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Marshall Joins Elite Theory and Criticism Scholars at Cornell University
Some people consider the study of theory to be torture. But April Marshall, assistant professor of Spanish at Seaver College, devoted six weeks of her summer to studying the theory of torture. "It was amazing," she says.
Marshall was selected from a pool of over 200 applicants to attend the prestigious School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York from June 15 to July 24. Every summer since its founding in 1976, the school brings together preeminent figures in critical thought from around the globe to explore recent developments in literary and humanistic studies.
"Each year the thematic focus is unique. This summer it was on torture and victimhood," Marshall says, noting her scholarly background is in the rhetoric of disease and illness in Latin American literature. "My suspicion was that the rhetoric of illness and disease would overlap with torture – the way we depict torture, the metaphors we use."
Participants work with the school's core faculty of distinguished theorists in one of four six-week seminars. Each faculty member offers a public lecture and a colloquium, which are attended by the entire student body. The program also includes several mini-seminars and lectures by visiting distinguished theorists and presentations on other topics like music and art.
Marshall was able to engage one-on-one with world-renown culture theorist Homi Bhabha, whose work she studied as a doctoral student. "To hear him speak was really fascinating and a once in a lifetime opportunity," she says. "In the world of theory, it was like a rock star had come. People were snapping pictures, the auditorium was packed, and people had his books for him to autograph."
Another highlight for Marshall was working with Judith Butler, who is a well-known theorist of power, gender, sexuality, and identity. "She sat down and explained her way of thinking through a text, which was phenomenal. It was extremely useful and really provides insight to see how someone else works."
A portion of Marshall's tuition for the program was contributed by the Seaver College International Studies and Language division, the Center for Teaching Excellence, and the Office of the Associate Provost for Research.
"It's important that Pepperdine is part of the conversation about theory and criticism on a global level," Marshall says, adding that this year's group of students was the most international to date. "The people here wrote the founding pieces of literature and theory in trauma studies. To be a part of that is monumental."