Jessica Sanfilippo-Schulz

Jessica Sanfilippo-Schulz


In October 2018, I joined the School of English, where I began  PhD by distance learning under the supervision of Dr J. Prosser (lead supervisor) and Professor J. McLeod.

I completed my BA (English and Italian) and MA (National and Transnational Studies: Literature, Culture, Language) at the University of Muenster, WWU, Germany. Before studying, I worked in Milan, Italy and Stuttgart, Germany in sales and marketing for international companies, such as Hewlett Packard and Sony. After completing my studies, I worked as a research assistant at the language centre of the University of Muenster for three years.

I was born in Liberia and grew up in Italy and the UK. Currently, I reside in Germany with my husband and teenage daughter. 

During my MA studies, I developed a keen interest in the biographies of novelists who were raised in many countries, such as Isabel Allende, Aminatta Forna, Abeer Hoque, Yann Martel, Amélie Nothomb and Ilija Trojanow.

Research interests

In September 2021, I submitted my doctoral thesis.

My thesis explores millennial life writing by ‘Third Culture’ women and girls from diverse backgrounds that concerns the experience of growing up in at least three countries, cultures and languages – a phenomenon I term ‘moving girlhoods’. It reframes existing ‘Third Culture Literature’ theories, which have so far only been applied to fiction by authors raised as ‘expatriates’, while also integrating critical debates in postcolonial, transcultural, and girlhood scholarship into the field of life writing for the first time, to analyse how moving girlhoods shape autobiographical texts.

Specifically, I explore the aesthetic and generic elements employed to portray the concerns of these particular migrant girls. Each chapter focuses on a distinct category of mobility and genre of life writing. For example, in my third chapter, I dedicate my explorations to the genre of ‘autographics’ in Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir (2017). I also examine modern-day forms of life writing by girls, such as TED talks.

Despite the different reasons for migration, in their various ways the texts portray ‘moving girlhoods’ as always an unsettling experience, however privileged the context of mobility. I argue that the writers magnify contradictions in their life writing to articulate the experience of growing up in conflictual conditions. In turn, genres of life writing are used to disrupt dichotomies, to challenge misjudgements and ill-fitting classifications, and to speak out against marginalisation.

While describing multiple polarisations, life writing about moving girlhoods also empowers unique opportunities to explore and engage in the new perspectives and critical global conflicts of the twenty-first century. 

Research Grants and Awards

In July 2019, I was granted a research dissemination award by the Faculty of AHC of the University of Leeds to participate in the conference Beyond Boundaries: Authorship and Readership in Life Writing.

In November 2018, I was granted a 2019 David C. Pollock Scholarship in order to attend the Families in Global Transition 2019 FIGT annual conference in Bangkok. Here, I presented a poster which illustrated how I extend Antje Rauwerda's Third Culture Literature and Ruth Van Reken's Cross-Cultural Kid model to the field of life writing.


  • MA National and Transnational Studies, WWU University of Muenster, Germany, 2013
  • BA English and Italian, WWU, Germany, 2011