to pursue an academic career.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My dissertation examined the grammaticalization of Italian unstressed object pronouns.

What topics do you teach at UT?
For the past five years I have been teaching both lower and upper division Italian language courses and graduate courses in Romance and Italian linguistics, primarily dealing with issues in historical linguistics and sociolinguistics.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
My primary area of specialization is historical linguistic, specifically diachronic morphology and morphosyntax. I am also interested in language variation, Italian dialects, comparative Romance linguistics, and cognitive grammar.

What is your current research focus at UT?
Presently, my research focuses on two topics. I am investigating a small group of Italian predicates denoting the notions of lack (e.g., mancare ‘be lacking; lack’) and necessity (e.g., bastare ‘be enough; suffice’, servire ‘need’, volerci ‘be needed; be required’). In addition to examining the syntactic, semantic and pragmatic properties of these predicates from a synchronic perspective, I aim at reconstructing general trajectories of diachronic development for each of them. Furthermore, I am conducting a collaborative research project in the evolution of aspectualizers (aspectual verbs/auxiliaries; e.g., cominciare a fare qualcosa ‘begin to do something’, continuare a fare qualcosa ‘keep to do something’, finire di fare qualcosa ‘finish to do something’) in Italian (standard varieties and dialects), specifically the relevance and implications that the development of this type of predicates bears to grammaticalization studies.
I am also involved in two other collaborations: one deals with the pragmatic functionality of unstressed object pronouns in double object constructions in 14th-century Florentine, and the other examines syntactic and semantic properties of unstressed object pronouns in several Italian dialects.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
No, I did not have the chance to participate in a research project as an undergraduate; however, I strongly believe that it is highly beneficial for interested undergraduate students to be exposed to research.

What makes a good grad student?
I believe that the key ‘ingredients’ that make a good graduate student are:

  1. Genuine passion for the discipline studied;
  2. Determination to achieve goals; and
  3. Intellectual/professional integrity

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to an Italian graduate program?

  1. Be prepared to work hard
  2. Stay focused
  3. Enjoy what you are doing

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
The majority of students who graduate from our program pursue an academic career.

Download Dr. Russi's Profile

HÉLÈNE TISSIÈRES


Academic Background: Ph.D. & M.A., Francophone African Literatures, New York University – New York, NY; Demi-Licence, University of Geneva – Geneva, Switzerland; BFA, Painting and Print Making, Art Center College of Design – Pasadena, CA

Areas of Specialization: African and Caribbean Literatures Written in French, African and French Film, & African Contemporary Visual Arts

Can you tell us a bit about your academic background?
I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland where I did my schooling. After graduating from the College Calvin (equivalent of high school and two years of college), I spent a year in Florence, Italy, to pursue my passion for painting. The following year, I went to Art Center College of Design, where I obtained a BFA in painting and printmaking. Then, I returned to Switzerland where, while pursuing painting, I studied literatures written in French at the University of Geneva.

There, I had the opportunity to study with two renowned authors: the Martinican poet Edouard Glissant and the Tunisian writer Abdelwahab Meddeb. Their perspectives, which go beyond artistic, cultural and national boundaries, strongly influenced the academic trajectory I came to pursue. Their world’s views made me realize that I wanted not only to work on Francophone African and Caribbean literatures, but also to combine my interests for visual arts and writing. Therefore, I decided to apply to New York University as I would then be in the heart of a city that has a dynamic creative production. Later, when I was working on my PhD, I taught at Sara Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York for two years. Then I returned to Europe and spent time conducting research in Morocco.

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
A great interest in the arts and cultures and in Africa, and the desire to gain deeper knowledge.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
My dissertation was on challenging established barriers between North and sub-Saharan Africa as well as between the different arts, in particular literature and painting. It demonstrates that many contemporary African writers wander between locations, cultures and art forms, turning to ancient knowledge and traditions, interweaving arts and ideas, using elements of tattooing, signs, calligraphy, rituals and oral forms.

Over the years it became a book, which is divided into two parts. The first one presents several circulations: geographic -- between North and sub-Saharan Africa; cultural -- between orality and writing; and aesthetic -- between literature and painting. The second part of the book documents these circulations in the works of four writers: the Tunisian Abdelwahab Meddeb, whose texts refer to contemporary painting, tracing a parallel between abstraction and Sufism; the Cameroonian Werewere Liking and the Congolese Tchicaya U Tam’Si, both of whom incorporate elements from the oral tradition and are inspired by ritual or divination systems; and the Algerian Assia Djebar who turns to visual images, moving away from relying solely on the use of language.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach African and Caribbean literatures written in French, African and French Film, African contemporary Visual Arts.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
The literatures I study and teach are those written in French, which come from Africa or the Caribbean. They present the numerous obstacles faced including Western clichés and prerogatives, economical and political constraints, colonial/postcolonial prejudices. And they tackle many layered cultural and social complexities.

