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Monique R. Balbuena
Office Hours: Spring 2013: Tuesday 1 - 3:15pm
Modern Literature Editor, Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World
Senior Editor, The Levantine Review
Editorial Board, Journal of Jewish Identities
Editorial Board, Journal for the Study of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jewry
Monique Rodrigues Balbuena received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley, in December 2003. She was a Starr Fellow at the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University before joining the Clark Honors College in September 2004.
Balbuena is a translator and a scholar of comparative literature and Jewish studies. Her research interests lie in the relationship between language and identity; more pointedly, she is interested in how writers—usually multilingual writers—construct their identity through their choice of languages and intertexts. Doing comparative Jewish literatures, Balbuena has focused on literatures from North Africa (Maghreb) and Latin America. She has also given special attention to literatures by Sephardic Jews—roughly defined as those whose origins are in the Iberian Peninsula—and specifically to literature in Ladino, the Sephardic language par excellence. In fact, Balbuena is among a handful of scholars examining the production of contemporary literature—particularly poetry—in vernacular Judeo-Spanish (Ladino). She analyzes Ladino not only within the landscape of Jewish literature, but also within the context of how literature written in minor languages informs our reading of canonical works.
Balbuena's first book, Poe e Rosa à luz da cabala (Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 1994), is a comparative analysis of the shorter works of Brazilian novelist João Guimarães Rosa and Edgar Allan Poe, using theoretical concepts from Charles Sanders Peirce's Semiotics and allegorical-interpretive resources from Jewish Kabbalah. Her forthcoming volume, Sephardic Literary Identities in Diaspora (Stanford University Press), addresses the issue of multilingualism within a context of minor languages and literatures, nationalism and diaspora, through an examination of multicultural Jewish poets. It introduces three multilingual poets writing in minor or threatened languages, who challenge the usual consensus of Jewish literature, the general consensus on Jewish languages, and the theory of minor literatures: Algerian Sadia Lévy, Israeli Margalit Matitiahu, and Argentine Juan Gelman. Each one of them—Lévy writing in French and Hebrew, Matitiahu in Hebrew and Ladino, and Gelman in Spanish and Ladino—expresses a hybrid, composite Sephardic identity, through a strategic choice of competing languages and intertexts.
Four articles below are available in PDF, or see a more extensive selected list of Professor Balbuena's Publications.
"Ladino in Latin America: An Old Language in the New World." In Margalit Bejarano and Edna Aizenberg (orgs.). Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Approach. (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2012), pp. 161-183.
"Judeo-Spanish Texts in Latin American Genres: Language Revival and National Identity in Contemporary Argentina." Selected Papers from the Fifteenth British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, edl Hilary Pomeroy, Christopher J. Pountain and Elena Romero (London: Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies, Queen Mary, University of London, 2012), pp. 37-49.
"Athens, Salonika & Israel in Margalit Matitiahu's Poetry." Cadernos de Língua e Literatura Hebraica n.9. (São Paulo: FFLCH-USP, 2011), pp. 67-79.
"Dibaxu: A Comparative Analysis of Clarisse Nicoïdski's and Juan Gelman's Bilingual Poetry." Romance Studies 27, 4 (2009): 296-310.
"Symbolist Kinah? Laments and Modernism in the Maghreb," Iggud: Selected Essays in Jewish Studies. Vol. 3. Jerusalem: World Union of Jewish Studies/Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2007. 67-84. [World Congress of Jewish Studies, Ronʼelah Merdler, Baruch J. Schwartz, Abraham "A Melamed, Aharon Shemesh, and Tamar Alexander-Frizer. Igud: mivhar maʼamarim be-madʻe ha-Yahadut. Yerushalayim: ha-Igud ha-ʻOlami le-Madʻe ha-Yahadut, 2007, vol. 3, 67-84. ]