Supervision

I am keen to supervise PhD and MA theses as well as postdoctoral research projects in the fields of contemporary global Anglophone literature; twentieth-century British fiction; trauma, memory, and Holocaust studies; postcolonial studies; and ecocriticism and environmental humanities.

PhD and postdoctoral research projects currently or recently supervised:

  • Children in European Comics from 1938 to Today: Constructions, Functions, and Transformations

    Dr. Maaheen Ahmed, FWO, 2017-2020; with Prof. Dr. Jan Baetens; terminated in 2018 to accept ERC Starting Grant

    Maaheen Ahmed‘s second postdoctoral project at Ghent University examines children in comics in order to show how they reflect changing conceptualizations of childhood over time and across cultures while also channelling adult anxieties and questioning social order and categories. Focusing on popular works from four major hubs of European comics productions – Belgium, France, Britain, and Germany – the project takes as its starting point the boom in comics production in the late 1930s and traces the representation of children in long-running, understudied comics magazines such as The Beano and Spirou as well as contemporary graphic novels. It analyses, contextualizes, and compares the representation of the child in these works in order to gain insight into the collective consciousness and its transformations as filtered through the child and the notion of childishness.

  • (Fallout) Shelter in Climate Change Fiction

    River Ramuglia, FWO, 2016-2020; with Prof. Dr. Pieter Vermeulen

    River Ramuglia‘s PhD project researches the metaphor, symbol, and theme of shelter as it is deployed in contemporary climate change fiction and ecocriticism, as historicized by the cultural proliferation of the fallout shelter during the Cold War.

  • Intergenerational Trauma in Jagersfontein

    Lerato Machetela, Stellenbosch University, 2016-2019; Erasmus Mundus Action 2 INSPIRE, 2016-2017; co-supervisor with Prof. Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela

    Lerato Machetela‘s PhD research stems from her work as a clinical psychologist in Jagersfontein, South Africa. In her study, she highlights the usefulness of broadening the conceptualization of trauma to include how trauma manifests in contexts where it is not only “post” but is continuous and presents itself through everyday lived trauma related to issues such as living under conditions of humiliation and depravity. Moreover, through her study, she seeks to explore how we can understand the concept of transgenerational and intergenerational trauma in a context like South Africa, where the third generation is exposed to extreme conditions that are tantamount to the traumatic experience of the second and first generations.

  • Across Generations and Genres: The Legacy of the Holocaust in Dutch-Jewish Literature

    Lisa Vanlancker, BOF, 2015-2019; co-supervisor with Prof. Dr. Jürgen Pieters; terminated in 2017

    Lisa Vanlancker‘s PhD project focuses on a corpus of literary texts about the Holocaust written by members of three successive generations from three different Dutch-Jewish families. It aims to understand how the historical trauma that is at the core of their writings has been represented and given meaning. As trauma takes on different shapes for each generation, it appears in different generic configurations: while first-generation writing primarily uses autobiographical genres such as the diary, memoir, or letter, second- and third-generation writers increasingly turn to fictional and often experimental modes of representation. By analysing a differentiated body of texts, ranging from first- to third-generation writing and covering a wide array of genres, this project examines the different ways in which texts by these Dutch-Jewish authors participate in and contribute to a culture of remembrance.

  • Historicizing Post-9/11 American Literature and Criticism through Biopolitics and a Genealogy of Statelessness

    Holly Brown, BOF, 2015-2018

    Holly Brown‘s PhD project demonstrates how a genealogy of statelessness can be used as a framework to consider previously unexplored links between pre- and post-9/11 American literature. Analysing the way in which literature has responded to the suspension of civil rights by the American government in the post-9/11 era, her research seeks to expose the enduring significance of “bare life” within American culture. She connects the wandering and negated male protagonist of the 9/11 canon, most famously articulated through the protagonists in Don DeLillo’s Falling Man and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, to earlier representations of figures who have been stripped of their political rights in order to explore a longer history of the interrogation of democratic ideals in the American context.

  • Conjuring Phantoms: A Comparative Study of Trauma in Comics

    Dr. Maaheen Ahmed, FWO, 2014-2017; with Prof. Dr. Jan Baetens

    Maaheen Ahmed‘s first postdoctoral project at Ghent University is on trauma in contemporary comics, relying on a broad definition of trauma to encompass the aftermath of large-scale events (the two world wars, 9/11) as well as the reverberations of psychological damage in difficult personal situations.

  • Expanding the Notion of Trauma Narration in Applied Theatre: A Post-Narrative and Postdramatic Inquiry into Trauma Reconstruction in Performance in Post-Transition South Africa

    Sofie de Smet, NRF-FWO, 2014-2017; co-supervisor with Prof. Dr. Christel Stalpaert and Prof. Dr. Lucia De Haene; terminated in 2015 to accept BOF PhD scholarship

    At the heart of Sofie de Smet‘s PhD research lies the blurring of the clear linearity between narration and trauma recovery, which forms the topic of emerging theoretical developments in both transcultural trauma psychology and theatre studies. Both fields display emerging theoretical developments that question how this dominant western trauma paradigm is underpinned by the assumption of a linear relationship between trauma narration and recovery in which retelling traumatic experiences directly leads to healing. Sofie focuses on these debates that analogously develop within the fields of transcultural trauma psychology and theatre studies, raising questions about the validity of the dominant paradigm. More specifically, her study aims at furthering the post-narrative paradigm shift in both fields through an empirical analysis of post-narrative modes of trauma recovery in applied theatre. By combining analytical approaches from both transcultural trauma psychology and theatre studies, the study aims to further the understanding of trauma recovery shaped by modes of coping beyond narration.

