Graduate Students

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Graduate Students

Amanda Awanjo

Amanda Awanjo comes to Pitt from Rutgers University-Camden, where she received her Masters of Arts in English, and from Wesleyan College, where she studied English and Political Science. Her research looks at the intersections between African American matriarchal genealogy, affect, and the representations of children within Black science fiction and Afrofuturist texts. She also looks at twentieth century representations of African American children as activists and muses within the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement. Her research questions are focused on the ways in which the radical black imaginative is able to articulate subjectivity, futurity, and a radical surviving of oppressive structures through black texts and black poetics. 

Daniel Barlow

I am a Ph.D. candidate working on the rhetorical and pedagogical dimensions of historical and contemporary African American expressive cultures. My dissertation—a study of aurality in African American cultural pedagogy—locates, charts, interprets, and theorizes pedagogical practices that occur in forms and contexts outside the classroom, especially in narrative prose, musical performance, and related social justice discourses that articulate the exigency of listening and learning. I have written about these topics and others in MELUS, the Society for Ethnomusicology Student NewsThe Southern Literary JournalNarrative, and College Composition and Communication.

Ariana Brazier

I received a BA in English from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. As a Bonner Scholar of Community Service, I dedicated a significant amount of time to volunteer work in Atlanta’s homeless shelters and nonprofit service organizations on campus and in the local community. My senior thesis argued that children’s television promotes an understanding of the homeless as dysfunctional and delinquent, which leads to a denial of their humanity and justifies the social death of the homeless. I hope to further explore issues related to representations of homelessness and impoverished communities in popular culture and media. I am also interested in topics related to intersectionality, womanism, and self-liberation in television and news.

Sreemoyee Dasgupta

I joined the PhD program at Pitt in 2012 after completing BA and MA degrees in English Literature at Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. After my Masters, I took a year off, interning in a publishing house and teaching at the Kolkata Muslim Orphanage for Girls on behalf of an Indian NGO called Make A Difference. In spite of dwelling in a perpetual vortex of intellectual confusion, I have discovered that my primary interest lies in children’s literature and childhood studies. I am also interested in women’s and gender studies, postcolonial literature, nineteenth-century British literature, and fantasy literature.  For my dissertation, I would like to explore the intersections of childhood studies and postcolonial studies, looking at indigenous responses to Anglo-American children’s literature. I am interested in literary influence and counter-influences affected by the processes of imperialism as well as imperialism’s effects on the relationships formed by children with adults, their peers, and their socio-historical surrounds, taking into account the material and ideological transformations associated with modernity.

Kathleen Davies

I came to the doctoral program at Pitt after a decade of practicing law; I have a BA from Wells College and a JD from the University of Michigan. My research interests include early American literature, legal history, and the construction of the citizen as a legal concept and literary figure; drama, performance, and embodiment; and theories of privacy.

Jessica Fitzpatrick

I came to Pitt by way of the University of Delaware, where I earned a BA in both English and Anthropology.  My dissertation focuses on Postcolonial Science Fiction, taking up novels and short stories.  These works gesture toward possible futures, even as they frustrate the use of “the future” as an excuse to erase politically explosive histories.  Other of my long-held research interests entwined in this investigation include figures of female rebellion,cross-media and cross-genre adaptation, and narrative theory.  At Pitt, I’ve created and taught courses in composition; the skills, delights, and uses of reading poetry; and the study of how literature of the contemporary amplifies echoes of the past.

Marlee Fuhrmann

Before beginning the PhD program at Pitt in 2014, I earned my BA in Literary Studies and Creative Writing with a minor in Anthropology at Beloit College in Wisconsin. I continued my work at Beloit after graduation as an honors fellow, researching and strengthening English-language support services for non-native speakers on campus, and since arriving at Pitt, I have expanded upon my undergraduate research in masculinity. I am most interested in masculinities from 1830 to the present day, both in literary representations and in historical documents such as diaries, and most of my recent writing has approached masculinity obliquely through affect theory, queer theory—especially queer time—and celibacy studies. I plan to continue exploring gender and, more broadly, narrative as a method for managing dissonance between lived realities and cultural norms as I simultaneously work towards the Composition Program Certificate.

