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Graduate Student Summer Research 2019

September 23, 2019

Graduate Student Summer Research

Summer 2019 was busy and productive for graduate students in Romance Studies. Several doctoral candidates had the opportunity to travel for their dissertation research thanks to privately funded grants.

Two graduate students in the French & Francophone Studies program received McCulloch Dissertation Research Travel Fellowship. Emma Monroy used her grant to spend time in several museums in Guadeloupe and Martinique for her project on collaborations between writers and visual artists in the Francophone Caribbean. During her stay, Emma was also able to interview artist Victor Anicet, friend of the well-known writers Aimé Césaire and Édouard Glissant, and Bernard Lagier, the Assistant Director of the cultural center, Tropiques Atrium. Thanks to her fellowship, Wendy Combs traveled to the French National Library in Paris to make headway on her dissertation research on 19th-century fantastic novels.

With help from a Lupton Summer Travel Fellowship, Rhi Johnson spent several weeks in the library of the Royal Academy of Galician and the National Library of Portugal to further her dissertation research on the sociocultural history of water in 19th-century Iberian writing. Rhi reports that this research trip also gave her the valuable opportunity to practice her Galician and Portuguese language skills.

The Isabella Payne Cooper Award in Italian provided support for Tessa Bullington to travel to Italy to complete research for her dissertation, “Textual Healing: Gender, Genre & Disease at the Sixteenth-Century Italian Court.” Tessa spent two weeks in Venice both for her own research and to participate in an international symposium on the material culture of sixteenth-century northern Italy organized by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Warwick.

Two students in the Italian Studies program deepened their research in archives in Italy with help from Debbie Schenker Dissertation Travel Fellowships. Giorgia Bordoni spent the summer in the Archives of Futurism in Rome where she explored literary and visual artifacts relevant to her dissertation on “literary war machines” in 20th century Italy. Toni Veneri traveled to Rome, Venice, and Modena to gather crucial material for his dissertation on the “maritime and imperial imagination” in medieval and Renaissance Venice.

Closer to home, recipients of the Debbie Schenker Archival Fellowship Michele Cammelli and Megan Anne Fenrich worked with previously uncatalogued Italian manuscripts in the Rare Book Collection of Wilson Library. These students will be presenting their research discoveries at Wilson Library on October 4.


Congratulations to Juan Carlos González-Espitia!

August 21, 2019

Original post:

Juan Carlos González Espitia

Juan Carlos González Espitia is an associate professor of Spanish in the Department of Romance Studies within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. In his historical study of syphilis in the Spanish-speaking world, he explores the ways the disease affects private and public life, literature, the arts, medical discourse, politics, and public policy.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Espitia
photo by Megan May
August 21st, 2019

Q: When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

A: This is a very difficult question. I don’t even know now what I want to be if I grow up! When I was young, I wanted to be a nuclear astrophysicist. I suppose that daydreaming, the news about the NASA space program, the fact that Steve Austin — “The Six Million Dollar Man” — had been an astronaut before his accident, and my knack for remembering all the trivia about space exploration played a role in my profession never-to-be.

Q: Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

A: I thought of becoming a lawyer, a priest, a military officer, and a farmer. I received a bachelor’s in philosophy from one university and a bachelor’s in social communication and journalism from another. I did a radio program. I became a book editor in a publishing house while pursuing my master’s in analysis of political, economic, and international contemporary problems.

I loved everything I did, but something was missing. I was not getting any younger and I could not continue studying indefinitely. When Betty Osorio, a professor at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, told me that I should study literature I was briefly skeptical. Then it was perfectly clear — that was what I had been doing all along and what I wanted to keep doing. The perk? I can continue studying indefinitely, even when I am not getting any younger.

González Espitia traveled to the Folgefonna glacier in Norway with his wife Birgitte (left) and his two daughters, Maya and Alba.

Q: Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

A: In the Department of Romance Studies, we are proud to have housed three scholarly publications — Romance NotesHispanófila, and the NCSRLL Book Series — for over half a century. Nevertheless, history and tradition can make us rigid, oblivious to possibility, and unaware of our mistakes. While we were clearly successful in our standing in the field, the outdated way we were publishing was putting us at risk of becoming unsustainable. With the support of our incredible departmental administrative team we engaged in a thorough and successful process of modernization at all levels. We continue being touchstones in our field, proven by time and quality, but we are thriving only because of change.

Q: Research in 5 words.

A: “Syphilis teaches us a lot.”

Q: What are your passions outside of research?

A: I love cooking, although I am not that good at it. There is something very special about the whole process: putting different things into play, getting a rapid result, experimenting and having your friends and family as guinea pigs. But I especially like the happiness of sharing meals around the table — there is nothing better than that. Cooking gives me perspective, reminding me that something as basic as eating can produce joy.

