Dr Eleni Kefala

Dr Eleni Kefala

Senior Lecturer

Researcher profile

Phone
+44 (0)1334 46 3655
Email
ek30@st-andrews.ac.uk
Office
Room 27
Location
United Colleges
Office hours
Thursday 3-5

 

Biography

Eleni Kefala holds an MPhil and a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and a BA from the University of Cyprus. She has been Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania, Early Career Fellow of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK, and Dumbarton Oaks Fellow at Harvard. Her monograph The Conquered won the 2022 Edmund Keeley Prize. She is also the recipient of the State Prize for Poetry in her home country for the book Time Stitches (available in English from Deep Vellum) and served on the jury of the 2022 Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Research areas

Eleni's research examines modernity across different periods, disciplines, and cultures and has taken the form of several monographs, an edited volume, and over a dozen refereed articles, among others. She enjoys adopting novel interdisciplinary approaches by bringing together literature and a range of artistic media as well as by exploring new comparative avenues in transcultural projects on Nahuatl and post-Byzantine poetry, twentieth-century Argentine and Greek cultures, Pre-Columbian and Byzantine civilizations, and Environmental Humanities.

Her latest project (under contract) sits at the intersection of environmental studies, Byzantine Studies, early and late modern studies, and decolonial/postcolonial studies. The project argues that if Byzantium and pre-Columbian America are siblings, in the sense that they were both inferiorized by European modernity and became unlikely partners in its rise and consolidation, colonized nature is their close relative. Premodern and nonmodern civilizations like Byzantium and America are seen by the Moderns either as static and regressive, or childlike and primitive, closer to nature than culture. These negative views are forged dialectically in response to modernity's self-imagining. The purpose of the project is twofold. First, it aims to explain why Byzantium matters to ecology. The colonial view of Byzantium as inert and progress-phobic is matched by modernity’s coloniality of nature, that is, the view of the Earth as passive, a bottomless reservoir of material resources. Decolonizing modernity’s abiding view of Byzantium is akin to decolonizing modernity’s view of the Earth. This conclusion leads to the second purpose of the project, which is to argue for the need to step beyond modernity. If we are to curb the ecological crisis, we must leave modernity. The unusual comparison of Byzantium and America builds on her award-winning monograph The Conquered: Byzantium and America on the Cusp of Modernity (see below). 

Eleni's AHRC-funded monograph on cultural modernity and urban space with the title Buenos Aires Across the Arts: Five and One Theses on Modernity, 1921-1939 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022; series "Pitt Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas") looks at the interaction between modernity and modernism in literature (poetry and prose), photography, film, and painting in Argentina in the 1920s and 1930s. The book is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Her monograph, The Conquered: Byzantium and America on the Cusp of Modernity, which inaugurated the Dumbarton Oaks series "Extravagantes" (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2020), is available from Harvard University PressThe Conquered rehistoricizes the conquests of the Byzantine and Mexica empires and their role in modernity’s self-imagining by probing collective memory and cultural trauma in laments (threnoi and icnocuicatl) for the fall of Constantinople and Tenochtitlan, composed soon after the conquest of the imperial cities in 1453 and 1521 respectively. Listen to the “New Books Network” podcast episode – Ethan Besser Fredrick speaking with Eleni Kefala about The Conquered. You can also listen to her conversation with Prof Anthony Kaldellis for the podcast series "Byzantium and Friends" and read about the book's conception on the website of the Greek Studies Now Cultural Analysis Network. The Conquered won the Edmund Keeley Prize, which is awarded biennially by the Modern Greek Studies Association.

Eleni’s earlier published work includes an edited volume on cultural identity in Spanish America since 1492 (2011) and a comparative monograph on crosscurrents in Argentine and Greek literary modernisms, never before studied together (2007). She has published extensively in professional journals, translated poetry and short stories from the Spanish and English, and authored three poetry books.

Her debut poetry collection Memory and Variations (Μνήμη και παραλλαγές, 2007) was shortlisted for the prestigious Diavázo Literary Awards in Greece (First Book Award), while her second book Time Stitches (Χρονορραφία, 2013) received the State Prize for Poetry in Cyprus. Her third poetry book Direct Orient is forthcoming in Greek by Perispomeni Publications (in press).

Time Stitches, translated by Peter Constantine, was published in English by Deep Vellum/Phoneme in November 2022. The book is a New York Times "Globetrotting" pick and features on the list of "8 Poetry Collections in Translation to Read in 2022" by Words Without Borders. Peter Constantine's translation of Time Stitches won the 2022 Elizabeth Constantinides Prize.

Eleni's poetry has been translated into English, Bulgarian, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Turkish. For more on her poetry, see World Literature Today, 92.1 (2018). She has participated in international literary festivals, most recently in Mexico, representing Cyprus as part of the EU delegation of authors at the 2023 International Book Fair of Guadalajara.

Eleni contributes to all levels of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in the Department of Spanish and the School of Modern Languages. She offers classes on a range of disciplines (literature, photography, painting, film), national literatures (Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Uruguay, Chile), and genres (poetry, short story, novel, essay).

Visit Eleni's page on Academia.edu: 

https://st-andrews.academia.edu/EleniKefala

Links

Lucy alumna Dr Eleni Kefala, winner of the 2022 Edmund Keeley Prize, shares her journey as a writer

Dumbarton Oaks Interview - "The World Upside Down" 

Readings by the 2022 Neustadt Prize Jury

Voix Vives Poetry Festival, 2015 

State Prize for Poetry 2014

Book launch of Time Stitches (Greek) at Ianos Bookstore, Athens

PhD supervision

  • Natalia Hernandez Somarriba
  • Manuel Del Callejo Castellanos

Selected publications

 

See more publications