Doctor Irene Montjoye, Ph.D.
~ An Exposé, by Raina Polivka
Doctor Montjoye, an Indiana University alumnus and retired professor of literature and international affairs at the International University in Vienna, Austria met with current comparative literature graduate student, Raina Polivka, to discuss over the phone her memories of Indiana University as well as her experiences in academia. Having recently delivered a lecture in Vienna to the Conference of Global Ethics on the necessity to look not only at different cultures but also at different phases within cultures when applying a global perspective to research, Dr. Montjoye shared stories of achievements and endeavors as a scholar whose primary interest and sense of responsibility lay in the intersections of the humanities with the political and social realms of human activity.
Dr. Montjoye came to Indiana University in 1961 as the wife of the Orientalist, Professor Sinor. Among the many intellectuals and scientists who immigrated to the United States as a result of the “brain drain,” Professor Montjoye and her husband left Cambridge, England for a very rural and isolated Bloomington, Indiana. Initially planning on enrolling in courses to occupy her time, Dr. Montjoye eventually decided to work towards a degree. She attributes this decision to an Austrian woman she met during her first days at the university: “I will never forget that woman. She said to me, ‘Oh no. You are at a university and you will earn your degrees.’ I owe my decision to pursue academic goals to that woman’s encouragement.” Ms. Montjoye went on to earn her Bachelor’s (1964), her Master’s (1965) and her Ph.D. (1975) from the Department of Comparative Literature. “I was a natural fit,” she says, “Being a native Austrian of French descent, my mother tongue was both French and German and I had a working knowledge of Dutch, Italian, and English.” Ms. Montjoye completed a dissertation on the law and crime in literature dating from before the nineteenth century through the twentieth century. It was in this project that she cultivated her interest in the changing attitudes towards the criminal and notions of justice—an interest that has propelled much of her work to the present day.
Professor Montjoye returned to Vienna to pursue an academic career where she found herself primarily working for American universities. Though she began teaching literature classes, she soon turned towards a more socially and politically active approach to scholarship both in the classroom and out. While Dr. Montjoye has continuously incorporated a sense of social consciousness into her teaching, creating and instructing such courses as “War and Peace in Literature,” “Fundamentalists: Then and Now” and “Racism: Past and Present,” she has also delivered lectures for the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. When asked what she enjoys most about academia she answers without hesitation: “teaching.” She continues: “Opening students’ minds is the most important and rewarding part of my job. Teaching them the interconnectedness of art and literature with the scientific, technological and political world around them is what I can give most to my students.”
Dr. Montjoye is nevertheless familiar with the competitiveness and discrepancies within the academic job market. Until recently, she felt the financial effects of a system that refused to pay into pensions for its faculty or administrators. Indeed, upon her retirement two years ago she had acquired only twelve hundred euro in pension benefits. This lasted until Dr. Montjoye was notified in 2007 that she held the winning ticket in the Austrian national lottery. “You see,” she says, “I went from being a very poor academic pauper to a young capitalist.” With her newfound financial freedom, Ms. Montjoye works to help young scholars in need by awarding scholarships and providing housing to visiting scholars and interns.
Despite everything, Dr. Montjoye fully advocates a career in academia: “Do it if you love it; even if it doesn’t make you millions.” She also strongly advises the necessity of young scholars to network and build communities across disciplines and across national borders. As Vice President of the local chapter of the International Federation of University Women, she cannot emphasize enough the benefits of international networking as a way to share experiences and information and also to create a sense of stability in an expanding world. It is precisely in this notion of crossing borders that she believes the future of comparative literature lays: in recognizing the interconnectedness of literature with politics, history, science and social movements. According to Dr. Montjoye, “the great crises in the world are all consequences of higher education—the highest education.” It is not the illiterate that have orchestrated disaster, but the educated. Therefore academics must engage in a dialogue that traverses the borders of disciplines and challenges the boundaries surrounding the intellectual elite. We must take the study of literature out of the jargon of inaccessible and pedantic journals and make thoughts available to a larger public—“we must make reading exciting again.”
Though retired, Dr. Montjoye is still writing and lecturing. She is currently working on a revised edition of her book Oscar Wilde’s Father on Portugal and Austria. She is also preparing an English edition of her book Maria Therese’s Turkish Daughter, a work that is already in its second printing in German and had been translated into Arabic and Turkish.
Dr. Montjoye’s fond memories of Bloomington include weekend excursions into the surrounding forests with the women’s hiking group organized by Mrs. Alfred Kinsey, the faculty wife cook-offs, and the invaluable intellectual experiences offered by the Department of Comparative Literature and Indiana University.
