Maria Boletsi is Endowed Professor (bijzonder hoogleraar) at the University of Amsterdam, where she holds the Marilena Laskaridis Chair of Modern Greek Studies. She also works as 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, Modern Greek, English, and Dutch literature, and alternative narratives and subjectivities in the context of the Greek debt crisis. Much of her work is concerned with the intersection of literature, art, and politics.
She has been a DFG Mercator Fellow at Bonn University (2019), a Stanley Seeger Research Fellow at Princeton University (2016), a visiting scholar at Columbia University (2008-09) 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 board of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies, the advisory board of the Journal of Greek Media and Culture, and the editorial board of the Brill book series Thamyris/Intersecting. She is also a member of the board of the Netherlands Research School for Literary Studies (Onderzoeksschool Literatuurwetenschap, OSL).
Maria has 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 three directions:
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 between myself and scholars from the University of Geneva, Bonn University, Fribourg University, and (since 2017) Oxford University. 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 working on Volume 2 that will focus on the 20th and 21st centuries and will be published in 2020.
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, forthcoming in 2018; co-authored with M. Winkler, J. Herlth, Ch. Moser, J. Reidy and M. Rohner).
In my research, I also engage with new directions in art, literature, and theory after “9/11” and with how contemporary literature and art intervene in the popular rhetoric of ‘crisis’ in Europe. Among my most recent publications on the topic is an essay on responses to 9/11 in Dutch literature in the volume 9/11 in European Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 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.
In the field of Modern Greek studies, I explore alternative notions of subjectivity against the backdrop of the Greek ‘crisis’ since 2009 and expressive modes that disrupt dominant narratives of the 'crisis.' I am particularly interested in literature, street art, and forms of artistic expression and protest that mobilize the middle voice in order to articulate alternative notions of subjectivity, agency, and civic responsibility to those on which ‘crisis rhetoric’ usually 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). Another article in which I brought the middle voice to bear on new languages of protest and on the visual realm was published in the journal Komparatistik (2018).
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 am currently writing a book on spectrality in Cavafy’s poetics. Drawing from theorizations of the ‘specter’ in cultural theory, I develop the spectral as a theoretical and analytical lens for revisiting Cavafy’s modernist poetics and his poetry’s ‘afterlives’ in contemporary settings.