Dr. Kimberly Bohman-Kalaja, associate professor of literature in the Humanities External Master of Arts (HUX) program at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has been named a Fulbright Scholar for 2010-2011.
“I feel incredibly lucky and truly grateful,” she said of being selected for the prestigious program.
Bohman-Kalaja will spend the spring 2011 semester—from February to August—at the University of Tirana in Tirana, Albania, where she will be lecturing and conducting research on the way in which Albania’s writers are shaping the nation’s identity.
“I am interested in the way in which writers and poets see themselves in relation to their national identity,” said Bohman-Kalaja. “I’ve worked on narratives from England, France, and Ireland, and find that once a sense of national identity is firmly in place, it is rare, and sometimes dangerous, for people to question it. It will be so exciting to look at things while they are happening, while there is still a bit of the chaos that characterizes all things in process.”
Bohman-Kalaja first became interested in the region when she was a doctoral candidate at Princeton University and was asked to teach the works of one of Albania’s most influential writers, Ismail Kadare. In seeking to understand his work, she delved into the history of the country, which after centuries of occupation by the Roman and Ottoman empires spent several decades of the 20th century under oppressive communist rule.
“Such circumstances can make the literature extremely symbolic and metaphorical at times, as direct critiques were too dangerous. It is a painful legacy,” Bohman-Kalaja said of Albania’s troubled history. “It goes without saying that the recent wars of the Balkans, ethnic murders, and emigration have left plenty of scars too—and a certain cultural ambiguity for those on the geographical margins.”
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright program is an international educational exchange program designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. Fulbright recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
Bohman-Kalaja has a bachelor’s degree from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., a master’s degree in Irish writing from Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and a doctorate in comparative literature from Princeton University. She has been teaching literature courses through HUX, a distance learning master’s program at CSU Dominguez Hills, since 2005. She lives in New York City and also lectures at New York University.
Her first book, “Reading Games: An Aesthetics of Play in Flann O’Brien, Samuel Beckett and George Perec,” draws from economic game theory, social play theory and linguistics to posit a theory for reading innovative writers who use game and play to structure their texts.
Her research in Albania will contribute toward her second book, tentatively titled “Imagining Nations: The Politics of Poetics on the Margins of Europe,” which will investigate how writers negotiate historical memory as they write fiction to shape emerging nations, and how fiction balances the challenges of documenting an “authentic” history with the necessity of forgetting in order to imagine a sustainable identity within the framework of a 21st century Europe.
For more information on the Humanities Master of Arts program at CSU Dominguez Hills, click here.