Graduate Program Alumni Spotlight (2000-2015)
Hanadi Al-Samman (PhD 2000) is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia. Hanadi’s research and teaching interests include contemporary Arabic literature, Arab feminism(s), literary and trauma theory, gender studies, queer Arabic literature, autobiography, travel, fantasy, war narratives, postcolonial and diasporic literature, and comparative literature. In addition to many journal articles and book chapters, she is the author of Anxiety of Erasure: Trauma, Authorship, and the Diaspora in Arab Women’s Writings (Syracuse University Press,2015), and she co-edited "Queer Affects," a special issue of International Journal of Middle East Studies (45:2 May 2013). Among her other published works are her article "Remapping Arab Narrative and Sexual Desire in Salwā al-Naīmī’s Burhān al-asal (The Proof of the Honey)" in the Journal of Arabic Literature 43.1 (2012): 60-79, and a translation of Hanna Mina’s “On the Sacks” in Literature from the “Axis of Evil”: Writing from Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Other Enemy Nations (The New Press, 2006).
Robert E. Bayliss (PhD 2003) is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Kansas. Robert is currently Associate Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He has published articles in several journals including Hispanic Review, Comparative Drama and Comparative Literature Studies. His book, The Discourse of Courtly Love in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Theater, was published in 2008 by Bucknell University Press, and he has a chapter in the MLA volume Approaches to Teaching Boccaccio’s “Decameron” (2000). He is currently developing a new book project that will address the ways in which the "classics" of Spain's Golden Age are adapted, appropriated and consumed in contemporary Spain. He was awarded the 2009-2011 Cramer Professorship for research and teaching.
Adam Rovner (PhD 2003) is Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies at the University of Denver. Adam’s research focuses on the intellectual history of Territorialism, the ideological movement to create homelands for persecuted Jews in the first half of the 20th Century. His book In the Shadow of Zion: Promised Lands Before Israel was published by New York University Press in 2014. His documentary film about Territorialism, "No Land Without Heaven: Isaac Nachman Steinberg and the Freeland League," was screened at the Center for Jewish History (Manhattan), the Bibliothèque Medem (Paris), and the Israeli Center for Digital Art (Holon). In addition to his research publications, Adam has translated many works of modern Hebrew literature and recently commissioned, edited, introduced, and published nine new works of Hebrew fiction in translation as co-editor of a special volume on “New Hebrew Writing” for World Literature Today.
Austin Busch (PhD 2004) is Associate Professor of Ancient Literature in the Department of English at the State University of New York-Brockport. His research and teaching interests lie in the Bible, early Christian literature, and Bible interpretation, as well as classical Latin literature. Austin is co-editor of the Norton critical edition of The Bible (KJV): New Testament and Apocrypha (2012) and the author of many articles, including “Presence Deferred: The Name of Jesus and Self-referential Eschatological Prophecy in Acts” in Biblical Interpretation 17 (2009): 521-553, and “Versane natura est? Natural and Linguistic Instability in the Extispicium and Self-Blinding of Seneca’s Oedipus” in Classical Journal 102 (2007): 225-67.
Chia-li Kao (PhD 2008) is Assistant Professor at the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies at National Chung Hsing University. Her research and teaching areas include Comparative Literature, Pre-WWII Taiwan and Japanese Literature, Third World Literature, East Asian Studies, and Post-colonial Literature. She recently published the article “A Suppressed Model of Writing: Consolidated Resistance in Taiwanese and Japanese Proletarian Literature during the Japanese Colonial Period” in Wenshan Review of Taiwan 12 (2014): 144-82. Her current research project is called “Politics, Media, and Individual Consciousness: The Writing of the South by the Dispatched Japanese Writers.”
Joseph O’Neil (PhD 2009) is Associate Professor of German at the University of Kentucky. Among his many articles and book chapters are "The Fate of the Martial Sublime: Studies of War in the German Lands" which appeared in Colloquia Germanica 45.2 (2012): 179-98; "Ghostly Births: The Spectre of Romanticism and the Future of Capitalism" in Seminar 50.3 (2014): 332-52; and "Nomos oder Medium der Erde? Zur Geopoetik der Weltliteratur," which appeared in Figuren des Globalen: Weltbezug und Welterzeugung in Literatur, Kunst und Medien, edited by Christian Moser and Linda Simonis, which was published by Bonn University Press in 2014. His translation of Jakob von Uexküll’s A Foray into the Worlds of Animals and Humans and Theory of Meaning was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2010.
Mira Rosenthal (Ph.D. 2011) is Assistant Professor English and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Southern Alabama. Mira is a published poet and the author of the prize-winning poetry collection The Local World. Shealso works on contemporary American poetry, comparative literature, and literary translation. She has published translations of works by several Polish poets, including Tomasz Różycki and Kira Pietrek. Before joining the faculty at the University of Southern Alabama, Mira was a 2011-2013 Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Among her other awards are fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN American Center, and the MacDowell Colony.
