Alumni Updates: Hispanic Studies fall2019more Featured News News: Alumni News: Hispanic Studies

W&M Graduate and student of Spanish pays it forward


Lamar Shambley (class of 2010) and founder of Teens of Color Abroad
Lamar Shambley (class of 2010) and founder of Teens of Color Abroad

Lamar Shambley (’10) founded Teens of Color Abroad which helps students of color in high school study abroad. See the full story here.

fall2019more News News: Hispanic Studies

Welcome Dr. Julia de Leon Hernandez!

Dr. Julia de Leon Hernandez

Dr Julia de Leon Hernandez recently joined the faculty of Hispanic Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. We are so pleased to have her!





How was your first semester at William & Mary?
Excellent. I have felt very welcomed and part of a community since day one. My colleagues are wonderful and. It has given me the feeling of having known each other for some time, rather than just a couple of weeks.


What are you teaching this year?
I mainly teach language and culture classes: HISP 103, HIS 203, HISP 305 and HISP 208.


What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?
My work is in the area of Gypsy Studies and at an intersection with Urban Studies and Racial Studies. I approach these principally through non-fiction and visual texts, as for example through documentary cinema and photography.

My current work focusses on the racialization of Spanish territory, since the beginnings of capitalism in Spain at the end of the 50’s and beginning of the 60’s, and as a consequence of the speculations about the value of national territory and as the outcome of discriminatory public housing policies.

My research focusses on journalism, photography, non-fiction short film from the period transition in Spain, at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.

I’m currently working on publishing my doctoral work with a Spanish press.


What classes will you be teaching this Spring?
In the spring, I teach HISP 208 and HISP 208.


What would be your dream class to teach and why?
I am conceptualizing and excited to teach a class about the representation of the gypsy in Spanish literature and film from the end of the 15th century to today, but which focusses principally on their representation in films of the 20th and 21st century.


fall2019more News News: Hispanic Studies

Welcome to Dr. Andrea Gaytán Cuesta!

Dr. Andrea Gaytán Cuesta

Hispanic Studies welcomes Dr Andrea Gaytán Cuesta, who recently (re)joined the W&M community as a professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. We interviewed Dr. Gaytán Cuesta about her first semester back with us!



What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?
In my research, I explore three versions of apocalyptic imaginaries (the end of the world) in Latin America: Eco-apocalypse, Socio-apocalypse and Techno-apocalypse. My research argues that representations of the end of the world in the Latin American city such as chronicle, short story, poetry, theatre, comics and film are not only unveiling and prophetic of a disastrous condition, but perform acts of resistance against neoliberal policies imposed from the 1980’s to the current days. Thus, an earthquake can unmask Mexican corruption, zombies can be depicted as heroes and warrior citizens (instead of monsters and invaders), and the destruction or glitch in a movie can break us from technological dependency.

Currently, I am both finishing my dissertation and an article for a publication on Mexican Zombies, particularly the figures of Aztec Cannibals and Narcozombies. I am passionate about my research, which is also fun!


How your first few weeks have been at William & Mary?
My first weeks were full of excitement and joy, knowing that I am coming back to a place that I love so much. I was longing for the great conversations and environment of William & Mary, and walking through Colonial Williamsburg and the campus brought back many memories of when I worked as a Language House Tutor at La Casa Hispánica. I have reconnected with old friends and met new faculty that are also excited for this new adventure. Although seven years have passed since I taught here for the second time, the good energies and intelligence—typical of of William & Mary students—remain the same, but with new context, technology and ways of socialization


What are you teaching this year?
I am teaching a course on Latin American Cinema called “Cuerpos que cruzan: Fronteras en el cine latinoamericano del siglo XXI” [Crossing Bodies: Borders in Latin American Cinema of the XXIst Century] where we approach different contemporary films through the lens of Border and Embodiment theory. Borders can be crossed not only geographically but also metaphorically, and while reading the body as a text and the film as the skin of this text, we approach the body as affected by the movies, when we sense fear, disgust, thrill, joy, sorrow. Through different genres, mostly body genres as melodrama and horror, but also documentaries, science fiction and indigenous cinema, we try to draw a map of what constitutes the map of contemporary Latin-American cinema and what are the voices of the current representatives of filmmakers in the region. We have analyzed different movies that talk about cyborgs, migration, zombies, ghosts and in general, the Latin-America youth. I am very proud of this course, where the students have actually submitted abstracts for the conference of the Northeastern Modern Languages Association, to take place in Boston, next year. This is a great opportunity for them to experience life as scholars and to show their work to an international community of specialists.

