LCL Ph.D. Student Wins International Fellowship

Doctoral student Joscha Valentin Jelitzki was awarded the Franz Werfel Fellowship by the Austrian Agency for Education and Internationalisation (OeAD) in the spring of 2024.  He is currently in Vienna conducting the research that the Fellowship was awarded to support.
Joscha joined the department in 2019 as a PhD student in German and Judaic Studies. In his dissertation he describes the aesthetics of desire in modernist literature from Jewish writers in fin-de-siècle Vienna. In contrast to our contemporary notion of desire as forming an identity, his project rediscovers desire as something that constitutively splits the subject. The project further demonstrates how Jewish-Christian differences were conceived as sexual differences in Central Europe around 1900.
Before coming to UConn Joscha studied in Berlin, Frankfurt/Oder, and Jerusalem, and worked as a research assistant for the critical edition of the works of Hannah Arendt. At UConn he teaches courses on German language, literature, and cinema. He has published an article on the poetics of Martin Buber’s life writing (Martin-Buber-Studien 2022, co-authored with Sarah Ambrosi). His article on the biblical figure of Job and its modern reception, co-authored with Dr. Sebastian Wogenstein, is accepted for publication. Currently, Joscha is writing an article on the recent emergence of German Jewish gangster rap.
The Franz Werfel Fellowship is allowing Joscha to further a specific dimension of his doctoral research. In 2022, he presented a chapter draft at the Viennese Jewish Studies Colloquium, which offered a comparative reading of the notion of ‘drive’ in Freud and in the Talmud. As a visiting researcher he will have access to the numerous literary archives of the city of Arthur Schnitzler and Bertha Pappenheimer, and connect the literary material to the authentic urban streets and neighborhoods of today. Dr. Wilhelm Hemecker (Vienna) and Dr. Brigitte Spreitzer (Graz) will offer their expertise from decades of scholarship in the field to support Joscha in his research and act as his local advisors.

German Studies Student Wins Prestigious Fellowship

Guerlina Philogene, a senior in German Studies’ dual-degree EUROBIZ program, has been named a graduate fellow in the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Graduate Program, funded by the United States Department of State and administered by Howard University. The program, which welcomes applications from members of underserved minority communities, prepares students for foreign service careers in the State Department.

Guerlina says she became aware of her strong interest in a diplomatic career thanks to her experiences in LCL, in particular with her advisers in the German Section, professors Anke Finger and Sebastian Wogenstein. “Before enrolling into UConn or EUROBIZ,” Guerlina says, “I met with Anke Finger and spoke to her about my deep interest in German and international relations.” Later, Sebastian “hinted to me, during my exchange year, that it appeared that I am more interested in foreign relations.” Guerlina concludes, “They both seemed to have known where my mind was headed before I discovered my passion while in Brussels.”

According to the announcement in UConn’s campus publication Today, 

Following her graduation from UConn, Philogene will attend graduate school and take part in Pickering activities during her summer break between years in Washington, D.C. She will also take part in a two-week program in Washington this summer as an orientation to the program. Upon completion of graduate school, Philogene will have a 10-week overseas internship at a United States embassy or consulate. Philogene will then have a five-year commitment to State Department employment in foreign service.

Guerlina generously credits her time in LCL with helping her form the broad perspective necessary for a diplomatic career. She says, “The topics we talk about during my German courses also resonate deeply with my goals representing the United States. We discussed topics that are not often talked about when you think about Germany such as for example, Turkish, Black, and Vietnamese minority groups and their experiences.”

LCL, Guerlina relates, “became a place of refuge for me to study.” Moreover, her time in the department represented an important part of her development as a future global leader. “Whenever I go abroad,” she continues, “I always try my best to represent groups that are often looked over when speaking about the US. The German department although small, exemplifies diversity and pushing boundaries.”

Congratulations, Guerlina!

