Maria Boletsi is Endowed Professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) at the University of Amsterdam, where she holds the Marilena Laskaridis Chair of Modern Greek Studies. She is also Assistant Professor at the Film and Literary Studies department of Leiden University.
Her work is situated in the fields of comparative literature, literary and cultural theory, conceptual history, Modern Greek literature and culture, English, Dutch, and postcolonial literature. She has published on various topics, including the conceptual history of barbarism, post-9/11 literature and political rhetoric, populism and post-truth, contemporary crisis rhetoric and alternative 'grammars' and subjectivities in the context of the Greek debt crisis and in other Mediterranean crisis-scapes. She has also published on Modern Greek, English, and Dutch literature; particularly the work of C.P. Cavafy and J.M. Coetzee have been central in her work. Much of her work is concerned with the intersection of literature, art, and politics.
Maria is currently (spring semester 2022) research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study (NIAS). She has been a DFG-Mercator Fellow at Bonn University (2019), Stanley Seeger Research Fellow at Princeton University (2016), visiting scholar at Columbia University (2008-2009) and the University of Geneva (2016) and a participant in the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory (2006). She is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, the Journal of Greek Media and Culture, and the Brill book series Thamyris/Intersecting. She is currently Chair of the Advisory Board of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (OSL; since 2019) and member of the Advisory Board of the Dutch Research Council (NWO) Domain Social Sciences and Humanities (SHH).
Maria holds cum laude degrees in Classics and Modern Greek Literature (BA, Aristoteles University of Thessaloniki), Comparative Literature (BA, University of Amsterdam) and Cultural Analysis (research MA, University of Amsterdam). In 2010 she received her Ph.D. with honors from Leiden University (Barbarism Otherwise: Studies in Literature, Art, and Theory).
My current research takes the following directions:
I am currently (until June 2022) research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study, where I work together with Alberto Godioli (U of Groningen), Sarah de Lange (UvA) and Florian Lippert (U of Groningen) on the Theme Group Project “The Politics of (De)familiarization: The Common and the Strange in Contemporary Europe.” This collaborative interdisciplinary project explores constructions and mobilizations of the ‘common,’ the ‘familiar,’ and the ‘strange’ in current European political discourse and in forms of cultural production.
My individual project within this Theme Group is entitled “Keep Calm, It’s Only Fiction! Outweirding Post-truth Politics through New Grammars of Protest and Artivism.” The project explores how new grammars of protest and artistic activism mobilize fiction to defamiliarize constructions of common sense and ‘the new normal,’ while countering the co-opting of fiction by post-truth politics. I have already published on this topic in the journal Frame and in the edited volume Rethinking Defamiliarization in Literature and Visual Culture (forthcoming by Palgrave).
The functions of the concept of barbarism in literature, art, philosophy, and public rhetoric in European modernity and beyond were the focus of my doctoral thesis and have been a central preoccupation in my research since then. In 2013, I received an NWO Internationalisation grant for the project “Barbarian: History of a Fundamental European Concept from the 18th Century to the Present” (2013-2016). This collaborative project aimed at a critical understanding of past and contemporary uses of ‘barbarism’ and foregrounded this concept’s foundational role in modern European history and identity. The project springs from a collaboration among scholars from the universities of Leiden, Amsterdam, Geneva, Bonn, Fribourg, and (since 2017) Oxford. It is conjoined with a research project led by Prof. Markus Winkler (Geneva), which was funded by the SNF (Swiss National Science Foundation). The first part of the project was completed in 2017 and resulted in a co-authored monograph on barbarism from the 18th to the early 20th century (Volume 1, published by Metzler in 2018). We are currently completing Volume 2 that will focus on the 20th and 21st centuries (forthcoming in 2022 by Metzler).
My book publications on the topic include the monograph Barbarism and its Discontents (Stanford University Press, 2013), the edited volumes Barbarism Revisited: New Perspectives on an Old Concept (Brill 2015; co-edited with Christian Moser) and Subjects Barbarian, Monstrous, and Wild: Encounters in the Arts and Contemporary Politics (Brill, 2018; co-edited with Tyler Sage), as well as the co-authored book Barbarian: Explorations of a Western Concept in Modern Theory, Literature and the Arts. Vol. 1 (Metzler, 2018).
Art and literature after 9/11
I have engaged with new directions in art, literature, and theory after “9/11” and with how contemporary literature and art intervene in popular rhetoric of crisis in Europe and beyond. Among my publications on the topic was an essay on responses to 9/11 in Dutch literature in the volume 9/11 in European Literature (Palgrave 2017). In 2015, with Isabel Hoving, Liesbeth Minnaard and Sarah de Mul, we co-authored the book De lichtheid van literatuur: Engagement in de multiculturele samenleving (Acco), which probed literature’s function in recent debates on the multicultural society in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Crisis rhetoric and alternative grammars
Since 2015, I have focused on contemporary crisis-scapes in the European South and the Mediterranean. Scrutinizing the concept crisis, I probed dominant crisis narratives in Europe, particularly in the context of the Eurozone and the Greek crisis. Against this backdrop, I theorized what I term “grammars of crisis” as well as alternative grammars and future imaginaries emerging from recent crisis-scapes. Part of my work on this topic has been chanelled in two volumes I co-edited: Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes: From Crisis to Critique (Palgrave 2020) and (Un)timely Crises: Chronotopes and Critique (Palgrave 2021).
The Middle Voice
In my work on crisis and alternative grammars, I have been exploring expressive modes that disrupt dominant narratives of crisis. Against the backdrop of the 'Greek crisis,' I have studied literature, street art, and forms of artistic expression that mobilize the middle voice (understood as a grammatical category, discursive mode and theoretical concept) in order to articulate alternative notions of subjectivity, agency, and civic responsibility to those on which crisis rhetoric hinges. An article I published on the topic in the Journal of Greek Media and Culture (2016) was also included in the Reader of Documenta 14 (2017). My publications on the middle voice have also appeared in the journals Social Science Information (2019) and Komparatistik (2018), the edited volume Languages of Resistance, Transformation, and Futurity in Mediterranean Crisis-Scapes (Palgrave 2020) and the pivot book (Un)timely Crises (Palgrave 2021).
The weird turn
In a new project that has recently emerged from the above research line on crisis and futurity, I propose the term weird turn in order to examine a recent striking turn to speculative fiction and non-rationalist responses to a disorienting, crisis-ridden present and unpredictable future. Tracing the history and particularly contemporary uses of the weird in aesthetics, economy, and ecology, I seek to understand the current weird turn in relation to the increasing lack of control over the future.
The work of the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy has been a constant preoccupation in my writing since 2005. I have published on speech acts in Cavafy’s poetry, on irony and affect in Cavafy’s prose, on literary and artistic adaptations of his poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” on the bearing of Cavafy’s ‘barbarians’ on the Western political imaginary, and on the way his poetry recasts narratives of historical time. I have recently completed a book manuscript on spectrality in Cavafy’s poetics (forthcoming as monograph by Michigan UP). Drawing from theorizations of the ‘specter’ in literary and cultural theory, I develop the spectral as a theoretical and analytical lens for revisiting Cavafy’s idiosyncratic modernist poetics and his poetry’s afterlives in contemporary settings.