The second course I am teaching is Cross-Cultural Perspectives In(Ex)clusión: Buscando terreno común en las culturas hispánicas [In(Ex)clusion: Looking for common ground in Hispanic Cultures). This is a 207 course inspired by the fabulous work of Doris Sommer in “The Work of Art in the World: Civic Agency and Public Humanities”, that includes examples and the roles of cultural agents in Latin America in changing the world. We explore readings of literature, comics, and films related with issues as disabilities, social exclusion and discrimination, illness, race, ethnicity gender, and how artistic interventions improves the relationships in Latin America.


What classes will you be teaching next semester?
I will be teaching a course on Literary Criticism (HISP 208), that combines literature, cinema and music, and I will be teaching an Intermediate Language course of Spanish (HISP 203). I look forward to working more with the community and doing cultural activities that integrate the language-learning environment and interaction with immigrant population of Latin America in Williamsburg.


What would be your dream class to teach and why?
A class that would focus on my expertise, Apocalyptic Imagination in Latin America: Narratives of Destruction and the End of the World, would be a topic that I will love teaching in the future, probably next year. I am also interested in teaching a class focused on Zombies, on digital destruction and experimental cinema, videogames, ecocriticism and lately I have been thinking about a class in documentaries and music, particularly Rockumentaries in Latin America and Spain, as well as videoclip industry (reggaeton, cumbia and other type of music).

fall2019more News News: Italian Studies

Italian Faculty-Student Research Project at ACTFL

In the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, advanced language students have had the opportunity to work as Teaching Assistants for many years. The assistantship model has changed since its inception but the unique role of undergraduate TAs in language classes remains a key feature of our department. Professor Mattavelli, who became interested in teacher preparation and mentoring during her graduate studies, has been training and supervising undergraduate teaching assistants since her first year at W&M. This experience has been very positive and fulfilling. The undergraduate TAs with whom she had the pleasure to work are really extraordinary and embody very positive examples for students in beginning classes.

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 10.12.16 PMScholarly research on undergraduate teaching assistants is still rather scarce and focuses mainly on peer-teaching in fields other than foreign languages (with the exception of some studies in German and Spanish). Professor Mattavelli decided to explore the topic more in depth and submitted a proposal to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) annual convention. The objective was to highlight advantages and challenges of working with undergraduate TAs from a two-fold perspective and called for the collaboration with an undergraduate teaching assistant. W&M student and Italian TA Antonella Nicholas worked with prof. Mattavelli on the development of the project and co-presented with her at the conference.

IMG_5746 3

In their presentation, prof. Mattavelli and Antonella Nicholas examined the roles and responsibilities of undergraduate TAs and supervisors, discussed training and mentoring provided to the apprentice teachers within the Italian program and the Modern Languages department, and presented students’ feedback. They both shared their perspective and assessment on the teaching experience and offered examples for successful peer-teaching instruction. Antonella focused also on the importance of this teaching experience in terms of skills learned for future careers as well as personal and professional rewards.

The presentation was very well received by the audience and prof. Mattavelli is happy to share that Antonella did a wonderful job and received many compliments from other faculty in attendance. Overall, this was a great collaborative experience in the spirit of W&M’s faculty-student research projects and close mentorship.

Screen Shot 2019-12-21 at 10.16.08 PM

Faculty Profiles Fall 2019 fall2019more

MLL Welcomes Professor Paul Vierthaler to the Chinese Studies Program

In fall 2019, Dr. Paul Vierthaler joined MLL’s Chinese Studies program, and we asked him some questions about being a professor of Chinese Studies:


How did you become interested in Chinese?

When I was deciding what I wanted to study in college, I really wanted to learn a language that had a lot of utility that a lot of people spoke. Growing up in southwest Kansas, there were not many language options in high school, but when I headed to the University of Kansas I was delighted to discover that they offered Chinese. I did not start with a fundamental interest in the language per se, nor I did anticipate this would be one of the central choices that would shape my career. While at KU, my interest in China rapidly developed, so to further my language skills, I spent my junior year abroad at the Associated Colleges in China study abroad program in Beijing. The immersive experience of acquiring the language and living in Beijing were enough to convince me to return to China after graduation. I lived in China for several years before going to graduate school, and I began studying classical Chinese at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming. This was my first sustained encounter with classical literature, which I rapidly became enamored of. This then led me to the decision to go to graduate school so I could study and teach classical Chinese literature and culture professionally.
What is the focus of your research?

The broad focus of my work centers on fictional literature written in the Ming dynasty in China (1368 to 1644). I am currently working on a book that analyzes how historical stories are told in untrustworthy media (novels, dramas, and unvetted historical texts) written during the late Ming and early Qing (1500 to 1700, roughly speaking). The thirst for information on recent events resulted publishers producing a high volume of works to meet the demand, and they really influenced how people saw their past. This publishing trend meant that a fair number of these works were of relatively low literary quality, making them arduous to read. As such, I use large digital collections of historical texts and study them with techniques developed by computer scientists, linguists, and even biologists. My research also extends in this computational direction, and I am interested the application of machine learning, natural language processing, and big data analytics to cultural datasets.


What kind of classes do you like to teach best?

I’ve been fortunate to teach a wide variety of courses, and they all tend to be rewarding in their own ways. Introducing students who’ve never read a Chinese book to the Water Margin, working through a complicated passage in the Zhuangzi with advanced students, and teaching students how to program are all extremely rewarding. This being said, my favorite classes are those intermediate classes where students have moved beyond the basics of Chinese studies and are seeing the vast possibilities of the field for the first time. It is very difficult to beat the sense of discovery in the first seminar after that intro class that blends new literature with new methods to engage with materials at a deep level for the first time. I also love to teach methodologically focused classes and lab sessions where the main focus is building computer tools for studying Chinese literature.


What do you think of William & Mary so far?

Coming here has been a wonderful experience! My students in particular have been amazing. They are deeply engaged with the course material, have been eager to discuss in class, and always ask incisive questions. The research environment here is also top-notch. I’ve found that there is a lot of support for research of all sorts, and particularly for research that encourages student involvement! This support has allowed me to start the new MLL digital humanities lab, which is getting off the ground early in the spring semester, and I am really looking forward to guide MLL students in research projects that they help design.

Faculty Profiles fall2019more News: German Studies

Prof. Leventhal Makes the Case!

Professor Robert Leventhal, Program Director of German Studies and Judaic Studies, has just published a book on the genre of the “case study,” looking at its origins in 18th-century Germany and tracing its evolution through Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and up to modern-day pop culture. W&M sat down with Professor Leventhal for a book chat.

Faculty Profiles fall2019more News: German Studies

MLL Welcomes Professor Robin Ellis to the German Studies Program!

In Fall 2019, MLL’s German Studies Program welcomed a new faculty member, Dr. Robin Ellis. We asked her a few questions about being a Professor of German Studies at W&M:

1. How did you become interested in German?

I don’t have German heritage, but I do have a family connection to Germany: my mother lived in West Germany for many years, and I was born in West Berlin. We lived there until I was three, when we moved to California. English is my native language, but I learned some German from family friends, neighbors, and daycare. In the U.S., I promptly forgot everything I’d learned, so my mother enrolled me in Saturday morning German school. At the time, I did not think this was so great, but I begrudgingly atteEllis_Global Voices Picturended until I could switch to German classes at my high school. In college I started taking German literature and film classes, and two study abroad years in Berlin (one my junior year and one right after college) sealed the deal. That’s when I became interested in literature by Turkish-German writers such as Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Feridun Zaimoğlu.

2. What is the focus of your research?

Today my research still involves migration and the negotiation of various borders, but I approach these issues through the lens of translation. My book project deals with fictional interpreters in literature, film, and theater, and it examines interpreting as an embodied act of translation. I’m interested in the tensions and possibilities that arise when a human individual is employed as a supposedly neutral medium of communication. For example, when two people communicate through an interpreter, they have to trust that the interpreter will relay their messages accurately and won’t intervene due to a secret allegiance or other ulterior motive. Fiction provides the opportunity to explore anxieties about potential betrayal, as well as a way to imagine alternative forms of linguistic encounter and exchange.

