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STT = St. Thomas Campus,
St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

STX = Albert A. Sheen Campus,
St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

STJ = St. John Academic Center,
St. John, US Virgin Islands

Wilhite, Valerie Michelle, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Modern Languages
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences




Albert A. Sheen Campus


I am interested in the cultures of the Medieval Mediterranean with a focus on two interrelated phenomena: the lyrical traditions that wandered from East to West and northward and the theorizing of language, music, and literature that also traveled the same routes. I have worked primarily on Occitan lyric of the troubadour tradition but explored the movement of the tradition in new forms as it takes root in Catalonia and parts of what is now Italy.

Dr. Wilhite received her undergraduate degree in French and Spanish at Middle Tennessee State University.  She received her MA in Comparative Literature at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and then went to Paris to complete a degree in Medieval Studies at the University of Paris IV—Sorbonne.  In 2010 she received her PhD in Comparative Literature with a dissertation entitled The Transformative Power of Love which compared mystical writing and troubadour lyric from the medieval Romance-language tradition. 

So how did a Tennessee girl born to a Colombian mother and an Appalachian father end up in St. Croix at the University of the Virgin Islands?  It's simple; my life is the product of studying Romance Languages and Literatures.  My father was the first person to go to High School in his family.  When he happened into a Spanish HS class he suddenly became aware of how grand the world was.  There were places where people communicated using different sounds, ate different foods, held different beliefs. There was a place where people lived a life not at all like the one his family had. He wanted to explore that and made the startling choice to go to college and study Spanish despite his family's inability to understand.  A Spanish HS class took a boy out of Appalachia to put him on a college campus and then in a remote town in Colombia.  He eventually met my mother, wrote a thesis on the influence of French Enlightenment thinking on the revolutionaries of Nueva Granada, and became a professor of Spanish. 

Given this background I had no choice but to ferment my own revolution by, at the age of 4, declaring that I would live in Paris when I grew up, then deciding on a career as a French Literature Professor and engaging enthusiastically in all things French in HS.  But in college I couldn't turn my back on Spanish. In fact, things were about to become even more complicated thanks to the survey courses Romance Studies students are required so often to take.  While taking the French and Spanish surveys we hit upon the kharjas in my Spanish class and the troubadours in my French class at the same time.  The kharjas blew my mind: love poetry sweet enough to appeal to a teenage girl written in Arabic or Hebrew script but with the sounds of Spanish when pronounced aloud at the end of a more serious poem in formal Arabic or Hebrew.  Appeals to the mother and to girlfriends in Spanish while the formal bit was in a different, formal language.  Bilingual poetry that, like me, chose one language for la mamita and female friends and family.  It spoke my language.  At the same time its theme, a special type of loving, was being spoken in yet another language across the hall in my French class that was studying the troubadour love songs. I felt, in some ways, in the midst of the mystery.  I had to tease out these strands that seemed to be knotting together all these spaces Semitic and Romance along the Mediterranean while weaving me, my life and experience of language and situation in the world into the tangle. 

So I went wherever I thought I could get the skills needed to unravel the mystery that now held me bound.  I went to study in France twice, once as an undergrad, and again at the Université de Paris IV where I did a Diplôme d'étude approfondie in Occitan, the language that is very similar to Catalan which was used by the troubadours.  While there I continued my study of bilingual texts.

I studied Arabic and Hebrew while pursuing my degree in Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  For two years I worked in Barcelona teaching at the university and undertaking research in its libraries and archives. 

Once I finished my degree I hoped to find a department where students and faculty would be fully engaged in their own community while eager to explore the rest of the world's people through the study of language, literature, and culture that prompts a lot of travel and international friendships. I am thrilled to find myself here where I hope to create a space of exploration that will invite students to consider how they can change the path of their lives. 

Ph.D in Comparative Literature, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2010
D.E.A. (Diplôme d’études approfondies) in Etudes médiévales, Université Paris IV - Sorbonne, 2000
M.A. in Comparative Literature, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 1997
B.A. in French, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN, 1994

French, English, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Catalan

  • "Ars Amatoria·Ars Grammatica: the Linguistic, Literary, and Amatory Theories of Raimon Vidal" (in progress)
  • 2011 "A/Esperar: The Lost Sigh of the Troubadour Tradition." Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary 4(2011): 1-8.
  • "La metamorfósis de un hada: Melusina en las versiones medievales de Jean d'Arras y Coudrette y en El unicornio de Mujica Láinez." FORMA: Revista d'estudis comparatius. Art, literatura, pensament. 3 (2011): 23-31.
  • 2014 "Narcissus," for Selected Tales of the Ovide moralisé, Ed. Sarah-Jane Murray, Waco, TX: Baylor UP. [Translation of Book III, vv. 1292-1463]
Editorial Projects
  • 2011 (Co-editor with Anna Klosowska) Occitan Poetry, special volume of Glossator: Practice and Theory of Commentary, vol. 4. May.