Mary Gryctko

I came to Pitt in 2014 after receiving an MA in English Literature from NYU. In my master’s thesis, I examined the deadly intrusion of the feminine into male homosocial Neverlands in The Turn of the Screw and Peter Pan. At Pitt, I plan to continue my studies of the relationship between childhood sexuality and the death of the child in literature. While my focus is mainly in the 19th century, I am also greatly interested in more modern representations of children and death, particularly the deadly child that is often seen in modern horror.

Treviene Harris

A native Jamaican, I came to Pitt after completing my BA and MA at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. My thesis presented a localized reading of skin bleaching within Jamaican dancehall culture, and situated the practice as a form of embodied resistance which contests marginalizing colorist regimes. I am interested in the ways color, race, class and gender might intersect with and inform the production and circulation of Caribbean popular culture. 

Rachel Maley

I began the PhD program at Pitt after earning a BA in English and a PA English (grades 7-12) teaching certificate at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe in the Spring of 2011. During my year off, I was a substitute teacher and a daycare school-age teacher. In addition to my love for teaching, I am greatly interested in nineteenth century American Literature, specifically women’s sentimental novels and domestic fiction and children’s literature. At Pitt, I hope to further explore and connect womanhood and the girlhood of nineteenth-century America, especially in regards to education, through women’s writing and children’s books for girls.

Nick Marsellas

I started the PhD program at Pitt in 2015 with interests in Caribbean gender and sexuality, especially as they pertain to the formation of a national identity.  These interests led to my more current project, using historical and literary representations of pirates to understand queer theory’s relationship to antinormativity and the state.  I am particularly interested in the ways that gender is handled in representations of female pirates, and the implications for imagining the pirate ship as a homoerotic space. 

Shawna McDermott

I began the Literature PhD program at Pitt in 2013 after completing my MA at Texas A&M University.  My research focuses broadly on children and childhood in the American nineteenth century.  My current research focuses on visual portrayals of children and race in children's periodicals during and after the Civil War.  I am also interested in child readers, child writers, and the American tomboy tradition.

Elizabeth Oliphant

My dissertation, “Inventing the Southwest,” traces the emergence of the U.S. Southwest in literature from the turn of the century through the modernist period, reassessing the relationships among the genres of local color writing, regional modernism, dime novels, and ethnography. I’ve also worked extensively with nineteenth-century children’s literature of the frontier, Native American memoir, and the circulation of dime novels.

As a teacher, I’ve designed courses about U.S. women’s literature, representations of indigeneity in the U.S., and writing about the U.S./Mexico border. I have received research support from the University of Pittsburgh, the Autry National Center for the American West, and the Charles Redd Center at Brigham Young University. In addition to presenting my work at academic conferences, I’ve delivered lectures as a guest of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Los Angeles and the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

Kirsten Paine

I came to Pitt in 2011 after earning my BA at Baldwin Wallace University (’08) and my MA at the University of Virginia (’10). 

My dissertation, “’Not According to the Regulation of War’: Intimate Civil War Writing by Female Nurses, Soldiers, and Spies,” examines reconfigurations of intimacy in women’s narratives of the U.S. Civil War that disrupted the national gendered and raced narratives that rested on intimacy’s normative functioning. My dissertation moves through sites of affiliation that open up during the Civil War, namely the military camps, battlefields, prisons, and hospitals in addition to the home.  I consider how forms of intimacy in the writing by female war participants feature gender-unconventional actors, are sometimes one-sided, are often complicated by dramatic performances of race or gender, and frequently realize the deepest and most intense intimacies in spaces where participants face exclusion, expulsion, rejection, and even violence and death.

In 2013, I was a residential fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies and developed an ongoing archival project called “Jefferson and Scottish Folk Music: Transatlantic Highland and Lowland Connections in Eighteenth-Century America.”