Liansu Meng’s Ecofeminist Illumnination of Poet Chen Jingrong

As part of the LCL Faculty Colloquium Series, Liansu Meng, Associate Professor of Chinese, presented “Ecofeminism Avant La Lettre: Chen Jingrong and Her Creative Translation of Baudelaire.” The presentation was excerpted from her essay in Chinese Poetry and Translations: Rights and Wrongs (Amsterdam University Press, 2019) edited by Maghiel van Crevel and Lucas Klein, a book that brings new thinking to the interrelations between translation, poetry and China.  It is also part of a chapter in her forthcoming book Man/Woman, Machine/Nature: Modern Chinese Poetry at the Intersection of Industrialism and Feminism (1915-1980) with the University of Michigan Press. Chen Jingrong belonged to a poetic lineage that performed translations of Western works into Chinese in order to stimulate innovation in Chinese poetry.  Chen was the only woman translator of Baudelaire and one of the very few women poets of her generation.  Blending translation and reception studies, Professor Meng explored Chen’s original interpretation of Baudelaire’s poetry in her critical essays, her translations and her own poetry, drawing a contrast between Chen’s approach to Baudelaire and those of his male translators to argue that the differences between theirapproaches can be mapped onto an early form of ecofeminism.

Chen moved to Shanghai in 1946 shortly after the end of the Japanese occupation of the city when the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) drew to a close with the defeat of Japan in WWII. China resumed the unresolved civil war between the Nationalist Party (GMD) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). (The CCP would finally prevail against the GMD in 1949).  Although Shanghai was controlled by the GMD in 1946, when Chen published her first essay on Baudelaire,  “Baudelaire and the Cat” (波德莱尔与猫), the CCP’s influence dominated the intellectual underground and championed a political realist-inspired poetics dubbed the “People’s Poetry” that was supposed to appeal to the masses. Baudelaire’s bourgeois poetry was not considered appropriate and Chen faced grave criticism from an all-male community of literary critics for translating a decadent Western poet.

In her essay, Chen characterizes Baudelaire as a poet who feels equal empathy for all things,  especially “minor and small things,” which “he painted . . . with a layer of miraculous radiance.” Intellectuals in China had been drawn to Social Darwinism from early twentieth century. Chen pointed to the savagery of the war to refute the theory, arguing shocking cruelty towards their own kind and other creatures proved that humans had not evolved as a species. In Baudelaire’s deceptively simple invocations of everyday things, Chen argued that he created images infused with the unpretentious feeling of lived experience and empathy for the poor and the marginalized, precisely because he had written from the point of view of his own experiences of suffering.

In response to her critics, Chen published another essay in 1947, “On My Poetry and Poetry Translation” (我的诗和译诗) in which she foregrounded her identity as a woman, associating her individual suffering with the universal oppression of women and other injustices. This was a bold stand to take considering many male intellectuals’ confident assertions that women’s equality in China had been achieved or was included in the discourses of class, revolution and national survival. In the essay Chen sketched out what Liansu Meng described as eco-feminism avant la lettre, a poetics that emphasizes the interconnection and co-existence of all living things and advocates for a wide spectrum of empathy that spans across such categories as class, gender, age, physical ability, and extends to animals and the natural environment.  Chen addressed the issue of gender relations head-on, arguing that again and again women demonstrated their strength, resourcefulness, and empathy in the face of unspeakable challenges, their resilience and compassion offering its own testimony about the range of women’s agency.  In her talk, Meng characterized Chen’s interpretations of Baudelaire as eco-feminist also because Baudelaire’s symbolically-saturated landscapes, their startling juxtapositions of life, death, suffering and decay, pointed towards a new poetics that she drew on in her own poetry to describe landscapes that had been desecrated by war. Meng argued that “the endless oppression of Chinese women enabled them to urgently and sensitively critique this and other injustices in the world—a view which echoes Chen’s reading of Baudelaire’s poetics.”  In this way, Professor Meng concluded, Chen made the case for women’s agency and their empathy that was born from their gendered experience of suffering.

Women’s Patronage: Wielding Power in Sixteenth-Century Spain

Rosa-Helena Chinchilla gave the opening lecture in the third year of the LCL’s Faculty Lecture Series. Professor Chinchilla specializes in Golden Age Spanish Poetry and Prose, Spanish Humanism and religious life in colonial Guatemalan culture. Her talk presented the final stage of a new book project on women’s literary patronage in sixteenth-century Spain. (She received the contract from Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs-Delaware UP).

