Denise A. Ayo

About

Denise Audrey Ayo received her Ph.D. in English with a minor in Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. She specializes in British and Irish modern literature with an emphasis on transatlantic print culture and gender issues. Her dissertation, “The Modern Woman of Letters,” examines how three prolific critics employed re-mediation as a mechanism for managing literary authority. She received a distinguished pass on her candidacy exams in Spring 2009 and defended her dissertation in Spring 2013.

Denise has taught three semesters of first-year composition as well as a course of her own design on literary modernism, “Narrating the Mind in Modern Fiction.” In Spring 2013, she taught another course of her own design, “Video Games and the Gendered Role,” for Notre Dame’s Film, Television, and Theatre Department and Gender Studies Program. She has also offered numerous workshops for international graduate students as an English for Academic Purposes Fellow. She currently works as the Assistant Director for Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures. Denise will be teaching a course on nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century Irish literature in Fall 2014.

During her career at Notre Dame, she has received various grants, fellowships, and awards, including a Diversity Fellowship, a Zahm Research Travel Grant, and an award for excellence in teaching. Denise has presented papers at numerous conferences such as the 2008 and 2010 ACIS National Conference, the International Rebecca West Society’s Biennial Rebecca West Conference, and the 127th MLA Annual Conference. She has also been asked to give talks on Irish studies, modernism, and new media.

Her article “Scratching at Scabs: The Garryowens of Ireland” appeared in the 2010 Joyce Studies Annual, and the Journal of Modern Literature published her article “Mary Colum, Modernism, and Mass Media: An Irish-Inflected Transatlantic Print Culture” in 2012. She is also digitizing a selected volume of Mary Colum’s critical works: www.marycolum.com.

 

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Areas of Interest and Specialty

British and Irish Modern Literature

Fields of Study

Modern Print Culture & Periodical Studies · Irish Studies · Gender Studies · New Media Studies & The Digital Humanities

Theoretical Approaches

Feminist Theory · Postcolonial Theory · Media Theory · Psychoanalytical Theory

Additional Experience

Archival Work · Website Management and Design · Integrating Technology into the Classroom

 

 
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Curriculum Vitae

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Constructing and Performing the Modern Woman of Letters: Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, & Mary Colum

Dissertation Abstract

Scholarship in print culture and periodical studies has brought our attention back to modern forms of literary criticism and book reviewing as registers of early-twentieth-century debates regarding modernism. Although modernist scholarship grew up around some of these texts—T.S. Eliot’s essays, Edmund Wilson’s Axel’s Castle, etc.—many essays, collections, and monographs that were considered crucial at the time have since fallen out of view. Rebecca West’s collection The Strange Necessity, for example, was an important investigation into art’s nature and purpose. Likewise, the reviewer Mary Colum was known as “the best woman critic in America” and her critical monograph From These Roots a significant attempt to define literary modernism. In this project, I examine three texts that enrich our understanding of early-twentieth-century debates about modernism and carve out a space for the female literary critic.

Rebecca West’s The Strange Necessity (1928), Mary Colum’s From These Roots (1937), as well as Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas (1938) were perceived by their authors to be central to discussions concerning modernist aesthetics and politics in the modern period. Focusing on these non-fiction works, my dissertation analyzes the complex ways in which these writers sought to establish themselves as serious literary and social critics in an aesthetic environment that both trivialized women’s writing and feminized promotional efforts. Woolf, West, and Colum used their unique understandings of criticism and its relationship to the literary marketplace to construct and perform personae through which they assessed modern culture. Woolf created a narrator who analyzes in letters to a male correspondent the social and political position of English women. West performed the role of a naïve reader coming to Ulysses for the first time to highlight the highly subjective nature of reading and writing. Colum theorized and assumed the role of “creative critic.” Creative critics, she argued, were responsible for all the major developments of literary modernism. Around the same time that these writers performed these personae in their book-length works, they also published revised portions of these books as periodical articles. In my dissertation, I argue that Woolf, West, and Colum altered their performed personae in these recirculated versions to address problems they understood to be specifically associated with female authorship. The problem for Woolf was the censoring of women’s work in periodicals while for West it was the gender-bias of book reviews. For Colum, the problem was the overall lack of accomplished female writers.

By attending to Colum and overlooked works by Woolf and West, I uncover a repeated use of re-mediation as a mechanism for managing female literary authority. Aaron Jaffe posits in Modernism and the Culture of Celebrity that modernist scholarship lacks a comprehensive understanding of “the full range and extent of the practices, conventions, and institutions that regulate modernist cultural production.” My dissertation joins Jaffe’s work on male modernists with Faye Hammill’s and Catherine Keyser’s on female middlebrow authors by analyzing how female critics sought to position themselves as highbrow intellectuals. In the process, I shed light on the workings of modern print culture by tracing the transatlantic circulation and recirculation of Three Guineas, The Strange Necessity, and From These Roots and by contextualizing these works within their English and American or Irish and American discourse networks.

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Denise A. Ayo, Ph.D.

 

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Program Manager
Center for the Study of Languages & Cultures
329 DeBartolo Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556 USA

 

denise.a.ayo@gmail.com

 

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