I write as Joani’s JP (fall) and SP advisor to congratulate her on winning a Marshall Fellowship. Her Senior Thesis, on female curiosity in imaginative literature, which she began with that fall 15 JP, developed in the Spring of 16 with a chapter on Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, advised by Esther Schor, and is now developing into a sustained essay, is a remarkable reflection of critical imagination, critical thinking, and intrepid research. Last summer Joani, having earned a competitive place in our department’s summer “Breadloaf” program at Oxford University, managed to orbit her time in Europe through an immersion course in French in Aix-en-Provence, customized research in Paris (a private tour of the Louvre to examine items related to female curiosities), ready for for a sustained dive into the archives and graduate coursework at Oxford. A distinct prophesy of her most recent honor by the British Embassy was her national recognition, last spring with a Beinecke Fellowship, to support her graduate studies, wherever she goes—her two Marshall years taking her first to the UK.
Her SP began with her capture by Alice's first, now famous utterance in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser.” Joani discovered in the OED that the comparative was Carroll’s coinage, and became interested in the implied argument of the progressive sequencing. She proposed that this is “Alice”-rhetoric, the adventure of the reduplicative syntax. With this smart perception, Joani argued that the Alice books not only dramatize curiosity, making a heroine of this mental energy, but also duplicate it into Carroll’s readers: the episodes and games of Wonderland create readers who become curious, stay curious, enter the world of Carroll’s imagination on these terms. It was a sparkling, intuitive, and incisive accomplishment. Her next stop was a sustained engagement Villette: “Curio or Curious: Accomplishment, Intellect, and Education.” “This is an excellent, ambitious and historically-informed reading of Villette,” commented her adviser Esther Schor, with congratulations for “a terrific accomplishment, a bracing encounter with a difficult novel, and an essay on a par with many graduate essays I’ve read.”
Joani Etskovitz is a whirlwind of energy, imagination, initiative, and just plain hard work. We are delighted at this latest award, an honor for Joani and for us, too!
Susan J. Wolfson
Professor of English
12 December 2016