3. Have you ever worked as a translator or interpreter yourself?

I’ve only dabbled in literary translation, although I’d like to do more in the future. As for interpreting, not at all! Part of my fascination with interpreting comes from how unbelievably complex a process it is—interpreters must be skilled linguists and virtuosic performers. I am frankly in awe of both their amazing cognitive powers and their ability to perform under intense pressure!

4. What kind of classes do you like to teach best?

I enjoy teaching a variety of classes at different levels: Research seminars offer a great opportunity to think deeply about a particular topic, but I also love the fun and excitement of working with students in the earlier stages of language learning. In its best moments, foreign language learning opens up new perspectives not only on the new language and culture, but also on your own native language and culture, too. As for particular class sessions, some of my favorites involve teaching poems. Poems prompt us to concentrate intensively on what language can do, while thinking collaboratively and building on each other’s insights. Each person brings a unique background to their reading and will see different things in a poem. You never know whose question about a particular word or line will open up a whole new perspective.

5. How would you describe your approach to German Studies?

Two things especially important to me are 1) attention to linguistic specificity and 2) a commitment to diversity, anti-racism, and decoloniality. First, it’s important to recognize that what we call things matters, and that language shapes our realities in powerful ways. There’s a difference, for example, between “overcoming” (bewältigen) the National Socialist past and “working through” it (aufarbeiten).

Second, it’s crucial that scholars and instructors in German Studies continue to diversify our field and the voices that we amplify. As we move beyond ethno-national models of what counts as “German,” we also highlight transnational connections and questions of global relevance, such as the legacies of European colonialism. In my class on “Minorities in Germany,” for example, we examined connections between German colonialism and National Socialism, as well as anthropological models of European superiority and constructions of Germanness as whiteness—two ideas rooted in the colonial period that continue to resonate into the present.

6. What’s your favorite part of campus?

I still have some exploring to do, but so far, my favorite discovery has been the bird-watching armchairs at the back of Swem’s first floor. When I sat down in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, I was delighted to find binoculars and bird guidebooks there. What a great space to take a break!

Alumni Updates: French & Francophone Studies fall2019more News: French & Francophone Studies

French and Francophone Studies Program Celebrates Student Research

On Friday, October 25, 2019, the French and Francophone Studies Program celebrated its annual Fête de la Recherche, an opportunity for students to present their research to their professors and peers. This research is drawn from honors theses, courses, internships, Monroe projects, or as part of a study abroad program (e.g. Montpellier summer, IFE). This year featured the following student presenters:
Jack Ruszkowski – “Street Soccer and Integration in France and Morocco”(French 314: Introduction to French and Francophone Cultural Studies)
Elizabeth Vanasse – “Street Art in Guadeloupe” (Francophone African Literature trip to Guadeloupe in spring 2019)
Julie Luecke – “Jeanne d’Archetype: Gendered Representations of Joan of Arc in Film” (Honors Thesis)
Kristen Popham – “An Archeology of the Postcolonial Narrative: The Role of the artist in constructing a new political imagery of postcolonial identity” (Honors Thesis)
Teddy Wansink – “Modernity Leave: The sexualized mother of French New Wave Cinema” (McCormack-Reboussin Memorial Scholarship in French, Honors Thesis)
Manon Diz – “Guadeloupe’s Contested Memories” (Francophone African Literature Trip to Guadeloupe, spring 2019)
Davidson Norris – Montpellier Summer Program, Summer 2019
Additionally, the Fête featured alumni keynote speaker and Williamsburg, VA native Jake Nelson, who graduated from William & Mary in 2011 with a double major in Music and French and Francophone Studies.
Seniors in the French and Francophone Studies Program planned, organized, and coordinated the event.
fall2019more News

Welcome New International Fellows!

This fall, MLL welcomes a new group of International Fellows (formerly: Language House Tutors)! We are excited to have Gaoussou Diarra (French HoIFs_2019use) and Chiara Di Maio (Italian House) back, and look forward to working with Claire Hao (Chinese House), Claus Heinze (German House), Celeste Cabral (Hispanic House), Rina Okada (Japanese House) and Sasha Orlova (Russian House). This year, some of the language houses have merged, and new, joint activities are being planned: Chinese and Arabic share a floor, French and Italian, and German and Russian. Stay tuned for news on MLL’s International Soccer Tournament, to take place in the Sunken Garden on October 2, 4 pm.