Early Modern Literature and Sexuality Studies

After receiving his Ph.D. from MSU’s Department of English in 2016, Dr. Arvas was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Shakespeare at the Drama Department at Vassar College (2016-18). While primarily a research fellowship, Dr. Arvas also taught classes at Vassar on Shakespeare, theater history, and the history of sexuality. “I really enjoy working at UCSB which has a dynamic and diverse student body,” Dr. Arvas explains. “Besides its wonderful location and weather, UCSB is truly interdisciplinary, which enables me to actively collaborate and engage in dialogues with students and faculty across departments.”

On his experiences in MSU’s English Department, Dr. Arvas notes: “The most helpful part of the program was its flexibility to let graduate students to individualize their research projects. The openness to interdisciplinary and comparative studies made it possible for me to enthusiastically pursue my own research questions, which finally led my dissertation on early modern sexuality as represented in English and Ottoman cultural and artistic materials from literature to theater, visual arts, and cartography. I must also note the significance of the English faculty’s willingness to support and openness to meet whenever requested—be it my committee members or not. Especially my advisor Jyotsna Singh never ceased to guide and support me; I am thankful for her still ongoing mentorship.”

Additionally, Dr. Arvas credits the broad range of teacher training and professional development experiences he received at MSU. The teaching opportunities “helped me gain invaluable experience in teaching and develop my own pedagogy.” The program’s “openness to comparative work also shaped my interdisciplinary research agenda. The professionalization workshops, specifically job market workshops with Zarena Aslami, were of immense benefit. The departmental Speakers Series, inclusion of graduate students in committees, publication and teaching workshops were all helpful in shaping me as a scholar I am today.”

Dr. Arvas’s current book project, Beautiful Boys of the Renaissance: Travelling Sexualities and Homoerotics of Difference in Anglo-Ottoman Encounters, explores early modern English and Ottoman sexualities with a focus on cross-cultural encounters, abductions, and conversions in the Mediterranean during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. As Dr. Arvas further explains, the project tracks “the literary trope of ‘the beautiful boy’—often eroticized as an object of desire in English and Ottoman representations— as it intersects with the historical phenomenon of vulnerable youths, who were captured, converted, and exchanged within the global traffic in bodies. My queer-historicist, comparative readings of English and Ottoman contexts address a wide array of texts with a focus on the figurations of these boys: drama, poetry, cartography, travelogues, ethnographic accounts, historical documents, and visual materials.”

Note: Since this article was published, Dr. Arvas has become a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the English Department at the University of Pennsylvania (2020).