Literary historians have acknowledged the role of famous women patrons. Chinchilla looks, however, to deepen our understanding of how they acquired the influence, education, and wealth they needed to launch their own projects or to nurture the works of others. The women she described were all from prominent aristocratic or royal families, most spoke many languages and had extensive educations, some modeled on humanist ideals. All took advantage of their educations and proximity to power to contest for control over their financial affairs often in legal conflicts over inheritances with sons, as was the case with Mencía de Mendoza y Figueroa (1421-1499) and Mencía de Mendoza y Fonseca (1508-1554). Both were able to separate and restore some of the property brought to their marriages or even acquired through it, and this wealth in turn became the source of endowments, gifts and protections. Political skills were as important as wealth for patronage to be effective. Princess Joanna, who was married to Prince John of Portugal before she returned to Spain as queen regent in 1554, proved her mettle in protecting religious luminaries like the Dominican preacher Louis of Granada and the newly established order of the Jesuits. Her interventions on behalf of the Jesuits were so effective that she was secretly and exceptionally inducted into the all-male order in honor of that protection.

The abilities and energy that allowed these women to maneuver in political and legal systems designed to limit women’s power were no doubt part and parcel of why they went on to develop and support a rich array of landmark cultural projects. Chinchilla’s highlights Juana of Aragon’s patronage of the first Spanish translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy by Pedro Fernández de Villegas; Mercia de Mendoza y Fonseca’s support of the poet Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, and many works of botany and the second Spanish edition of a Greek grammar; Maria Enriquez de Luna founded institutions, the Santa-Clara convent and a colegiata both in Gandía. These women and others also supported the production of a devotional works, volumes of poetry, religious letters, books of hours. They commissioned paintings, sculpture, and buildings and in so doing helped to shape the cultural heritage of Spain. In exploring their contributions, Professor Chinchilla seeks to shed light on the vital roles women played in early modern cultural production.

Spotlight: Simone Puleo

Simone Maria Puleo is a PhD candidate in the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies section of LCL. He is a native of Palermo, Sicily and moved to the United States when his parents decided to relocate their pastry business, living briefly in New York and Connecticut before settling in South Florida. Before coming to UConn Simone obtained a BA and an MA in English at Florida Atlantic University. After the bustle of Boca Raton, Simone loved the tranquility at the University of Connecticut.


Growing up in the United States, Simone was exposed to English novels, such as Lord of the Flies, while in the American school system. At home he had access to many classics of Italian literature, such as Dante’s Divina Commedia. When he applied to CLCS at UConn, Simone decided to build on the interdisciplinary approach acquired during his undergraduate degree to bring together his interests in English Literature and in his Italian roots. He has found a real home in CLCS because it has provided him with the freedom to pursue work across disciplines: he is working under Wayne Franklin in English, Sarah Winter in CLCS, and with Norma Bouchard, an Italian professor previously in LCL who is now Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at San Diego State University.


Reflecting on his hybrid of cultural background, Simone developed an interest in works at the intersection of Italian and American literatures and cultures. He decided to explore an unusual vein of nineteenth-century travel writing—Americans traveling to Italy during the Risorgimento (the Italian Unification Movement). These visitors to Italy arrived during a moment when liberal and anti-clerical political sentiments were on the rise. The Americans travelers, mostly of Protestant background, tended to fall into two categories: those that saw Italy as an “open-air museum” that fetishized Italian artworks and the legend of the Renaissance, and the travelers who enjoyed art and history, but who were more invested in its people, in contemporary Italian politics, and in what was happening in Italian society. This latter group of travelers, including the famed transcendentalist author Margaret Fuller, became active in the political debates of the Risorgimento instead of contenting themselves with a more superficial cultural engagement.


Simone brings his personal interests and bi-cultural background into the classes he teaches and to his music. He’s played music his whole life, experimenting with genres ranging from Brazilian percussion to punk rock. While he says that he sees his music as a “respite from academic work,” the two nonetheless inform each other. He uses the poetry and the poetics he has internalized while studying literature to help him write lyrics for his songs. His tendency to merge disciplines has not only been beneficial to his music, it has also shaped his approach to teaching. In a twentieth-century Italian literature class he taught recently, Simone had his students look for visual representations of the cityscapes in Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities. From this vantage point, students could reflect on the connections between modes of storytelling whether oral written, or visual. Simone believes that the merging of fields is essential to cultivating geopolitical and critical awareness in the students.

New UConn Major Aims for Cultural Connections

The new Arabic and Islamic Civilizations program at the University of Connecticut hopes to bring context and conversation to an increasingly connected world by offering courses ranging from the classical to the contemporary.

The program, which will include a major and minor track, will launch during the 2018-19 academic year, Dr. Nicola Carpentieri, Assistant Professor and Chair of Arabic and Islamic studies at UConn, said.

“One of the great assets of this program is that students have a choice to focus on contemporary issues like modern Arabic literature, Arabic cinema or the press,” Carpentieri said. “Or they can focus on the classical heritage.”

Courses under the major will provide for a variety of interests with topics including classical Arabic literature, folk tales, Arabic media and more, Carpentieri said.

“I had to create about 14 new courses to cover the kinds of things that I think students would be interested in,” Carpentieri said. “We also have quirky things like a course on folk tales and advice literature for princes…These kinds of things are part of Islamicate culture.”

Among the program’s many goals is to provide a distinction between Arabic and Islamic culture and to study their interaction, Carpentieri said.

“We aim here to give a plural and inclusive view of Arabic and Islamic civilizations in many linguistic traditions but also different religious traditions,” Carpentieri said.  “Arabic is always associated with Islam but that’s a very simplistic association.”

Morgan Boudreau, a senior graduating this May with an individualized major in Arabic and Islamic Studies, said she is elated to see her interests reflected in the new courses.

“It’s really nice to see that once I graduate people will be able to pursue that degree path,” Boudreau said. “I think UConn is a great place for this program because they have such a unique student body.”

Janae McMillan, a sixth-semester political science major, said that for some students such as herself, UConn provided the first opportunity to explore the Arab world and spurred interest in pursuing further studies about this topic in the future.

“I think it’s important that students have the opportunity to learn about other cultures, especially those that are as fascinating as Arabic and Islam,” McMillan said. “I started at the college level and now that I know how amazing it is, I wish other students could have that same possibility.”

Carpentieri said he is enthusiastic about the program’s future.

“There’s a lot to be learned I think,” Carpentieri said. “If students are interested in the Arab world and Islam, we hope to offer this to open the eyes of people on the positive values of every culture.”


This article first appeared on the Daily Campus on 2/8/2018 and was written by Colin Sitz. The photo is from Dunia: Kiss Me Not on the Eyes directed by Jocelyne Saab (2015).

Miller is First Leon Charney Visiting Scholar

Dr. Stuart S. Miller, professor of Hebrew, history and Judaic studies and a member of the classics and Mediterranean studies section of the Department of Literatures, Cultures and Languages at the University of Connecticut at Storrs, will be the first Leon Charney Visiting Scholar at YU’s Center for Israel Studies (CIS).

“Stuart Miller is a leading historian of the Rabbis, world-renowned for his careful and meticulous analysis of both rabbinic literature and archaeology with the goal of really understanding the lives and words of the sages in Talmudic Israel,” said Dr. Steven Fine, Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History and director of CIS. “We are honored that he will spend time on our campus, learn with our scholars and share with our students.”

Miller is equally delighted to be at Yeshiva University and CIS. “I look forward to spending time with colleagues and friends and to meeting with students, especially those who might have an interest in studying the history, literature and archaeology of Talmudic-period Israel.”

One project that Miller proposes to work on while at YU is a new book. “My working title for the book,” he said, “is From Temple, to Home, To Community: The Survival and Transformation of Jewish Life in Roman Palestine in the Wake of Catastrophe.” His other publications include Studies in the History and Traditions of Sepphoris (E. J. Brill, 1984), Sages and Commoners in Late Antique ’Erez Israel: A Philological Inquiry into Local Traditions in Talmud Yerushalmi (Mohr-Siebeck, 2006) and, most recently, At the Intersection of Texts and Material Finds: Stepped Pools, Stone Vessels, and Ritual Purity Among the Jews of Roman Galilee (included in the Journal of Ancient Judaism Supplement Series, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015).


This editorial first appeared in Yeshiva University’s faculty news blog and was written by Michael Bettencourt.

Challenging a Persistent Myth: What Professors Do

A proposal built into the new budget would require professors to increase their teaching loads from four to five courses per year. This proposal plays on a myth about the nature of the work that university professors perform. The fact is that professors must juggle three areas of activity which are profoundly inter-connected and without which a research university could simply not function. This is because, unlike other kinds of teachers, professors actively participate in the creation of the knowledge that eventually gets taught in the classroom as well as in the complex processes that verify the reliability of that knowledge over time.

If you’ve ever marveled at the complexity of a large international airport, a university like UConn is like that airport on steroids. Each professor belongs to two different cohorts: the teaching cohort within their departments and the research cohort that mostly exists outside their university. This last is because each professor participates in a network made up of other researchers from around the globe with whom they are in conversation about their particular specialty. This is true whether their field involves the DNA signaling in the production of a given protein, or the impact of temperature variations on ocean currents, or patient outcomes from early versus delayed angiography, or about how social media transform people’s sense of experience, presence, and connection. This global community works and competes to set the agendas about what is most important and promising, and in the process, also monitors the protocols and review processes for that particular field.

The on-campus cohort is the department, which is typically composed of specialists who work in very different fields. This is so that universities can provide maximal educational coverage to its students. What this translates into practically is that the activities in a given department are so varied and complex that no department head can really keep track of them all nor understand even the central debates of many of the fields covered under his or her disciplinary remit.

This is why the service end of what professors do is just as crucial as research and teaching and why universities are largely run via committee. Only the people who actually do the research on the ground are in a position to communicate what lines of research are important and thus which new hires need to be prioritized, which equipment purchased, which journals need to be acquired or founded, what new classes and programs might need development and which ideas and processes might need to be included in the constant vetting and quality-monitoring that are part of the process of creating knowledge based on verifiable standards. When one considers all of the different disciplines that co-exist across the university, the staggering level of a university’s complexity as an institution and the challenges that are involved in managing it come into better focus. The fact is no one has figured out a more efficient way of running things than via committee because committees staffed by stakeholders from different fields guarantee the bottom-up decision-making and resource allocation that keep universities innovating. It can be frustrating, but anything else, that is to say, more top-down structures end up doing critical harm to the research mission of universities because no small group has the expertise to see in what direction so many different fields and subfields are evolving.

All of this is why professors must be actively engaged in teaching, research, and committee work to perform their jobs. This does not even include the work of implementing and running all kinds of programs designed to improve the student experience; the bureaucracy that comes with such a large institution serving so many people and so many ends; the writing of grant applications that support research and teaching; outreach, recruitment, and compliance; and the vetting letters for peers and for students at each step of this incredible ladder of increasing specialization and innovation. The intersection of all of these activities is why professors work very long hours indeed (80 and more hour weeks are common) and rarely take time away; time off is time to focus on research without the distractions that are part and parcel of the dynamic semester. No leg of this three-legged stool is more important than the other; they are all indispensable to the function of any serious research institution.

The above explains one reason why the myth that all professors do is teach “two courses a semester” is so absurd. If one merely looks at the cohort of people being described this way—check out the CVs of professors in any department at UConn—what you find are people who have been among the most successful of their cohort for their entire lives. In other words, they are demon workers. Becoming an academic is choosing a path that is always against long odds. Academics are essentially entrepreneurs: they make everything happen for themselves, creating opportunity out of whole cloth. They must have the capacity to develop innovative ideas for their research, convince funding agencies to support it, and then get well-established peers to publish their results. They have their accomplishments vetted with a scrutiny that would be hard to fathom in most other professions. What is different about professors compared to other entrepreneurs is that they are primarily motivated by their love of knowledge, teaching, and discovery. These priorities are why, despite years of salary freezes and being asked to do more with less, UConn professors have dug in to support their institution. They strongly believe in its public mission.

Finally, two classes per semester is not an arbitrary number somehow chosen for UConn; it is the global standard for a research university. To ignore this standard by increasing the teaching load would effectively transform UConn into a backwater. To remain competitive, our most productive researchers would be forced to look for work elsewhere. Over the longer term, UConn would no longer attract premier scholars, whether as teachers or as students. From economic engine and knowledge-generating hub the university would be relegated into a merely buttressing role, and over time that change would seriously diminish Connecticut’s ability to compete. The already approved cuts will wound us, but the current state budget proposal is suicide.