Gabrielle Rajerison

Prior to coming to Pitt I attended Knox College, where I earned a BA in English and Gender and Women’s Studies. As an undergraduate, my research centered on literary representations of rape and sexual trauma during antebellum slavery and on the relationships between enslaved black women and their white slave mistresses as sites of violence, failure, pleasure, and grief. My current research is on the construction of sexual trauma and violence across literary, visual, and auditory mediums. I'm particularly interested in sexual violence's relationship to narrative theory, form, and affect; its potential as a read-for aesthetic (of gender, of race, of history, of eroticism, of...); and its capacity to elucidate any given text's ideological and philosophical stance(s) on love. 


Maggie Roby

After graduating with a BA in English from The Ohio State University in 2013, I spent two years living in Saitama prefecture as an assistant language teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. I came to Pitt in 2015, where I am currently a first-year PhD student specializing in children's literature. My interests lie primarily in contemporary children's and young adult media, including animation and graphic novels, and I am particularly invested in exploring dark, shocking, and subversive elements in relation to child/adult power dynamics.

Sarah Schaefer

Before coming to the PhD program at Pitt, I earned my BA and MA in English at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. My Master’s thesis argued that the neoliberal cultural and political agenda of the last twenty or thirty years are shaping interpretations and adaptations of major works of the English canon, specifically Mrs. Dalloway and Pride and Prejudice. I looked closely at The Hours, Vanessa and Her Sister, Becoming Jane, and Longbourn and a select number of other texts in order to show that these contemporary treatments of two of the most famous women writers in the canon reveal a particular form of conservatism embedded in current attitudes within the United States about gender (in)equality, care work/dependency, and sexuality. My current research interests include children’s literature and childhood studies, British Romanticism, fan cultures/fandom, and women’s and gender studies (and the possible intersections of any and all of these fields). 

Clare Sigrist

I am currently a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the English Department. I hold a B.A. in English from Penn State University, a M.Ed. in TEFL from Universidad del Turabo, and a M.A. in English from the University of Montana. My dissertation, “Uneasy Fellowships: Novel Reconfigurations of Agency after the Affective Turn,” unfolds a partial history of fellow feeling in the novel, one that emerges after attending to the role of twentieth-century Caribbean and U.S. novels in shaping the figure of the historical witness, both in its disinterested and sentimental forms. Other research interests of mine include the history of the novel, narrative theory, and theories of the affects and emotions. I am particularly devoted to questions concerning the history of literary characterization, especially in its ties to issues of ethics and agency. I’ve taught a range of courses in composition and literature, including Literature of the Americas, Introduction to Critical Reading, Reading Poetry, and Seminar in Composition here at Pitt. My scholarly work has appeared in Philip Roth Studies. 

Noel Tague

I found my way to Rhetoric and Composition, and then on to Pitt, through practice and pedagogy, first as an undergraduate employee of the Writing Center at the University of New Hampshire, and later as an instructor of creative writing and composition while working on an MFA in Poetry at the University of Montana.  My interests are many--feminist theory, translation theory, rhetoric of the body, radical pedagogies, hybridity and lyric, the interplay of creative and critical thinking and expression, ecocomposition, and writing-as-citizenship--but they are defined by an overarching interest in modes of writing practice and writing as a conscious exploration of process.

Tyrica Terry

I began the PhD program at Pitt in 2012, after earning a BA in English at Texas State University. As an undergraduate, I became interested in 20th century literature, ethnic literature, postcolonial studies, and identity politics. My research interests have since expanded to include diaspora and transnational studies. At Pitt, I have developed my investment in exploring the ways in which individuals and communities negotiate race, ethnicity, and nationality in relation to representations of racial and ethnic identities in literature, film, and popular culture. I am currently investigating the recent Brazilian diaspora, Brazilian (trans)national identities, and related identity/cultural politics.

Cate Willits

I began the PhD program at Pitt after earning my BA and my MA in English at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I am interested in medieval and early modern literature with a focus on disability theory and the history of disability. 

Melissa Yang

I study interdisciplinarity to craft chimeric compositions; my research features words (via poetry) and birds (often poultry). Additional investments involve experimental art, materialities, medical humanities, writing centers, &c.

I received my BA in anthropology and English from Mount Holyoke College, where I mentored for the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing (SAW) Program. This, alongside projects on anthropological poetics and literary taxidermy, led me to pursue my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. I previously worked as an editor and educator in San Francisco.