What is your current research focus at UT?
I recently finished a book Créations et défis au Sénégal: Diop, Sembene, Diadji, which is about the works of three Senegalese figures: Boubacar Boris Diop, novelist, Ousmane Sembene, writer and filmmaker, and Iba Ndiaye Diadji, art critic. It examines how they position themselves to question social norms, political or religious absolutes, and international prerogatives. In Senegal, where the practice of Maslaa regulates people’s exchanges and promotes tolerance and politeness, this study shows how these writers confront taboos (role of women, corruption, social inequalities), while unsettling norms.

Thanks to a Fulbright, I spent nearly two years in Dakar, Senegal (2003-05) where I taught at Cheick Anta Diop University. Ever since I have been working on the Senegalese art scene, following closely the art biennial held in Dakar. My next research project will be on writers, artists and filmmakers from Mali, Tchad, Niger, Mauritania who denounce political control and inequalities. It will examine how the imaginary and the actions of marginalized populations (for example the Tuareg) have been major sources of inspiration for writers and filmmakers, as they operate as a defying force of the power systems in place.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Francophone studies in the U.S. or around the world?
There are many topics as African literatures written in French continuously raise cultural, social, political and aesthetical issues, challenging norms and Western views.

What makes a good grad student?
Motivation and hard work. A successful student is passionate about the field chosen, has interesting ideas which challenge world views, has a broad knowledge and is constantly open to learning and exchanging ideas.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a French graduate program?

  1. Motivation and a great interest in other cultures. It is necessary to put aside one’s views and open up to entirely new approaches. The French-speaking world is vast and encompasses many cultures. Therefore curiosity and humbleness are essential.
  2. Students need to take every opportunity to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to obtain solid foundations. It is important to acquire strong language skills, while perfecting excellent writing abilities in the student’s native language. One needs to know how to perform literary criticism, engage in existing ideas and constantly keep up with reflections being made in the field.
  3. An unlimited love for and belief in literary and artistic creations.

What are the top programs in your area in the US?
1. New York University
2. Yale University
3. Harvard University
4. UCLA

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
When they are motivated and flexible they find an academic position in a University or College. If they can’t move from Texas, they become High school teachers or take an Adjunct position. They can also work for a Press or a Journal.

Download Dr. Tissières' Profile

DR. DANIELA BINI


Academic Background: Ph.D., Comparative Literature, The University of Texas at Austin; Laurea Summa cum Laude, Philosophy, University of Rome (La Sapienza) – Rome, Italy

Area of Specialization: 18th and 19th Centuries Literature and Philosophy

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I have always loved teaching and research. I never thought I would do anything else. My greatest satisfaction is to succeed in eliciting an intelligent response in my students when reading a text, watching a film or listening to an opera.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
I wrote on the relations between the philosophers of the French Enlightenment and the Italian romantic poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi.

What topics do you teach at UT?
My favorite topics are: "Writing Fascism, the War and the Resistance;" "Sicily through Literature and Film," "The Antihero in the Italian Novel of the Nineteenth Hundreds," and "Italian Civilization Through Opera."

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
I have always been fascinated with the theme of the inadequacy of verbal language (quite ironic, I know, for someone who mainly works with literary and philosophical texts) and the consequent impossibility of arriving at a thorough mutual understanding. My major studies deal with Italian authors who have asked this type of question: Giacomo Leopardi, Carlo Michelstaedter, and Luigi Pirandello.

Are you currently conducting research? What is your research focus?
Not as much as I would like since I have to handle the administrative work of a chair. What I am working on now, however are two different topics: 1) I am studying the relation images, sound, words in Italian multi-media works; 2) I am involved in an anthropological study on the figure of the "vitellone," the Latin eternal adolescent male who never leaves home, and especially mom.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Italian studies in the U.S. or around the world?
I do not want to be presumptuous in singling out this particular one, but I think a very "hot" topic today, given the times we are living and the globalization which we are experiencing, is certainly that of the "pensiero meridiano" (the title of a famous book by the Italian sociologist Franco Cassano) a revaluation, that is, of the south--that has always been considered backward, lazy, uncivilized, as, instead, capable of teaching some valuable lessons to the western world that seems to be hurrying to produce, consume, and produce more in a race that does not contemplate any rest or pause.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate? Would you recommend research to undergraduates?
Absolutely YES on both fronts.

What makes a good grad student?
The ability of taking nothing for granted and of challenging what is presented to him/her; the patience to go into depth in the issues that are being studied and discussed; the love for writing, or at least the realization of its importance, and the acceptance of the fact that it is a strenuous exercise that requires many revisions and a lot of patience.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to an Italian graduate program?

  1. Challenge any truth that is presented to you.
  2. Go into depth in everything you read and discuss.
  3. Accept the frustrations and hardship that accompany the discipline of writing--a major skill for success in graduate school.

What are the top five Italian programs in the US?
University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, UCLA, Yale, and of course, UT! Our new graduate program in Italian Studies.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
With an MA in French or Italian Studies you can teach in high school, community and junior colleges, go into a career in international business, law, fashion, advertisement. With a PhD, all the above but first of all the academic career.

Download Dr. Bini's Profile

DR. PAOLA BONIFAZIO


Academic Background: Ph.D., Italian Studies, New York University – New York, NY; M.A., Italian & M.A. Certificate in Film Studies, University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA; B.A., Italian Literature-Theatre & Film Studies, Università Cattolica – Milan, Italy

Area of Specialization: Italian Cinema, especially of the post-World War II period

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I came to the United States with a scholarship from my university to be a teaching assistant of Italian at Franklin and Marshall College. At F&M, I met wonderful faculty who encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in an American institution. During my M.A. at the University of Pittsburgh, I discovered a passion for academic research and teaching. Once again, my decision to continue and get a PhD greatly depended on the inspiration I received from the faculty I met there.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
I wrote my M.A. thesis on the theory and politics of cinematography by the Futurist Avant-Garde of the early twentieth century. My PhD dissertation, “Narrating Modernization: Documentary Films in Cold War Italy (1948-1955),” explores the documentary films produced between 1948 and the mid 1950s for Italian and American Information Agencies and distributed in Italy during the same years in order to publicize the Marshall Plan and other programs of reconstruction and welfare.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach Italian Cinema, Modern Italian Literature, and Italian Language.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
My primary area of specialization is Italian Cinema, especially of the post-War World II period. I am also interested in Italian Cultural Studies and, generally, in film theory and history, including the documentary. My second areas of specialization are twentieth- and twenty-first century Italian Literature, Futurism, and Modern Italian Theatre.

What is your current research focus at UT?
My current book-in-progress, The Logic of Productivity: Documentary Films, Modernization and Democracy in Cold War Italy, builds upon my doctoral dissertation and examines the films sponsored by Italian and American Information Agencies through the end of the 1950s. My claim is that film functioned as a cultural technology of government, creating a system of meaning but also participating in the programs of governing; providing subjects with perceptions of themselves, in relation to others, as well as governing their moral and social behaviors. Publicizing democracy and modernization as the only way to stability and prosperity, Italian and American governmental agencies aimed to educate citizens, by means of cinematography, on the practices of the Welfare State and the system of mass production.

Is there a hot topic currently being discussed by scholars of Italian studies in the U.S. or around the world?
(Im)migration literature and film, the role of the intellectual in contemporary Italy, Italian culture in the context of Mediterranean Studies.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate?
I wrote a thesis in Drama Theory of the Futurist theatrical production (1909-1921). I recommend undergrads to participate in research, not only as an occasion to engage in a topic of one’s interest, but also as a way to become more responsible and independent, whichever your future profession will be.

What makes a good grad student?
A strong passion and curiosity in your field, a good sense of how to discipline and pace yourself in working on and completing your assignments, rigorousness in your research.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to an Italian graduate program?
1. Make sure that you find faculty whose fields of research are of interest to you
2. Inquire about requirements and regulations of the program, such as course-works, especially if you are interested in interdisciplinary work
3. Try to get in contact with other graduate students in the department and ask about their experiences.

Download Dr. Bonifazio's Profile

DR. KAREN PAGANI


Academic Background: Ph.D., Comparative Literature, University of Chicago; B.A., Comparative Literature, Cornell University

Areas of Specialization: Eighteenth-Century French Literature and Philosophy; Secularization

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
I wrote a senior thesis as an undergrad on the musical compositions and writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Over the course of the project, I realized that I really loved doing research, that I wanted to learn more about the eighteenth century and that I wasn’t ready for my studies to end, so I applied to graduate school.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
I wrote a dissertation on what forgiveness meant in secular terms for Fénelon, Voltaire, Rousseau and Madame de Staël.

What topics do you teach at UT?
I teach graduate seminars on the European Enlightenment, the late seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (with a focus, of course, on France). My graduate seminars focus on the interplay between philosophy and literature and on intellectual history. Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Hobbes and Locke often find their way onto my syllabi.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
I work on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century moral theory (British and French in particular); the seventeenth and eighteenth-century French novel; Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie and secularization.