This editorial was written by Jennifer Terni

LCL Turns Out to Support UConn’s Core Missions

LCL’s faculty and graduate students turned out in force at the state’s capitol in Hartford Friday afternoon to support the core mission at UConn: providing an affordable degree to Connecticut students and to act as an engine of innovation for Connecticut now and in the future. Despite years of austerity since 2010, a period during the state has reduced its appropriation to UConn by $142 million, the university’s ranking and competiveness have consistently improved despite layoffs, pay freezes, and other cuts. Ironically, just four days prior to the budget vote, UConn received its highest-ever ranking from U.S. News & World Report, which rates the University as the 18th best public school in the country alongside the University of Texas and Purdue.
The budget approved last week by the General Assembly would reduce the state appropriation to the University of Connecticut by just shy of 30 percent from where it currently stands, meaning campuses would close, financial aid would be slashed, and thousands of jobs in the private economy would be lost.
Although the full effect of such an unprecedented cut is difficult to know, President Susan Herbst said in a message to the University community they would include the possibility of closing UConn Health (which treats 1 million patients each year) and some regional campuses; ending some Division I sports; closing some academic departments and potentially some schools and colleges; enacting major reductions to all financial aid; and ending international programs, among others. Herbst supported an earlier proposed budget that would have cut the University’s funding by $108 million over the next two years. Under the budget approved by the legislature, UConn would see its state appropriation cut by $309 million in just two years.
The adopted budget would bring the advancement that UConn has made to a halt, but its impact would not be limited to the University. According to a 2015 analysis by the Tripp Umbach research firm, UConn accounts for more than $3.4 billion worth of economic activity in Connecticut every year, and sustains one in every 90 jobs in the state, more than half of them in the private sector.

What’s more, UConn has a proven track record in keeping talented young college graduates in Connecticut, something the state has struggled to do in recent years. While more than 39,000 people between the ages of 20 and 34 left Connecticut in 2014 alone, 78 percent of recent UConn grads from Connecticut remain here.
Graduating in four years would become a significant challenge as class sizes balloon and waitlists lengthen; top Connecticut students, like the record number of valedictorians and salutatorians that were part of this year’s freshman class, would go to other states for college; and businesses ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local restaurants, which rely on UConn, would be damaged.
“It is difficult to describe how destructive the approved budget would be to UConn and higher education in Connecticut,” Herbst wrote.





Sourced from material that originally appeared in UConn Today on September 20 and 21.

Why we shouldn’t worry about who is speaking – The Theory of the Lyric with Jonathan Culler

On Thursday, September 21, UConn’s English department, in conjunction with the department of Literatures, Cultures & Languages, hosted Jonathan Culler, a renowned literary theorist and Class of 1916 Professor of Literature at Cornell University. In his lecture, Dr. Culler discussed his book Theory of the Lyric originally published in 2015, but released in paperback in October of this year. Theory of the Lyric focuses on the lyric tradition in Western poetry from ancient Greece to the twentieth century. In less than an hour Culler discussed not only the conventions of lyric poetry, but the challenges associated with analyzing it.
As Culler put it, lyric poets “produce poems that make claims about the world”. To make these broad claims, lyric poetry employs features that are not found in ordinary speech acts. In other words, “lyric poetry does not imitate a person’s voice, but rather, voices something [that is of lyric poetry…] itself.” For this reason in lyric poetry, the simple present tense works in contexts that would never work in day-to-day speech. In ordinary speech, Culler says, we use the progressive present tense, such as, “I’m walking to school” as opposed to the simple present tense declaration, “I sit in the pub, I drink the liquor,” the latter being examples of speech that we would only hear from a foreign speaker or in poetry, Culler says. This use of the simple present tense “lifts us into a special poetic register” of descriptive subjectivity, a distinctive trait of lyric poetry.
Despite the importance of the modes of subjective description that inform and are even constitutive of the genre, Culler raises a problem that affects students and educators alike when it comes to the reading of lyric poetry: Does trying to answer the question of who is speaking actually help our understanding or experience of the poem? Culler argues that “No, in fact, we must experience the progression. Working out who is speaking actually obscures the experience rather than clarifying it.” In an academic context, we are tempted to worry about who is narrating the poem and in uncovering the narrator’s motive. However, “a hypothesis of an imagined speaker is useless,” Culler concluded, “it would be a diversion” in terms of trying to understand the poem, its themes, temporalities, and the point of view it expresses. He added that good “critics focus on what the poem is doing rather than on the perspective of an alleged speaker.” Meaning, Culler wants us to shift our attention from the singer of Whitman’s Song of Myself to the agency of the lyrics themselves.