Real-Life Value: APPLES Service-Learning Course Instructor Heather Knorr

July 24, 2019

Real-Life Value: APPLES Service-Learning Course Instructor Heather Knorr

By: Eve Elliott, APPLES Summer Fellow  

Tucked in a back meeting room of the Carolina Union, service-learning leaders from across campus scribbled down notes.

Their eyes were locked on Heather Knorr. At the front of the room, Knorr was excitedly remembering the children’s books her students had created during her recent service-learning Spanish course. Beaming, Knorr shared insights on how the service activity had impacted her students. She listed off the community leaders who’d started as partners and become friends.

This scene was unfolding in the APPLES Course Development Institute, which takes place every May. It was clear from the spirit in her voice that, for Knorr, service was more than just the sum of her anecdotes. In fact, service has always been prominent in Knorr’s life story.

“I had the opportunity to volunteer at a local school while I was studying at Washington and Lee University in my undergraduate years, and I loved it,” Knorr said. “I felt more connected to my local community. The kids made a big impression on me and inspired me to become a teacher later on.”

Knorr followed her passion for Spanish education and service to Nicaragua, where she helped build a library and organize English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in the community. She also went to Ecuador, helping start the country’s first adult English classes and elementary school English immersion program on Isabela island in the Galapágos, Ecuador. Through the years, she traveled and served in various other Spanish-speaking countries.

Eventually, Knorr’s passions led her to UNC-Chapel Hill, where she teaches Spanish courses and—through the Carolina Center for Public Service—has developed service-learning partnerships with local community organizations like International Spanish Language Academy, El Centro HispanoKidzu Children’s MuseumChapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, and Farmer Foodshare.

These relationships are key to Knorr’s APPLES Service-Learning Course SPAN 329: Spanish for the Professions. Knorr said the connections forged between her students and partners drive the course’s real-life value.

“I believe we become better at our profession when we contribute to our local community,” Knorr said. “Many of my students will go on to have a career in health, business or law. This experience of working with local Spanish-speaking members of our community helps students grow their language skills, learn more about other cultures and forge lasting personal relationships—which help develop trust between students and their future patients or clients.”

Beyond grammar and speaking skills, Knorr passes on to her students the importance—and possibilities—of authentic relationship-building.

For example, one of Knorr’s students participated in a language exchange with a native Spanish speaker whose two jobs didn’t allow time for formal classes. Knorr said the language exchange was a meaningful experience for both the traditional student and the nontraditional student.

“They formed a friendship and continued to meet up until my student graduated, long after our class ended.”

And that’s what Heather Knorr’s work is all about: instructing Spanish courses, building service-learning partnerships—and, ultimately, facilitating meaningful connections between students and communities.

Originally posted in APPLES in the NewsAPPLES Service-Learning News

El palco del Real

February 25, 2019

El palco del Real

On November 30 and December 1, 2018, Teaching Assistant Professors Martha Alexander and Victoria Martin, with some undergraduate students and organized by Martha Alexander, put on a production of the Spanish comedy, El palco del Real.  Photographs courtesy of Joshua Grady.

Obituary for Catherine Maley (former ROMS faculty member)

February 11, 2019

Catherine Anne Maley

December 3, 1934 – February 1, 2019

St. Paul, MN

Dr. Catherine “Cappy” Anne Maley was born on December 3, 1934 in St. Paul, MN and passed away on February 1, 2019 in St. Paul, MN. Her parents were Clarence and Gertrude Maley.

Catherine grew up with a fascination for languages after hearing her father speak French and her Aunt Isabel Spanish. After graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall High School, she enrolled in the University of Minnesota to study foreign languages and became a member of the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority. In 1964 she went to the University of Michigan to earn her master’s degree and then her doctorate in Romance Linguistics in 1970. That same year she moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to teach.

Catherine was Professor Emerita of French and Romance Linguistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her distinguished career in academia saw many accolades along the way. In 1985 she was recognized by the Durham Hall Alumnae Association with the Carondelet Award in recognition of her significant professional success. In recognition of her work in French linguistics and her service to French-American cultural relations, the French Education Ministry appointed Professor Maley in 1994 as a foreign member (Chevalier) of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques. She also served as associate dean of the graduate school and director of the UNC Year-at-Montpellier, a junior year Study Abroad in France program.

A champion of gender equality, Catherine was very passionate about the advancement of women. She was an avid traveller, spending the greater part of her leisure time visiting friends and relatives, hitting the slopes of Aspen, eating tapas in Madrid, whale watching in Alaska or barbequing in the land down under. She loved to see the world and absorb cultures, language and human experiences.

