Valeria Tsygankova

B.A. English, summa cum laude, University of Pennsylvania (2011), M.A. History of the Book, Institute of English Studies, University of London (2012), M.A. English, Columbia (2013), M.Phil. English, Columbia (2015). Valeria Tsygankova’s research pays attention to nineteenth-century American writers around the time of the Civil War who grappled with the means and possibilities of what we today might call “social change,” and what many thinkers then called by the capacious term “reform.” These writers – Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and an enslaved potter-poet named Dave Drake – all considered what it meant to bring new ways of being into the world, to “enlarge the margin” of existence, in Douglass’s phrase, particularly as they envisioned a post-slavery United States. These writers are further connected by the ontological and ecological ways in which they understood the possibilities of emergence. Valeria’s dissertation, The Matter of Reform, argues that each of these writers linked the possibility of social change to an inherent re-forming vitality and agitation that they saw in matter and the earth. For each, natural ongoing processes of geological and vegetal creation and metamorphosis provided a language for, even underwrote, the social changes that they described, tried to shepherd into the world, and often lamented for their incompletion.

Other research interests include the conversation between emancipations and reconstructions in the Americas and in Russia in the nineteenth century, especially as it appears in the travel writing of freeborn African-American writer and reformer Nancy Prince.  

Academic Interests: 

Nineteenth-century American literature and philosophy; African-American literature; theories of reform, social change, and temporality; materialisms; material culture; literature of slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction; history of science.