Are you currently conducting research? What is your research focus?
Yes, I am currently writing a book entitled Marginal Prophet Figures: Accounting for Forgiveness in the Age of Reason, which investigates a discursive crisis provoked by the secular understandings of forgiveness (le pardon; pardonner) that developed in early modern France, from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Through an analysis of the literary, philosophical, theological, and political discourses of the period, my book will provide a new, more complex understanding as to why it was so difficult to speak about forgiveness in the language of the Enlightenment, and, in the conclusion, how earlier accounts of forgiveness can illuminate debates about reconciliation today.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate? Would you recommend research to undergraduates?
As mentioned above, yes I did. I would highly recommend doing so to undergrads. How else are you going to know if research is something you like doing and have a talent for?

What makes a good grad student?
Intellectual curiosity, discipline, an ability to assimilate constructive criticism, more intellectual curiosity and even more discipline.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to a French graduate program?

  1. Make sure that you application is in the best shape possible. Put time into your GRE’s, writing sample and your cover letter. These documents (along with you letters of recommendation) are going to determine not only whether you are going to be accepted into a program but whether you are going to get any funding and how much.
  2. Graduate school is a lot of work. The ones who succeed are the ones who are self-motivated and who really love to read and learn. As one of my professors once told me, “when you’ve finished the reading that was assigned for the week, you’ve only just begun reading all that you need to.” That might be a slight exaggeration—both only a slight one.
  3. Talk to as many professors and graduate students about the field as possible before you decide whether to enroll in a graduate program. Read books about graduate school, about the area of specialization you want to go into and about the job prospects for those who have the degree you intend on seeking out. This is the best way to make sure that you are going in with your eyes open and with realistic expectations about what it will take to succeed.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Most students go into education in some form or another. Many become lecturers in universities around the country, others teach French and/or French literature in high schools and some go onto become professors in research institutions.

Download Dr. Pagani's Profile

DR. JEAN-PIERRE CAUVIN


Academic Background: M.A. & Ph.D., French Literature, Princeton University; B.A., German and History, Princeton University

Areas of Specialization: Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century French Literature and Cultural History

What made you decide to go to graduate school?
After graduating with a B. A. degree and serving for two years in the U. S. Army as an interpreter in Germany, I realized that my love of literature could not be relegated to a simple leisure activity, but was such that it had to become my professional focus. Teaching literature would make it possible for me to share my love of it with others as well as deepen my knowledge of it.

What was your dissertation topic when you were in grad school?
The poetics of the sacred in the work of the French writer Henri Bosco (1888-1976).

What topics do you teach at UT?
Aspects of French literature : poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; Dada and Surrealism; the short story and the prose poem since the 18th century. Also aspects of French history (1930-1945) and the history of the arts in France.

Can you tell us a bit about your areas of specialization?
The primary fields in which I have worked in recent years are Surrealism and several French poets (Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Breton, Michaux).

Are you currently conducting research? What is your research focus?
My current research focuses on an archive of materials concerning the French writer of fiction Guy de Maupassant.

Did you participate in a research project as an undergraduate? Would you recommend research to undergraduates?
I did not participate in a research project as such but did write a senior thesis on Montaigne and Nietzsche, an exercise which I found very beneficial. A project of some breadth and depth --whether research or a substantial piece of writing -- conducted while an undergraduate is the ideal means of developing and perfecting research and/or writing skills. There is an old French proverb, C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron, which means that it is by hands-on practice that one acquires experience and skill. That remains as true as ever.

What makes a good grad student?
Graduate study requires not only a genuine love of the subject matter, but an abiding intellectual curiosity, that is, the will and energy to constantly learn new things, hone one's critical acumen, and think independently and imaginatively. If the graduate student is called upon to teach, s/he must have, or quickly acquire, the ability to manage his or her time and effort, that is, to juggle different types of responsibility with equal effectiveness and dedication.

What are your top three tips for students interested in applying to an Italian graduate program?

  1. Love what you are doing; revel in the immense and rich array of offerings in the fields of French and Francophone literatures, cultures, and art.
  2. Perfect your proficiency in, and mastery of, the French language, the better to understand. appreciate, and communicate its literary and cultural expressions.
  3. After completing your undergraduate education, take a breather, or a step aside, to ascertain your motivation and commitment and "recharge your batteries" -- if you can afford to.

What careers do alumni generally pursue after graduation from the program?
Most graduate alumni pursue an academic career as teachers.

Download Dr. Cauvin's Profile

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