Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Literary Criticism
Competition: US & Canada
Richard Serrano is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University (New Brunswick). He earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California (Berkeley) in 1996 and held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities at the Columbia University Society of Fellows 1996-1998. After having led the reconstruction of the Rutgers Program in Comparative Literature in 2003-2005, he founded the Rutgers Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literatures in 2009, serving as its first chair.
Serrano’s primary research interest is the transformation of information, literary forms, and language itself during intercultural transmission. His first book, Neither a Borrower: Forging Traditions in French, Chinese and Arabic Poetry (Legenda, 2002), explores the ramifications of borrowing from distant traditions, demonstrating along the way that Mallarmé was a Chinese poet, that Confucius invented film theory, and that the Qur’an is profoundly and primarily lyrical. In his controversial second book, Against the Postcolonial: ‘Francophone’ Writers at the Ends of French Empire (Lexington: 2005), Serrano argues against the homogenizing critical practices of postcolonial studies as he engages with the works of five writers from lands formerly or currently ruled by France. His current book project, Qur’an and the Lyric Imperative, argues that the tension between Arabic poetry and the Qur’an, which was intended to replace the former at the center of Arab culture, is the primary generator of meaning in Arabic literature from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries.
Pending projects in various stages of optimistic incompletion include Gender’s Pleasures: Women and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century China and Korea; a meditation in Spanish on the origins of the Serranos in pluricultural al-Andalus; a history of folklore argentino, regional music, and dance of Argentina, and its relationship to the much-better-known tango; an exploration of the influence of orientalist research on Hapsburg literature, music, and the visual arts; and a comparative study of Mediterranean poetry across languages, cultures, and centuries.