Molly Elizabeth Borowitz
Spanish & Portuguese
Recipient of a Critical Theory Dissertation Fellowship, 2018-2019
Molly Borowitz is a Ph.D candidate in Hispanic Languages and Literatures with Designated Emphases in Critical Theory and Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. Her dissertation, “Spiritual Subjecthood and Institutional Legibility in Early-Modern Spain and Spanish America,” examines the ways in which spiritual subjects construct themselves in response to interpellation and assessment by early-modern Spanish and Spanish-colonial institutions. The project places a corpus of 16th- and 17th-century texts on Catholic religious experience, including prayer manuals, histories of the New World, and correspondence from Iberian missionaries to the Americas, alongside 20th- and 21st-century theories of subject formation and politics. The dialogue between these two bodies of text illuminates the ways in which early-modern Iberians and Ibero-Americans exteriorize their experiences of Catholic devotion discursively and performatively to render themselves “legible” to spiritual and political institutions,and the ways in which they use devotional discourse and performance to manipulate their relationships to those institutions. In Spain, Catholic mystics and reformers use spiritual legibility to obtain autonomy within the authoritarian Church and to garner institutional support for their projects. In Spanish America, both Iberian missionaries and Amerindian nobles cite the spiritual legibility of indigenous Christians as a guarantor of their fitness for Spanish political subjecthood. In all cases, institutional legibility—though compulsory—affords the writing subject some agency and creativity in h/er relationship to the supervising institution.
Molly came to Berkeley in 2012 by way of Princeton (A.B. 2009), Cambridge (M.Phil 2010), and the Dominican Republic, where she taught high-school history. She is interested in all things Jesuit—intellectual history, imagination and the fashioning of worlds and selves, world systems and cosmology, and subject-formation under colonial labor systems and the emerging modern State—in early-modern Iberia and Ibero-America.