PhD Candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Catalina Rodríguez is a PhD candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in the Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences. Originally from Bogotá, Colombia, she received her bachelor’s degree in literature from Universidad de los Andes. Catalina’s dissertation studies the role of pseudonyms in the creation and regulation of gendered social practices and concepts throughout 19th century Latin America. She recently was named a Presidential Fellow, the most prestigious fellowship awarded to graduate students by Northwestern University.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
My research explores the prominent use of female pseudonyms in the press of 19th century Latin America. Both men and women used fictional female names to publish poems, short stories, fashion chronicles, and translations. I explore how, by signing with female fictional names, authors were able to create a stable category of femininity and subsequently for “female writing.”
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
When I first began my research in 19th-century literature, my goal was simply to include women writers in a male-dominated literary canon. However, I came to see that inclusion and representation weren't enough because including women writers in the canon fails to question the canon's patriarchal nature. My adviser, Nathalie Bouzaglo, reminded me of my desire to understand not only women's contributions but also the limitations constructed around their participation in the literary sphere. This reminder expanded my project to examine literary texts written by men and then, to examine the use of female pseudonyms as important in creating the label "female writing.”
Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
My research is inspired by feminist activists and women around the world who defy stable gender categories. The phrase "that is not something a woman should do" was part of my own upbringing, and it served as a limitation and as a source of curiosity for me. Ultimately, that phrase pushed me to interrogate the behavioral ideal behind it. Now, I approach literature to understand how that ideal femininity was created and reinforced throughout the 19th century.
Northwestern's Department of Spanish and Portuguese is the ideal place for me to better understand the 19th-century Latin American context. The professors not only are brilliant, but they also are willing to open new paths for innovative and interdisciplinary research. Northwestern faculty members Nathalie Bouzaglo, Cesar Braga-Pinto, and Alejandra Uslenghi have proposed new perspectives to approach literary criticism by combining intersectional feminist studies, visual culture, and archival practices. Altogether, Northwestern is the perfect space for me to pursue innovative, timely, and exciting research.
What books are on your bedside table?
Right now, I’m reading Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Tretheway and Her Body and Other Parts by Carmen María Machado.
What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
My advice is to trust your personal experiences because they provide you with resources for critical thinking and knowledge production. I believe that personal experiences end up being crucial in your research path because they can serve as a source of motivation and curiosity.
Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
Throughout my PhD journey, I have been working on a poetry book manuscript. Writing poetry allows me to create some distance from the academic sphere and to explore my perspective, life experiences, and feelings from a different position.
Published: March 16, 2021
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