Elisa Russian completed her PhD in Italian Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory. Before coming to Berkeley in 2014, she received her laurea magistrale (MA) in Modern Literature from the Università degli Studi di Siena, Italy. In her current research, she explores the intersections among literature, philosophy, and sociology in twentieth- and twenty-first-century France and Italy.
Elisa’s dissertation, titled “The Autobiographer as Social Critic,” examines French and Italian first-person narratives that broadly address the relationship between individuals and groups. Using a comparatist and interdisciplinary perspective, she investigates the ways in which autobiographical texts redefined notions of personal identity in the second half of the twentieth century. In particular, her project traces how Jean-Paul Sartre’s theoretical and literary model influenced writers such as Annie Ernaux, Luisa Passerini, Walter Siti, and Edoardo Albinati, who, in their “collective autobiographies,” critically reflect on society starting from their own experiences.
For her studies, Elisa has been awarded the Doreen B. Townsend Center Dissertation Fellowship, the Norman Jacobson Memorial Teaching Award, and travel grants from the American Comparative Literature Association and the Modern Language Association. From September 2017 to June 2018, she was a visiting scholar at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, where she worked closely with Barbara Carnevali. Her recent publications include an interview with sociologist Eva Illouz, titled “What Is Critique?,” which appeared in the June 2019 issue of Qui Parle.