Erica Wachs (JE ‘18)
Professor Naomi Levine didn’t know one could specialize in Victorian poetry—her scholarly raison d’être—until she was a graduate student, but she spent her childhood memorizing and reciting poetry, and enraptured with the Victorian era. (And yes, there are home videos to prove it.) Surprisingly, Professor Levine only took one class focused on Victorian literature as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and went into her MA program planning to write her thesis on Victorian novels. However, after stumbling upon the small selection of Victorian poetry in the library, she switched the focus of her thesis from the Victorian novel to Victorian sonnet sequences, continuing on to absorb poets like Alfred Tennyson and Elizabeth Barret Browning during her PhD at Rutgers University (Tennyson’s poem In Memoriam is a particular favorite).
As a scholar, Professor Levine focuses her research on the history of rhyme, with her book project, Rhyme and History in Victorian Poetics considering how the nineteenth century understood “historical and formal” conceptions of poetry, and the importance with which Victorian poets imbued the form of the rhyme. Professor Levine asserts that Victorian poets understood the rhyme “in transnational rather than nationalist terms,” which she believes connects her work to discussions in which the world is presently engaged. However, Professor Levine loves the seemingly contradictory duality of studying the Victorian era: a time that is at once relatively modern, and yet an “alienated historical moment.” For her, archival research—and, more specifically, Victorian doodles—perfectly illustrates the “two-way pull” of history that makes her work so exciting.
After receiving her PhD, Professor Levine was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, which she describes as a “special” experience, both intellectually and socially. She especially enjoyed the interacting with colleagues in disciplines other than her own, as well as the opportunity to reconsider her own research questions in ways that she had not previously considered. Despite her time spent in Cambridge, she plans on rooting for Yale at The Game this year.
This semester, one can find Professor Levine in her first-year seminar, The Art of Losing, her Love and Desire in the Nineteenth Century seminar, perfecting her bread-making skills, or trying Sally’s to see how it compares with Pepe’s “amazing apizza.”