Jessica Zisa


Research Interests

My research focuses on centering marginalized voices who are often minoritized as a part from rather than a part of English literary history. In my dissertation, I take up an interdisciplinary lens - informed by work in the fields of neuroscience, cognitive philosophy, affect studies, feminist and queer studies, and Black feminist and decolonial thought - to examine how fourteenth-century women writers contribute to premodern literary culture by using gender to rewrite the concept of 'woman' and reimagine what it means to be a self who wills in community with others. My research aims to complicate how we study women's participation in premodern literary culture by de-minoritizing how we read and encounter gender in the past so that a plurality of embodied experiences and subjectivities can be heard.

Mentoring Experiences

One of my primary goals as a mentor is to help make the walls of academic research institutions more accessible and inclusive for my students. Over the past six years at UCSB, I have had the great honor of mentoring undergraduate students in a variety of research and educational capacities as an English Broadside Ballad Archive Project Manager, Engaging Humanities Mentor, and as a Graduate Student Instructor. It has been wonderful to help students build self-efficacy in their scholarly abilities and see them find joy in their studies in deeply meaningful and personal ways at UCSB. These mentoring experiences have proved transformational for my undergraduate mentees, and they have also instilled in me a deeper awareness of the community service work that is needed within the university in order to make research and scholarly success more accessible to all students. I am looking forward to building upon this meaningful work next year as the Arnhold Graduate Fellow by providing mentorship support to undergraduates looking to pursue their literary research goals as part of the Arnhold Undergraduate Research Fellows Program housed in the English department.

Meaning of the Award

I feel extremely honored and humbled to receive this award because the work of mentoring is very near and dear to my heart. I would not be where I am today had it not been for the quality of mentorship and care I received through each stage of my academic journey as a nontraditional student. My work today as a mentor grows from a deep sense of gratitude and responsibility to share this invaluable gift with my mentees in return. It is a great privilege to continue this work of holding space for future generations of students to explore what scholarly success looks like for them as part of a larger research community of learners.