I am a medievalist and early modernist teaching World and Comparative Literatures and Cultures and Hispanic Studies in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures. I specialise in the literary and textual cultures of the Iberian Peninsula between the 13th and 17th centuries. My approach is comparative and transnational: I take a global perspective on Hispanic studies that emphasises Spain’s position within transnational nexus of influence, exchange, and power. I am interested in the mobility of culture and concepts across time and space and the renegotiations that take place in the act of translation and reception, not only in the meaning of words but how such evolutions shape perceptions of the world.
In both my research and teaching I bring a historical perspective to the interconnectedness of Spain (and Europe)’s history and culture by foregrounding the contemporary relevance of the medieval and early modern worlds. Ideological uses of the past and the appropriation and representation of the medieval and early modern in contemporary visual and literary cultures form an increasingly important aspect of my work.
I am introducing a final-year option which engages critically with theories of World Literature to examine how medieval and early modern literary texts were translated, transmitted, and circulated, and how they conceptualised ‘the world’ from multiple perspectives and subject positions.
This new module will address the ‘presentism’ of World Literature as a discipline, using the early Iberian worlds as a conceptual testing ground that reveals how medieval and early modern literary cultures were already ‘global’. To do so, it incorporates texts from the Iberian Peninsula and elsewhere in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East in Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Quechua (all studied in English translation), thus decentring traditional euro-centric approaches to the study of ‘Hispanic’ literature. It will also examine how ‘worlding’ medieval and early modern cultural production has implications for discourses in the present moment and look at how the past is put to use through analysis of contemporary social and mainstream media.
Much of my research to date has focused on diasporic and canonical texts which necessitate comparative and transnational approaches that go beyond disciplinary and linguistic boundaries, and which offer scope for rich explorations of a wide range of issues: from periodisation and canon formation to cultural translation and reception studies; and from the complexities of the human condition to perceptions of alterity and the uses of the past in the construction of identities.
My first book, Celestina and the Human Condition in Early Modern Spain and Italy (Tamesis, 2017), an extended and updated version of my doctoral thesis, examined the reception of the late medieval Spanish tragicomedy Celestina in 16th century Spain and Italy in the context of philosophical debates about the human condition. It compared the infamous novel-in-dialogue, which has lived a multitude of ‘afterlives’, against analogous texts such as Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano, Fernán Pérez de Oliva's Diálogo de la dignidad del hombre, Pietro Aretino's Vita delle puttane and its Spanish translation by Fernán Xuárez, Coloquio de las damas. In doing so I demonstrate how the book’s significance moved beyond the limits of its medieval origins and highlight the different nuances that emerge out of such transnational dialogues.
My most recent project traces the European transmission of Kalila wa-Dimna, a highly mobile and world-famous collection of eastern exemplary fables that contributed to the development of European literature. I focus on translations into Spanish, Italian, and English made between the 13th and 17th centuries. Kalila wa-Dimna’s journeys across space and time exemplify the processes of translatio studii and offer a productive way of thinking about the concept of the ‘global’ and intercultural exchange between East and West, as well as the ways in which ‘European’ cultures, identities, and historical narratives have been shaped by encounters – interpersonal, linguistic, textual and cultural – with what has often been perceived as ‘Other’.
In addition to involvement in research groups like Medieval in Contemporary Art (MiCA) – a partnership between the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL and the IES exploring how the medieval becomes a resource for modern art – I have worked with cultural and social organisations on a variety of public events, from school workshops at both primary and secondary level to creative workshops for the general public, and have been involved in large-scale festivals such as the Being Human Festival of the Humanities.
Podcast about language and worldmaking, King’s College London Arts & Humanities Now Podcast:
Medieval Spanish literature
Early Modern Spanish literature