Michelle Clayton teaches comparative and Latin American literature at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the international avant-gardes, with a particular emphasis on artistic reframings of bodies and languages in modernity and on lyric engagements with history.
At the Radcliffe Institute, she will work on a project examining the role of movement in the avant-gardes. Treating movement as both a code of gesture and a mode of circulation across cultures, the project focuses on four figures in constant motion: Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin, Isadora Duncan, and Tórtola Valencia. It explores the commentaries on modernity performed by and projected onto their bodies, tracking the responses they generated in a variety of spaces and artistic media. The project aims to foreground the role of dance in the avant-gardes, while also comparing responses to modernity in Europe and the Americas. By illustrating the diverse ways in which avant-garde culture moved, this project proposes a more interdisciplinary and transnational approach to questions of cultural exchange.
Clayton received her BA in modern languages (Spanish and German) from Oxford University and a PhD in Romance languages and literatures from Princeton University. She has published articles on modern and contemporary literature in a variety of journals and edited volumes. Her forthcoming book, “Body Language: César Vallejo and the Reach of Poetry,” connects the Peruvian poet’s writings to debates within the Latin American and European avant-gardes, arguing for the critical relevance of Vallejo’s poetry and prose to broader paradigms of international modernism.