Irina Dumitrescu (English, University of Bonn; Ph.D. English Language & Literature, Yale University, 2009) is Professor and Chair of English, American and Celtic Studies at Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. She is a scholar of medieval English literature and her research focusses on education, celebrity, and women’s power in the Middle Ages. She also writes essays and book reviews for the public on topics such as food, dance, migration, and literature. Irina is the JHI's 2021-22 Public Humanities Faculty Fellow.
JHI: What are your main research interests?
ID: As a scholar of medieval English literature, I work on the history of education, representations of women in the Middle Ages, charisma, violence, and humour. As a writer for the general public, I’m fascinated by imperfection, celebrity, immigrant literature, adaptations of medieval works into modern literature, and hobbies such as food, dance, and textile work.
JHI: What research project(s) are you working on now at the JHI and why did you choose it?
ID: My main project is a book about the joy and value of imperfection that draws on medieval literature. I’ve long been interested in the ways that embracing imperfection can help us find creativity and community, and for this book I’m going to the materials I know best for inspiration. As to why I chose it – well, I’m a recovering perfectionist!
JHI: What experiences are you hoping for at the JHI?
ID: I’m already enjoying talking to the other fellows about pleasure. It’s a topic that feels so alive right now, and especially necessary after the difficulty of the past two years. I’m also getting a lot of inspiration for new books to read, ways that I might push my writing into new genres, and other forms of outreach too. I would really like to do more media work while I’m here (podcasting, radio, and so on), and to meet other writers. And I’m especially looking forward to running a series of events in early 2021 that aim at making public writing more accessible, fun, and intellectually liberating.
JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.
ID: I recently read Between Tongues, a collection of short stories by Paul McQuade. The first story, “A Gift of Tongues,” is about an English speaker in Berlin who is given the gift of a new tongue by his boyfriend, and becomes fluent in German as a result. It’s an uncanny tale that touches on the unsettling feeling of living with more than one language. I loved the fact that he wrote a story by imagining what it would be like if a metaphor were literally true.
JHI: What is a fun fact about you?
ID: I like to knit while I write. When I’m blocked on a phrase, I take a break and knit a few rows. This lets my brain relax and solve the problem!
This profile is part of the JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight, a series where we highlight each Fellow, their interests, and their research so that you can get to know them a little better.