Mellon Postdoctoral Fellows:

Current Fellows

Rachel Applebaum

Rachel Applebaum received her Ph.D. in Russian and Central/Eastern European history at the University of Chicago. At CHAT, she will be working on revising her doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript, tentatively titled, Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalism in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1989. The book tells the story of Soviet and Eastern European officials’ attempt to employ a policy of transnational friendship to link their diverse countries into a cohesive "socialist world" during the Cold War. It charts the rise and fall of this friendship project (also referred to as socialist internationalism), through the lens of a transnational, social, and cultural history of the Soviet Union's relations with Czechoslovakia. Soviet power in postwar Eastern Europe is often understood as a traditional empire, based on political oppression and military force. By contrast, the book argues that the Eastern bloc constituted an empire of friends, which was constructed, maintained—and eventually undermined—by cultural diplomacy, interpersonal contacts, and the trade of consumer goods across national borders.

Prior to her fellowship at CHAT, Rachel was a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern European History at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. Her research has been supported by grants from the American Councils of Learned Societies, the George Kennan Institute, and the Fulbright Hays program. She recently published an article, "A Test of Friendship? Soviet-Czechoslovak Tourism and the Prague Spring," in The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World, edited by Anne Gorsuch and Diane Koenker. She is currently working on additional articles examining the evolution of socialist internationalism in the Eastern bloc after Stalin’s death, and on the postwar legacy of the Red Army's liberation of Eastern Europe. Rachel's research and teaching interests include modern Russian and European history; social and cultural history; transnational Communism; 20th century internationalism; the Cold War; the history of leisure and consumption; and the history of memory.

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Doreen Densky
The Poetics of Advocacy and Overview in Modern German Literature

Doreen Densky received her PhD from the Department of German and Romance Languages and Literatures at Johns Hopkins University in 2013. Supported by the ACLS/Mellon Foundation, the Max Kade Foundation, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, her dissertation examined the extent to which Fürsprache (advocacy) acts as a constitutive device in the writings of Franz Kafka. With roots in legal, sociopolitical, and religious spheres, Fürsprache is the triangulated scenario of speaking for someone (or a group) before someone (or an institution). The study shows how Fürsprache manifests itself in the narrative structure and topics of Kafka's many-faceted oeuvre and how it, both as a subject and a category of analysis, serves as a mode of literary production and reception. As a fellow at CHAT, Doreen Densky is extending her inquiry into the nexus between legal–political and literary–aesthetic representation, particularly in relation to the Jewish question in modern German–Jewish writings. Moreover, she is working on a project that traces the post-Enlightenment desire and epistemological concern for ordering and synthesizing knowledge toward a presumed totality–-the creation of an overview—in literary prose from around 1800 to the early twentieth century. Doreen Densky's work has appeared in the volume Kafka for the Twenty-First Century (Camden House, 2011) and is forthcoming in The German Quarterly. She has taught and presented on topics in German and Austrian literature and culture from the eighteenth century to the present, law and literature, narratology, visual studies, modern city narratives, and nature–culture relations in literature

Irving Goh

Irving Goh received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Cornell University in 2012, having written his doctoral dissertation under the direction of Dominick LaCapra, Timothy Murray, Jonathan Culler, and the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. He has since served as Research Fellow (2012-13) and Visiting Scholar (2013-14) at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. His first book, The Reject: Community, Politics, and Religion after the Subject, is published by Fordham University Press under its Commonalities series. He is also co-editor with Verena Andermatt Conley of Nancy Now (Polity Press), a volume of essays on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy. Again on the work of Nancy, he is guest editor with Timothy Murray of two special issues of diacritics, titled "The Pre-Positional Senses of Jean-Luc Nancy." With a wide research interest in contemporary continental thought, literature, cultural politics, and comparative philosophy, he has published in these areas in journals including MLN, diacritics, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Cultural Critique, SubStance, and Philosophy East and West. In 2013, he helped oversee the publication of The Collected Poems of Arthur Yap (National University of Singapore Press), an important document gathering the published works of Singapore's major poet, for which he also wrote the introduction. At CHAT, he will be working on his second book project, provisionally titled Touching Literature, or the Experience of the Limit, beginning with the question of touch in contemporary French thought (Derrida, Nancy, Irigaray, and Cixous) and French literature (Baudelaire, Proust, and Sartre).

John Robbins
Negative Spaces: British Women Playwrights and the Staging of Absence, 1770-1830

John Robbins received his Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from Cornell University with a dissertation focusing on women playwrights of the Romantic period. His research at CHAT will extend this project: by examining mediums ranging from poems and closet plays to paintings and dramatic reviews, it argues that women playwrights of the Romantic period created "negative spaces" within their works, in which they conspicuously depicted the absence and removal of female characters from the stage. The project demonstrates that by generating these spaces (for example, by foregrounding the forcible silencing of a titular female character), these writers were able to draw into focus the marginalization, containment, and exclusion to which they were subject in ways that conventional representation failed to provide. His previous research has been supported by a Cornell University Provost’s Diversity Fellowship and travel grants to the British Library, the Cambridge University Library, and the Chawton House Library’s Women’s Writing in English 1600-1830 Collection, where he was a Visiting Research Fellow in 2013. A dedicated teacher, he has been awarded numerous commendations for pedagogy, has been recognized for peer mentorship of graduate students, and was named a Graduate Teaching Fellow at Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

At CHAT he will also begin a secondary project on the relationship between scientific and theatrical discourses during the eighteenth century and the Romantic period, tentatively titled Acting Like a Scientist: How the Romantic Theater Created Modern Science. This project will argue that the notion of science as a public activity, as opposed to the purview of a narrow elite, which arose during the eighteenth century was deeply indebted to theatrical concepts such as performance, presentation, and wider public accessibility. At the same time, it hopes to demonstrate that the theater during this period also became more "scientific" in turn, adopting an emphasis on physiognomy and specialization, and becoming more codified as an empirical discourse in the process.