She is survived by her brother, John (Karen) Maley, Easton, MD, as well as her many nieces and nephews: Thomas Maley Jr. Missoula, MT, Jeanne (Bob) Meyer, Osceolo, WI, Michael (Doreen) Maley, Redding, CA, Patti (Bob) Campbell, Robins, GA, Kathleen (Sven) Gustafson, Anchorage, AK, Sharon Herbelin, Vancouver, WA; Mark Benolken, St. Paul, MN; Julie (Rob) Benolken, St. Paul, MN; Carolyn Benolken, Portland, OR; Laura Maley, Pisa, Italy, Peter Maley, Chillicothe, IL; many great nieces and nephews, and her childhood friend, Marisa de Andrés, Madrid, Spain.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the IFA Fund in honor of Catherine Maley at the Society for French Historical Studies:, Chinard Book Prize/IFA Research Awards Fund.

A Celebration of Life will be held to remember Catherine on August 10, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. -12:00 p.m. in the President’s Dining Room of the Coeur de Catherine building of St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Published in The News & Observer on Feb. 11, 2019

ROMS Letter of Opposition to the Board of Trustees’ Proposal on the Confederate Monument

December 17, 2018

ROMS Letter of Opposition to the Board of Trustees’ Proposal on the Confederate Monument

We the following members of the Department of Romance Studies and affiliated students, faculty, staff, and alumni express our opposition to the proposal made Monday, December 3rd by the University administration to build an educational center to house the Confederate monument on campus. We find any solution that involves putting the Confederate monument back on the University campus unacceptable, and we call on the administration to take a strong position against the return of the Confederate monument to campus rather than continuing to treat its return as a viable option. As one of the largest departments on campus in terms of undergraduate instruction, we strive to create a university atmosphere that encourages engaged and enthusiastic learning. We thus oppose the presence of a monument on campus that serves as a reminder to many of our students of historical and current violence and oppression. It further endangers all of our students, particularly our minority students, by attracting white supremacists to our campus and growing police presence which has already led to increasing incidents of police brutality against students.

We would also encourage the administration to adopt a policy not to punish the graduate students and other instructors who are protesting this proposal, including those that protest by withholding their final grades. Further, we ask that the administration actively seek to dialogue regularly with student organizers about the future of the Confederate monument. Throughout the administration’s deliberations about the Confederate monument, before and since it was removed from campus, they have failed to properly take into account the outcry from students and faculty about the continued presence of the Confederate monument on the UNC campus. The University administration has continuously failed to enter into meaningful conversation with students and faculty about the Confederate monument, and has additionally failed to dialogue with members of the community located close to the proposed site for the educational center. We urge them to respond to the calls from those who would be most directly affected by the University’s proposed plan—the students, faculty, and staff as well as other community members close to the campus—rather than giving into pressure from the Board of Governors to consider returning the statue to campus.

We find the explanation that the Confederate monument cannot legally be removed from campus to be insufficient. We as a university have an obligation to take a moral stance on this issue, and to stand together against white supremacy. Legal technicalities or interpretations of the current statute are not worth endangering the physical and mental wellbeing of our students, who will continue to suffer as they have suffered in the past if the Confederate monument is returned to campus. The project for an educational center as proposed by the administration goes against the wishes of the campus community, acts contrary to the interests of our students, and represents an enormous financial commitment from the University that would be better used to fix existing problems such as building disrepair and lack of faculty.


Congratulations to André Keiji Kunigami

October 25, 2018

André Keiji Kunigami received his doctorate in Asian studies from Cornell University. He is a film and media scholar whose interests revolve around questions of perception, spectatorship, and temporality in the early 20th century so-called peripheral spaces to the “West.” At Carolina, he will work on revising his dissertation “Of Clouds and Bodies: Film and the Dislocation of Vision in Brazilian and Japanese Interwar Avant-garde” into a book manuscript. Before joining the University as a Carolina Postdoctoral Fellow, Keiji taught history of Brazilian and world cinema at the Fluminense Federal University.



Carolina has selected five postdoctoral scholars as 2018-20 Faculty Diversity Fellows. They are:

  • André Keiji Kunigami, Romance studies;
  • Jacob Lau, women’s and gender studies;
  • Sarah Mills, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center/Gillings School of Global Public Health;
  • Danielle Purifoy, geography; and
  • Annette Rodriguez, American studies.

The fellows receive paid two-year postdoctoral positions in their selected departments, additional funds for research, professional development and networking opportunities and a unique opportunity to work closely with a faculty mentor in their discipline.

The University launched the Carolina Postdoctoral Program for Faculty Diversity in 1983 as part of a continuing commitment to building a culturally diverse intellectual community and advancing scholars from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in higher education.