César L. Soto
Areas of Interest
The Transatlantic Nineteenth Century, the French Revolutionary 1790s, Religious Politics, British Romanticism, Irish Literature, Mexican Literature
California State University at Northridge, B.A. (Double Major in Honors English and Chicana/o Studies); California State University at Northridge, M.A.
César studies literature written during the nineteenth century with an emphasis on the novel and life writings (memoirs, annals, autobiographies, journals, and travelogues). Areas of particular interest include how Christian denominations and worldviews are transformed by revolutionary discourses, and how these transformations are registered in literature. The use of Atlantic History enables César to link three sites situated on the Atlantic rim—England, Ireland, and Mexico. More specifically, he is concerned with the particular habits of mind and social/private practices inherent to different Christian denominations and sectarian groups in these countries. In England, he researches Anglicans and their effusive Evangelical branch, the Methodists, as well as the various sects comprising Nonconformists. In Ireland, he studies the Church of Ireland, Quakers, northern Presbyterians, and native Catholic culture. In “New Spain” (later known as Mexico), he focuses on Catholic Creole clerics of the middle and lower orders versus the Spanish-dominated higher orders.
César’s dissertation, titled “‘My Kingdom is not of this World’: Christianities, Revolution, and National Identity in Atlantic Writing Cultures (1789-1832)”, considers how revolutionary ideas transformed religious conceptions of belonging in the literatures of England, Ireland, and Mexico during the middle interval of the Age of Revolutions. His project seeks to bring the North and South Atlantics into dialogue with one another; an enterprise not as strange as it may initially seem considering that writers from all three nations read Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine, and Edmund Burke, yet approached them through the lens of their particular religious politics. César’s central research questions are: what political alchemy results from the mixture of revolutionary discourses and religious politics at these sites? How does a Catholic culture make use of revolutionary ideas versus Northern Protestants’ use of this same material? By focusing on literature and life writings as the domains in which these tensions are played out, César’s project will reveal the rhetorical and literary strategies, as well as productive contradictions, that are constitutive of imagining a more expansive concept of the nation. In doing so, his project goes beyond a generalized notion of a secular Enlightenment that would usher in modernity into these three nations, into the affective realm of writing where religion played a prominent role in the literary invention of the modern state.
César was awarded both a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and a Joseph L. Gaia Distinguished Fellowship in 2012. He recently won a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2016) and was selected as an Alternate for a Fulbright Research Grant to Ireland. He taught a British Romanticism & Religion course during the 2016 Spring Semester. César is founder and three-term president of the Latina/o Graduate Association at Notre Dame (LGAND).