Claire Jimenez, April Langley, Joy Peltier, and Tharini Viswanath
UofSC’s Department of English is thrilled to offer a very warm welcome to our newly arrived tenured and tenure-track faculty.
Claire Jimenez comes to us from the University of Nebraska, where earlier this year she completed a PhD in creative writing with a concentration in fiction, along with certificates in ethnic studies and digital humanities. She is the author of Staten Island Stories (Johns Hopkins University Press), a loosely linked collection of short stories that travels across time to explore defining moments in Staten Island history, such as the 2003 Staten Island Ferry crash, the New York City Blackout, the Island’s opioid crisis, Eric Garner’s murder, and the 2016 presidential election. These stories examine how the characters within them navigate challenges posed by racism, classism, and addiction. Dr. Jimenez’s current project, What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez, is a novel set during the 2008 recession, following Puerto Rican sisters Nina and Jessica Ramirez from Staten Island, New York. Nina and Jessica’s middle sister Ruthy disappeared in 1997, when she was thirteen years old. Ten years later the sisters believe they have spotted Ruthy on a raunchy reality TV show, in which a group of women live with and bitterly fight each other in the same house for six months. Told through the multiple rotating points of view of the sisters and their mother, this novel explores intergenerational violence, race, colonialism, and silence, as the Ramirez family searches for Ruthy. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez is forthcoming from Grand Central at Hachette in the Spring of 2023.
In addition to her creative writing, Dr. Jimenez has also worked for the African Poetry Digital Portal as a research assistant to develop digital spatial visualizations and bibliographic profiles of key contemporary African Writers. In 2020 she co-founded The Puerto Rican Literature Project, a free digital archive, with a team of Puerto Rican writers and scholars from the archipelago and the diaspora, in partnership with the U.S. Latino Digital Humanities Program at the University of Houston. In 2021, the team secured a 1.3-million-dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further develop the archive.
April Langley joins the department from the University of Missouri, where she helped achieve department status for African American Studies and then chaired that department from 2018 to 2022. At UofSC, she holds a joint position in English and African American Studies, and is the first Chair of the Department of African American Studies (formerly the African American Studies Program).
Dr. Langley specializes in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century African American and American literature and theory. Her courses include such topics as early black narrative forms (conversion, captivity, slave narration, travel, and spiritual autobiography), eighteenth-century Afro-British American poetics, and nineteenth-century black women writers. Her interdisciplinary research integrates African Diaspora literature, African, American and African American Studies, and Black Feminist/Womanist theory and criticism. She has published articles in The Western Journal of Black Studies, a/b: Autobiography Studies, bma/Sonia Sanchez Literary Review, as well as review essays for Legacy and Early American Literature. Her book, The Black Aesthetic Unbound: Theorizing the Dilemma of Self and Identity in Eighteenth-Century African American Literature (Ohio State University Press), explores the culturally specific African origins of the eighteenth-century Afro-British American literary and cultural self through a conceptualization of the dilemma posed by competing African, American, and British cultural identities. Additional book projects include Looking for Phillis, an in-depth study on the Senegambian poetics and oral traditions that influence the poetry of Phillis Wheatley.
Joy Peltier completed her PhD in Linguistics at the University of Michigan in 2022. Dr. Peltier’s research centers on language in contact and in context. This theme captures both her languages of interest (Creoles and other high-contact and minoritized language varieties, such as Kwéyòl Donmnik [Dominica Creole]) and her linguistic features of interest (e.g., pragmatic elements, such as pragmatic markers). She is also passionate about the broad inclusion of minoritized languages in linguistics pedagogy and research and is engaged in work centered on the linguistic and professional experiences of Black faculty in the language sciences. Dr. Peltier loves that being a linguist gives her opportunities to spark ah-ha! moments about varieties and features of language that are marginalized, stigmatized, or overlooked. In her work, she draws upon a mixture of methodologies, including corpus-based analyses, metalinguistic interviews and surveys, and experimental tasks.
One of Dr. Peltier’s current projects explores pragmatic markers in Kwéyòl Donmnik (e.g., konsa [“so”] and Bondyé [“God”]), an understudied and endangered Creole language, and in English (e.g., so, oh my God), the language with which it has been in intense contact for over 200 years. This work has inspired her to dig deeper into the ways in which pragmatic markers are used as expressions of identity and cultural knowledge as well as multifunctional communication tools, particularly within minoritized communities. In collaboration with researchers at the University of Michigan, she is examining the language attitudes and labeling practices of Creole language speakers and of linguists in order to generate recommendations for better integrating Creoles languages into linguistics classrooms. Dr. Peltier has studied the functions of the French pragmatic marker bon (“well”) and written about Creole languages as they relate to humans’ vast linguistic capabilities. She is currently writing a book chapter that provides an overview of noun phrases across Caribbean Englishes and English lexified Creoles.
Tharini Viswanath comes to the department from Kennesaw State University, having completed her PhD at Illinois State University in 2020. She specializes in children’s and young adult literature and culture. Dr. Viswanath’s book project, The Discursive Material of the Sexualized Feminine Body in Young Adult Literature, unites two seemingly disparate strands of feminist theory—the linguistic, which emphasizes the relationship between language and power, and the material, which argues that the human body has its own agency. The book contends that the adolescent feminine body is the site of both the linguistic and the material, which combine to grant the young female character agency. From this insight it follows that a character’s silencing does not necessarily mean a loss of agency: our bodies are, in one way or another, agentic responses to the cultures that we live in. The book’s main chapters are organized to emphasize this material-linguistic agency, focusing on the sexualized adolescent body, the maternal body, the cyborg body, the multiracial body, and the transgender body, respectively.
Dr. Viswanath’s research on picture books and young adult novels and films has appeared in several internationally acclaimed children’s literature journals including Papers: Explorations into Children’s Literature, The Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, and The ALAN Review. In addition to her scholarly work, Dr. Viswanath has written a picture book called Catch That Cat! which has been translated into eight languages.