Acting Director of Comparative Literature
Anca Parvulescu's research and teaching interests include twentieth-century literature, modernity and modernism, literary and critical theory, narrative and the novel, and gender and feminist studies.
Her 2010 book, Laughter: Notes on a Passion (MIT Press) tells the story of a modern prohibition on laughter. The book shows how literary and philosophical texts, in dialogue with conduct books and visual culture, produce a normative aesthetics of the smiling face as an alternative to the contorted face in laughter. The book is an attempt to extricate laughter from theories of the comic, humor, jokes, the grotesque etc, and redirect our attention to the burst of laughter itself. What kind of subjects are we when we laugh?
Her second book, The Traffic in Women's Work: East European Migration and the Making of Europe (University of Chicago Press, 2014) is an intervention in the heated debate on the making and unmaking of Europe in the wake of 1989. It argues that the critical project of pluralizing Europe needs to account for the Europe brought together through the circulation of East European women’s labor. Reading recent cinematic texts that critically frame this labor, the book shows East European migrant women, alongside women from the global South, becoming responsible for the biopolitical labor of reproduction, whether they work as domestics, nannies, nurses, sex workers, or wives.
Comparatizing Transylvania: Inter-imperiality, Rurality and the Global Modernist Market is co-auhored with Manuela Boatca. The project is supported by an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship. The book places Transylvania in inter-related debates in World Literature, World History and World-Systems Analysis. How does “the world” look like from the vintage point of a small village in Transylvania? The aim of the project is to place this multi-ethnic and multilingual region in a comparative framework that yields a fresh perspective on comparatism.
Anca Parvulescu’s articles are published in journals like PMLA, New Literary History, Critical Inquiry, and Camera Obscura.
Her teaching is split between the English Department and The Interdisciplinary Project in the Humanities. She offers a range of interdisciplinary courses that bring literary, visual and theoretical texts into critical dialogue.
Anca Parvulescu currently serves as Director of Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature.