SSHRC grant for research on the Naturalist literary movement: a different project due to COVID-19
September 8, 2022
Congratulations to Dr. Corina Sandu, Associate Professor of the Department of English, French, and Writing, for receiving a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant for “Poétiques du moi et de l'altérité à travers la correspondance des naturalistes (Poetics of the Self and Otherness through the Correspondence of Naturalists).”
Naturalism was a literary movement from 1865 to 1900 that used detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment was an inescapable force in shaping human character. Naturalistic writers were influenced by the evolution theory of Charles Darwin.
The project will examine the correspondence of Naturalist writers to identify new poetics of the self and otherness in the context of the global diffusion of the Naturalist movement. Dr. Sandu and collaborator Élise Cantiran, Associate Researcher from Paris 3 La Sorbonne Nouvelle Item / CNRS, Adjunct Director of the CIEF (interuniversity center for French Studies) and Lecturer at the French Department of the University Eötvös Loránd, will examine the relationship between literature and ethics to stress the new perspective on the writer's willingness to make room for a new category of characters.
“The project we are currently working on was born out of our concern for the adaptation of educational practices to the new demands of the pandemic and our common passion for the works of Naturalist writers,” says Dr. Sandu.
The correspondence of American Naturalist writers has not been widely researched and they will be the focus of Dr. Cantiran’s work. The parallel between the French and American writers’ bodies of work has also not been considered. “Therefore, our work will represent a contribution to the field of literary studies (French literature and comparative literature),” says Dr. Sandu.
The project had its beginnings in December 2020 when Drs. Sandu and Cantiran met during VILDIC ’20 (the International Conference on Visual Literacy and Digital Communication: the Role of Media in New Educational Practice). They are working on the project while living and teaching on two different continents, allowing them to experience the concept of otherness, with everything that it means in today’s society, due to the time difference and belonging to different academic institutions and cultural practices.
Dr. Sandu explains that, while the project focuses on 19th century writers, there was a connection to the modern-day situation that we find ourselves in with COVID-19. “The project could not have been done in a non-pandemic world,” she says.
“Whether as a researcher, a professor, or just a citizen, the current context of the pandemic makes us interested in social relations and how major world events shape them, so a study of the image of the Other in 19th-century epistolary discourse in relation to the beginnings of cultural globalization resonates with our modern world: how do authors represent Otherness in a changing world that influences the configuration of our current society in so many ways?” says Dr. Sandu.
The project will have an essential pedagogical component, which will be included in course content taught both at King's and at the University of Budapest. The project will include the efforts of three senior students enrolled in the French program at King’s who will act as research assistants, and without whom the project would not be feasible, says Dr. Sandu.
“I am most grateful and happy to have had the encouragements of my chair, Dr. Krista Lysack; the expert assistance of our King’s Research Facilitator, Dr. Trevor Bieber; the advice of expert colleagues such as Dr. Antonio Calcagno and Dr. Laura Melnyk Gribble. Everyone I needed to consult at King’s, from the Dean’s Office to the Finance Department, was always there, so this is (another) one of the reasons I would say the pandemic brought us closer despite our working from a distance,” says Dr. Sandu.
Dr. Sandu adds that “(t)his project could not have been done in another university. I have been teaching at King’s since 2018 and everyone who knows me has heard how much I love being a member of the King’s community. I love my students, my colleagues, and my work here.”