Katie Gilbert

Katie Gilbert, PhD, French and Francophone world studies

Interprets resistance in literature

“As Katie’s dissertation adviser, I nominate her because she has a fine literary sensibility, is a keen translator, and an excellent graduate teaching assistant… We are fortunate to have such a promising young scholar like Katie at Iowa.” -Anny-Dominique Curtius, professor, Francophone studies

Hometown: Rose Hill, Kansas

Faculty mentor/advisor: Anny-Dominique Curtius, PhD, professor, Francophone studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Doctorate, French & Francophone World Studies, spring 2024

Please describe your research:  I examine the use of language by Francophone writers from the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean in the hierarchized language context of former colonies, and how translation into English further complicates the relationship between languages. Creole languages were necessary to the functioning of the plantation system but were marginalized by French as the official language. Despite this institutional hostility, writers have found strategies to navigate and reject the dominance of French. This resistance is carried out by older women and older women characters who take an active role in transmitting generational knowledge of how to come to consciousness in a world that is hostile to Creole languages, their speakers, and the cultures associated with them.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? Creole has often been seen as a mark of otherness, an excuse to exclude Creole speakers from French-speaking parts of the communities, as well as official and intellectual spaces. Creoles also have a long history of resistance to oppression. My research aims to show that languages don’t have to oppose one another when sharing space in a community but rather offer opportunities to draw from multiple traditions when facing life’s challenges. I hope it will support possibilities for new modes of community-building.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I completed my MFA in literary translation at the University of Iowa. My interest in the relationship between Creoles and French in literature and other STUFF grew naturally from my master’s thesis, a translation of a Martinican novel. My research began in my first year as a PhD student. I have used my research as a base for participation at conferences, considering the role of translation in collective memory, and the possibilities of French and Francophone Studies as a nexus for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa?  In my time at the University of Iowa, I’ve taken diverse courses, both within and outside of my departments. My research has allowed me to bridge both of my fields of study, and to draw connections between my areas of interest and other fields in French and Francophone Studies. This diverse coursework has also brought me to encounter different intellectual approaches, which have enriched my work as a scholar.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? I hope to continue my research and to share with students and other scholars my passion for translation and the study of literature and film as community forms of resistance.

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