Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
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Growing up in a remote Rocky Mountain town, reading for me was a window upon a larger world, a map by which I might trace itineraries of future travels. How that map led me to focus on Portuguese language, literatures and cultures is a question that always forces me to pause, trying anew to determine which fork in which road was most serendipitous. Certainly, there is no straight line connecting Idaho and Brazil.
As an undergrad at the U. of Idaho, I studied history and Spanish and began avidly reading Latin American "boom" writers. I studied for a year in Quito and travelled through much of Spanish America. After graduation and a year of odd jobs and experiments with other languages in Idaho, Germany and the Czech Republic, I began a master of arts in Latin American studies at Tulane, where I studied history and sociology but gravitated toward literature. The writers I encountered beautifully complicated the big questions that pursued me: colonialism and postcolonialism, development and underdevelopment, aesthetics and politics, the ethics of representation, and responses and responsibilities of intellectuals and artists to worlds profoundly stratified and other worlds possible. I began to study Portuguese, took my first trip to Brazil and was overtaken by a fascination for the language, the scale and diversity of the country, its history and culture, and how it compelled new reflections on Latin America and the U.S. (A wise Brazilianist noted of the U.S. and Brazil that beneath their evident differences they are enormously comparable, each yielding surprising insights into the other). My doctorate is in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian literatures and linguistics, from the University of Minnesota, where I continued to study Latin American literatures, and Portuguese opened other worlds to me, through courses on the literatures of Portugal and Lusophone Africa and a fellowship for summer study in Lisbon.
My research focuses on contemporary Brazilian narrative and cultural discourse. My dissertation was on cultural politics in Brazil's Landless Movement, and I am now writing a book on nature and rural place and subjectivity in contemporary Brazilian literature and visual culture. This project considers the meanings of the rural/regional in a rapidly urbanizing society, and environmental imagination in a literature that has not featured, as in the case of the U.S., a generic tradition of "nature writing." I'm also interested in locating Brazil in transnational mappings. In this vein, I'm exploring trans-Atlantic, Lusophone identity as imagined by contemporary Portuguese-language writers. I coedited a volume of essays on the work of Gilberto Freyre, a 20th-century Brazilian intellectual who articulated a utopian vision of Luso-Brazilian difference around ideas of exceptionally harmonious race relations and cultural hybridity. I'm now working on a series of essays on Angolan writer, José Eduardo Agualusa, whose work features crossings of Lusophone borders and for whom the notion of creolity connects Portuguese-speaking communities spread across oceans and continents.
I first joined the Smith faculty in 2003. I teach all levels of Portuguese language, including an accelerated introduction to Brazilian Portuguese designed for Spanish speakers, and topics and seminars including Angola, Brazil, Cuba: Race, Nation, and Narrative; Envisioning Lusofonia: A Focus on Film from the Portuguese-Speaking World; Brasil Profundo: Writing the Brazilian Countryside; and Popular Music, Nationhood, and Globalization in the Portuguese-Speaking World.