I am a scholar of the Spanish Renaissance, a period of formal and thematic changes in literary works that some have dated as early as 1450 but that is generally recognized as spanning the last decade of the fifteenth century through to the publication of the first part of Miguel de Cervantes’ Quijote (1605). For me, the Renaissance began in the eleventh century when jurists in Bologna first recovered classical-era Roman legal manuscripts. Their goal of incorporating past authority into contemporary discourse expanded beyond the legal field and led to key changes: in educational mores (the rise of the studia humanitatis), in attitudes toward theology and philosophy (Marsilio Ficino’s pia philosophia), and in creative expression (realism in the pictorial and literary arts). Spanish literature of the Renaissance has long been recognized for its key innovations, viz., Lionel Trilling’s declaration that “all prose fiction is a variation on Don Quixote,” but it has also resonated beyond the field of creative letters. In the late eighteenth century, colonial politicians in what would come to be the United States of America described their actions as “tilting at windmills,” and “quixotic” is today a common descriptor for anyone battling the odds. English writers celebrate San Juan de la Cruz’s “dark night of the soul” as a reflection of the artistic struggle to create, and jazz musicians praise Fray Luis de León’s poetic paean to the transcendent power of music. In sum, my field of study is a group of enduring literary works prized for their expressive beauty, intimate introspection, and unique perspectives on reality.
My method of study is philological and historical, with close reading followed by full contextualization. I want to understand how ideas communicated through the aesthetic lexical medium are interpreted and altered in it, and through it. In my first book, I offered a new critical perspective on Spanish mysticism with my study of the resonance of the 3rd-century AD Corpus Hermeticum in the verse of three canonical Spanish poets from the 16th century: San Juan de la Cruz, Fray Luis de León, and Francisco de Aldana. In my second book, I discovered and analyzed a layer of ironic juridical-historical commentary in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quijote, showing how the author makes creative use of elements from jurisprudence and history for everything from character description to sharp criticism of state-ecclesiastical legal rivalries. In my third monograph study, Ficino in Spain, I recover Ficino’s role in Spanish letters of the Renaissance while also expanding our knowledge of Italo-Hispanic humanism and exchanges. Although modern scholarship had failed to note many of these connections, Spanish authors of historical, political, philosophical, theological and creative texts incorporated and discussed Ficino’s writings and translations. In this book, I have unearthed a formerly unappreciated layer of cultural and creative literary commentary. Currently, I am working on a number of projects in various stages of preparation, and my CV holds the most updated information on specifics.
A key strength of my perspective on my field has developed since my time as a graduate student, when I was first entrusted with an analysis of research trends and directions in scholarly activities for an international publication. I have since prepared many such studies, and I have forged deep contacts in multiple international professional settings. I have thus come to appreciate a variety of inter- and intra-disciplinary critical approaches and to believe that, like the proverbial Renaissance bee (and Renaissance writers), a scholar should feed from all flowers so as to produce a unique nectar. Instead of seeing creative literary texts in isolation as a merely academic exercise, or as entertainment, I cultivate and follow my intellectual instincts regarding those texts in a broad cultural and historical sense. A work of art, be it painting, music, sculpture or text, is a statement that is completed when seen, heard, or read, and each individual reading enriches the overall message. That is my contribution to my field, and it is also the beauty of the humanities: close personal study of enduring works of art that communicate through time, space, and place.