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Ann R. Jones

Esther Cloudman Dunn Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature


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I've been comparing cultures since I was a child, because I had crazy, interesting Welsh relatives on my Midwestern mother's side and my Canadian father spoke German with his mother (who was German). In high school, when I started studying French after two years of Latin, the similarities and differences between the two languages fascinated me so much that I decided I wanted to learn every Romance (Latin-derived) language out there. I haven't achieved that!

But I studied Italian and German in the process of getting my B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, my M.A. from Columbia University and my Ph.D. from Cornell University. Coming to Smith in 1977, I found the comparative literature program focusing on new literary theory, so I taught that through the 90s, along with a range of other courses: CLT 202 (Homer to Dante), Novels About Novels, Women's Autobiography, and the senior seminar for comparative literature majors, in which we've taken on topics from terror and exile to Magic Realism and defenses of fiction against the defenders of the "real." I now teach a course on the Renaissance gender debate and, with Dana Leibsohn, a seminar, Translating New Worlds, in which we look at images and texts in which Europeans respond to what they saw in the Americas and what Native Americans learned about them. And I enjoy participating in the comparative literature program. We have great faculty, talented and imaginative students and the chance to be constantly inventing new plans for the future.

In my writing, I've pursued several long-term interests: the European Renaissance, love poetry, women's writing, feminist theory, neomarxist approaches to culture. My first book was a study of eight women poets in France, Italy and England, The Currency of Eros: Women's Love Lyric in Europe, 1540–1620, my second a translation with my friend Tita Rosenthal (Italian Dept, USC) of the work of a 16th-century Venetian courtesan: The Poems and Selected Letters of Veronica Franco. In 2000, after a long (and sometimes high-stress) collaboration with Peter Stallybrass, my husband (English department at the University of Pennsylvania), we published Renaissance Clothing and the Materials of Memory. In this book, we look at portraits and prints, spinning and embroidery, armor and wills, as well as literary texts to analyze the links between what people in early modern Europe wore and who they believed they were. Clothes as a material language still interest me as a way into different cultures. I recently completed, again with Tita Rosenthal, a translation of a late 16th-century costume book, Cesare Vecellio's Clothing, Ancient and Modern, of All the World (Venice, 1598), which was published in 2008 with a hundred color illustrations that clarify his wonderfully detailed woodcuts of costume from Europe, Turkey, Asia, Africa and the New World. My current project is a study of the costume-book genre, combining prints and texts about dress worldwide, entitled Global Habits.