Kirsten Mendoza is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English at Vanderbilt University. Her dissertation analyzes the entwined discourses of rape, race, and consent in the late Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The premise that she puts forth in this project argues that legal and social transformations concerning women’s consent was neither independent nor tangential to an imperialist agenda but, instead, central to emerging notions of English supremacy. Early modern theatrical depictions of feminine eroticism, submission, and touch—both wanted and unwanted—participated in the construction of an ideological apparatus that galvanized a push toward empire. In this way, a politics of touch creates a paradigm for both private sexual acts and also public political engagements that annexes the erotic to serve domestic, political, and economic agendas.
Kirsten has been the recipient of the Huntington Library Residential Summer Institute Award and the RMMLA Women’s Caucus Award for Best Feminist Convention Presentation. While at Vanderbilt, she has received the Susan Ford Wiltshire Essay Prize for Best Graduate Student Essay and the English Department’s John M. Aden Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Writing.