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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Comparative Literature

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jim Hicks

Second Advisor

Moira Inghilleri

Third Advisor

Ilan Stavans

Fourth Advisor

Nicholas Bromell

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Studies | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Language Interpretation and Translation | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Translation Studies


“Words in Motion” examines the poetics and politics of migrant epistolary networks. What is the role of the epistle and epistolary conventions in US migrant literature? And more specifically: How does the production, circulation, and consumption of letters reflect and bring into being forms of community and dialogue across national, linguistic, and cultural borders? What are the literary, translatory, and social practices involved in these acts of correspondence? And how might these practices constitute a poetics that avoids the commodification, institutionalization, and nationalization of migrant narratives? To address these questions, first, I historicize the traditional immigration narrative within the US in relation to the complex dynamics of nation building, in particular with a reading of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography as a familial letter. Second, I read “immigrant letters” through a case study of Mary Antin’s literary output in order to establish how epistolarity and self-translation can serve to counter or at least complicate nationalizing discourses about immigration. Third, I consider “refugee letters,” specifically their fictionalization in the work of Aleksandar Hemon, where the cultural and national in-between is articulated and performed through a strategy of pseudotranslation, staging an alternative to more familiar and reductive representations of the politically dispossessed migrant. Finally, in the conclusion to this project, I clarify how attention to epistolary and translatory practices can contribute to our understanding of migrant writing in the current US context.