  • Postcolonial Mnemopoetics: Transnational Memory, Media, and Community in World Anglophone Poetry

    Maria Zirra, joint PhD Stockholm University – UGent, 2013-2017; co-supervisor with Prof. Dr. Stefan Helgesson and Prof. Dr. Bo Ekelund

    Maria Zirra’s PhD project addresses the multifaceted ways in which a number of poets from the Caribbean, Northern Ireland, and Southern Africa respond to contemporary political and social problems of decolonization by reading the past through a transnational lens. In her dissertation, she maps the most salient themes that arise when memory is imagined transnationally and transculturally in the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Bernardine Evaristo, Wopko Jensma, Dambudzo Marchera, and Ingrid de Kok.

  • Conjuguer la Shoah au présent. Représentation et incarnation de la mémoire du génocide juif dans la littérature contemporaine

    Dr. Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand, SSHRC, 2012-2014

    Evelyne Ledoux-Beaugrand‘s postdoctoral project focuses on representations of Holocaust memory by authors of the second and third generations, and examines more precisely how the body serves as a vector for memories of the genocide in postmemorial narratives.

  • Dave Eggers and Human Rights Culture

    Sean Bex, FWO, 2012-2016; with Prof. Dr. Pieter Vermeulen

    Sean Bex‘s PhD project explores the intersections of cultural memory and human rights through the lens of the oeuvre of the American author Dave Eggers. At the core of this research lies a two-pronged hypothesis. Firstly, that literary representations of traumatic memories in works such as Eggers’s What Is the What (2006) and Zeitoun (2009) can provide historical grounding for abstract human-rights discourses. Secondly, that human-rights discourse can in turn help memories to be articulated within a political and institutional framework. Additionally, Sean examines the ethical problems and questions arising from the literary form of Eggers’s recent works, which are conceived as collaborative testimonies in which a successful white, male, American author and a disadvantaged person of colour join forces in bearing witness to the latter’s traumatic past.

  • Independent Publishing, Social Activism, and the Ethics of ``Selling Out``: The Case of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern

    Dr. Katrien Bollen, FWO, 2012; with Prof. Dr. Pieter Vermeulen

    What is the socio-political effectiveness of literary magazines in our globalized and digital age in which all cultural artifacts can be considered commodities, and mobilizing citizens against the status quo seems to have become the prerogative of the social media, as recent phenomena such as the Occupy Movement or the Arab Spring illustrate? Katrien Bollen‘s postdoctoral project examines the relation between ethics and aesthetics through a case study of the highly influential yet curiously understudied literary magazine Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (˚1998), founded and edited by American author and social activist Dave Eggers. In addition to opening up McSweeney’s for scholarly research, the project combines an analysis of the magazine’s content with an examination of what Genette has termed paratextual elements (e.g., cover design and blurbs) and epitexts (e.g., book reviews and media coverage). Against the backdrop of periodical studies as well as recent theories of independent publishing, commodification, and social activism – including Žižek’s category of “liberal communists,” rich entrepreneurs who, like Bill Gates or U2 frontman Bono, redirect part of their proceeds to non-profit organizations – this project tests the hypothesis that independent publishing methods and values are potentially instrumental to the cause of social justice.

  • Trauma beyond the Biomedical Paradigm: Avenues for a Subject-Oriented and Contextual Trauma Approach

    Gregory Bistoen, BOF, 2011-2015; co-supervisor with Prof. Dr. Stijn Vanheule

    In recent years the hegemonic, biomedical approach to psychic trauma, which focuses on the individual and is based on a mechanical idea of trauma, has been strongly criticized. This project aims to develop an alternative approach that is both subject-oriented and contextual. Possibilities and implications of this alternative approach will be explored.

  • Intersecting Memories: The Representation of the Holocaust and State Violence in (Post-)Yugoslav Literature

    Dr. Stijn Vervaet, FWO, 2011-2014

    Stijn Vervaet’s postdoctoral project focuses on the representation of the Holocaust in the work of Yugoslav authors of different generations and investigates how the memory of the Holocaust is constructed, transmitted, and evoked in relation to the representation of other instances of extreme state violence, such as during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Exploring how Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian fiction constructs and transmits memories of the Holocaust and examining how these memories intersect with other histories of suffering in the region, he seeks to contribute to the debate about the workings of trauma and memory, and about the aesthetic and ethical aspects of the intergenerational transmission of traumatic memory.

  • Playing with Trauma in Video Games: Interreactivity, Empathy, Perpetration

    Tobi Smethurst, BOF, 2011-2015

    Tobi Smethurst‘s PhD thesis investigates the under-theorized potential of video games to represent psychological trauma in ways that “traditional” trauma-fiction media such as novels, films, or autobiographies cannot. It argues that, because of the inter(re)activity which is unique to the video game medium, games are able to present a variety of ways of making the player identify and/or empathize with protagonists and, through them, to virtually experience traumatized perspectives or perpetrate traumatizing acts. The thesis conducts a series of close readings of games (The Walking DeadLimboSpec Ops: The Line, and others) that integrate trauma aesthetically and mechanically; that is, both visually/sonically/thematically and on the level of the rules which govern the experience of actually playing and progressing through the game.