Laila Amine (PhD 2011) is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Texas, where she is also affiliated with the program in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her areas of research include the nexus of race, gender, and transnational literature. Her publications include "A House with Two Doors? Creole Nationalism and Nomadism in Multicultural London" in a themed issue on “Creolization: Towards a Non-Eurocentric Europe," edited by Murray Pratt and Mireille Rosello in Culture, Theory and Critique 48:1 (2007): 71-85; "Crossroads of Memory: Contexts, Agents, and Processes in a Global Age," co-authored with Caroline Beschea-Fache, in Culture, Theory, and Critique 53:2 (2012): 99-109; "Double Exposure: The Family Album and Alternate Memories in Leïla Sebbar's The Seine Was Red," in Culture, Theory, and Critique 53:2 (2012): 181-198; and "The Paris Paradox: Colorblindness and Colonialism in African-American Expatriate Fiction," American Literature 87 (2015): 739-68.
Yu Min Claire Chen (PhD 2012) is Assistant Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Her research interests include time, space and memory in Chinese diaspora literature, Asian American literature, autobiography, and comparative literature and film. Claire’s book chapter “Crossing Beyond the Pacific Ocean: Death and Trauma in lê thi diem thúy’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For (2003) and Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone (1993)” appeared in Cultures en mouvement XIX-XXIe siècles. Changer de culture: Enjeux du déplacement Amériques / Asie, published by Cambridge Scholars Press in 2014. Her recent courses have included Chinese diaspora literature in translation, the modern self in Asian literature, and gender and identity in twentieth-century Asian literature.
Edward Chamberlain (PhD 2012) is Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington-Tacoma. Ed studies contemporary portrayals of ethnicity, gender and sexuality in transnational literature and expression -- specifically how texts and performances portray marginalized identities within the contexts of family and migration to the United States. His current book-length project, Passionate Spaces: the Intimate Cultures and Scenes of Queer Latino/a Expression, examines how the contemporary literature and visual art of queer people of color portray spatial dynamics that enable marginalized men and women to express themselves. This study considers how several Latino/a groups articulate their community engagement in autobiography, nonfiction, poetry and other life writing. Ed is also working on research that involves representations of nature, environmentalism and other social movements. He has taught classes that focus on American masculinity, nature writing, and poetry, among other topics.
Burcu Karahan Richardson (PhD 2012) is Lecturer in Turkish Language and Literature at Stanford University. Burcu specializes in late 19th and early 20th centuries Ottoman Turkish literature. Her research on Ottoman/Turkish literature focuses on the novel, issues of translation, sexuality, formation of masculine identities, and Westernization. She is currently working on the Second Constitutional Era erotic fiction with its relations national and literary history. She teaches literature and culture courses on Ottoman and contemporary Turkish literature in translation and Turkish cinema; and language courses on Ottoman Turkish, reading knowledge for Turkish and translation.
Adrien Pouille (PhD 2013) is Visiting Assistant Professor of French at Wabash College. His
dissertation was titled “Catalysts of Change: Foreignness and Supernaturalism in African Literature.” In 2016, he published “Ambivalent Relation with the Divine in Wole Soyinka's The Road” in Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies, 39(2): 37-58.” Adrien is also the co-editor of a dictionary of the Saafi-Saafi language, forthcoming with Rüdiger Köppe Press. At the 2016 African Literature Association meeting, he gave a paper on the topic “Intertextuality between Senegalese and Sufi Literatures.”
Ashley Hope Pérez (PhD 2014) is Assistant Professor of Comparative Studies and affiliated faculty in Latina/o Studies, at The Ohio State University. Her third novel, Out of Darkness, appeared in 2015 and was reviewed by the New York Times Book Review as “a layered tale of color lines, love and struggle,” in which “a tragedy, real and racial, swallows us whole.” Ashley is interested in the ethical implications of how we tell, read, mediate, and interpret narratives. Her most recent research explores how selected works of twentieth-century Latin American fiction disrupt readers’ attempts to make sense of narrated cruelty. In addition to studying Spanish-language, bilingual, and Latina/o literary production in the U.S, she is preparing work on the legacy of children’s writing by major Latin American authors.
Holly Schreiber (PhD 2015) is Assistant Professor of Communication and Journalism at the University of Maine-Orono. Holly works at the intersection of literary and media criticism, with particular emphasis on poverty studies. Her article “Journalistic Critique through Parody in Stephen Crane's ‘An Experiment in Misery’" appeared in Literary Journalism Studies 6:1 (2014): 31-46, and her article "Cannibalized Evidence: The Problem of Over-incorporation in Zheng Yi’s Scarlet Memorial" appeared in The Comparatist 38.1 (2014): 70-82. She is currently expanding her research agenda to address issues of economic inequality that impact Maine, particularly the relationship between poverty and the environment. Holly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in journalism and mass communication, including classes on journalism history, advertising, digital journalism, and media representations of poverty.