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Scholars of Spanish and Portuguese Shine at Yale

Applause broke out at the fall meeting of the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies (CLAIS) when Professor Noël Valis announced that the doctoral program in Yale’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese had been ranked #1 in the nation by the National Research Council. Of the 60 doctoral programs in Spanish and Portuguese surveyed nationwide for the NRC’s most recent report, Yale’s graduate program received top honors in quantity and quality of faculty research, as well as in the more general S-rank, based upon “the criteria that scholars say are most important,” explains the NRC. As Department Chair Rolena Adorno remarked: “This current recognition in the NRC rankings builds on the decades-long distinction of Yale’s doctoral program in Spanish.”

Recent accomplishments of the tenured faculty of Spanish and Portuguese certainly corroborate the NRC’s findings. 2010 saw the release of Sterling Professor Roberto González Echevarría’s long-awaited critical study Cuban Fiestas, as well as that of Professor Aníbal González’s thought-provoking Love and Politics in the Contemporary Spanish American Novel. Professor K. David Jackson’s new work Adverse Genres in Fernando Pessoa met with critical acclaim, while Professor Noël Valis was pleased to bring two works to press: Sacred Realism. Religion and the Imagination in Modern Spanish Narrative and La cultura de la cursilería. Mal gusto, clase y kitsch en la España moderna, which caused quite a stir in Spain, especially at the annual Madrid Book Fair. To top it off, Rolena Adorno, Reuben Post Halleck Professor and Department Chair, was recently honored by President Barack Obama with a five-year appointment to the National Council on the Humanities, the advisory board of the NEH.

Scholarship is clearly thriving in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as confirmed by the long list of articles published and conference papers presented by faculty, lectors and graduate students alike. Los Angeles, London, and Rome were just a few of the cities that they visited to speak on a variety of topics in the study of language pedagogy and literature. Aside from more traditional scholarship, the department also promotes an active interest in the most recent cultural productions of the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. To name just one recent example, Senior Lector Margherita Tórtora brought the New England Festival of Ibero-American Cinema to the Yale campus on September 22-26, offering a unique opportunity for the Yale community to interact with directors of cutting-edge cinema.

Indeed, a passion for the cultures of Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries is a common thread that unites those in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, from tenured faculty to undergraduate students. The success of the department’s various study abroad programs in Brazil, Spain, Ecuador, and Argentina, in which students live with host families while taking advanced language and cultural coursework, not only attests to a continued commitment to language learning, but also speaks of an appreciation for foreign cultures.

To reach even more students , as of the 2011 Spring semester, CLAIS will sponsor a new Portuguese for Special Purposes course through the Center for Language Study. Designed for professional school students and undergrads preparing for internships, this not-for-credit course will cover social, economic, political and environmental topics in the Lusophone world while strengthening students’ language proficiency. Modeled in part after the successful course Spanish for Medical Professionals, Portuguese for Special Purposes will meet once a week for eight weeks. Of course, if those eight weeks leave any student unsatisfied, the distinguished Department of Spanish and Portuguese awaits.