A.B., Columbia University; A.M., University of Virginia; Ph.D., Harvard University
Professor of Spanish
Spanish literature, hagiography, gender issues, study-abroad theory and practice.
Within my study of literature and culture, hagiography (the study of the lives of saints) constitutes the unifying thread in my research. I examine the charismatic religious personality—both historical and apocryphal, both in literature and art—as an embodiment of those traits most admired by a particular culture. Of special interest is the saint's life as a fictional composite informed by folkloric and oral traditions. My most recent work examines mixed-gender imagery in medieval Spanish popular hagiography and highlights moments of tension between the sanctioned and the forbidden within didactic literature. Adapting my expertise to a more contemporary focus, I initiated a study of hagiographic motifs in an American/Hispanic context, examining the role of religious cultural icons (products of both European Catholic and Native American traditions) in a political/aesthetic agenda.
My teaching reflects a belief in the continuity between “language” and “literature.” Language is culture: be that in the elementary level class or the most advanced literature seminar. My goals include not only helping students to achieve linguistic competence but also to instill in them an appreciation for the centrality of Hispanic cultures to our world. I regularly teach courses in medieval Spanish literature. Spain in the Middle Ages fascinates on many dimensions, most notably for the shared habitation of Christians, Jews, and Muslims—sometimes characterized by peaceful cohabitation, sometimes by violent strife. I am greatly committed to study abroad as a critical learning and teaching experience and have directed Wellesley´s PRESHCO program in Spain for several years, as well as heading up our Program for Mexican Culture and Society in Puebla (Mexico). I also enjoy working with first-year students and teach Writing 125 on a regular basis.
I enjoy participating and delivering papers as scholarly symposia focusing on medieval studies, hagiography, and gender issues. These offer opportunities to share work and to meet like-minded colleagues throughout the world. I also enjoy evaluating study-abroad programs and currently serve as U.S. representative for the Asociación de Programas Univeristarios Norteamericanos en España (APUNE) and am immediate past president. I enjoy working with various universities both in Europe and Latin America to explore options for international study. I have also taken a leadership role in various initiatives focuses on interdisciplinary study and cultivating a diverse and vibrant community here at home.