Petra Sapun Kurtin

Petra Sapun Kurtin

Petra Sapun Kurtin, PhD Candidate in Literature at the University of Zagreb, Croatia

After a dual diploma degree in English and German language and literature, I interned and worked at diplomatic and cultural institutions (Canadian Embassy in Zagreb, Goethe-Institute, European Commission etc.) before focusing on academic research. My fascination with narratives and literature got me involved in coordinating and moderating cultural events, acting as liaison between international and local institutions, scholars and authors. I also spent two intense years working in publishing as literary editor and translator.

Starting a PhD program in English at the University of Zagreb allowed me to pursue interdisciplinary approach to studying literature, which had evolved from my early undergraduate interest in formative American writers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Poe and Melville, followed by comparative analysis of dystopian urban novels, to how all these interests fall together within cities with iconic status in shared imaginaries.

I spent a research year as a Fulbright scholar at New York University (New York) and Tulane University (New Orleans), working on changing representations of port cities in narratives before and after collective traumatic events. This research evolved into a thesis on New Orleans as a liminal American urban space in the city's rich literary production, to which I am applying more traditional approaches to literary theory of close reading and comparative analysis informed by insights from Digital and Spatial Humanities. When looking into narratives originating from and about a complex cultural nexus and port city such as New Orleans, the biggest challenge is to avoid possible pitfalls of either an overtheorized or anachronic approach, which might result in generalized preconceptions waiting to be discovered within the texts. By exploring the patterns and complexities arising from within the narratives themselves separately and comparatively, the city's representations reveal its idiosyncrasy as a unique American urban space.

In 2015 I joined the faculty of the English Department at the University of Rijeka (teaching translation and American literature and culture) and have been involved in several international research projects focusing on translation and reception of Canadian writers in Central Europe, as well as translation of Croatian authors in German-speaking countries. Currently I am also developing an exhibition on recent perceptions of the Mediterranean as an imaginary space and am active in local scholarly chapters of American and Canadian Studies.

I am always exploring new forms of presenting my insights through exhibitions or lectures for the general public, scholars and practitioners from other disciplines interested in evolving complex places, such as designers, architects, urbanists and cultural geographers. I am very interested not only in how technology is changing the way we perceive and narrate the world around us, but even more in how traditional and even archaic forms of sharing knowledge and narratives about ourselves can help us make sense and navigate these changes.


Telephone: 780-492-6095
University of Alberta
Wirth Institute for Austrian and Central European Studies
Arts & Convocation Hall
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T6G 2E6