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Focus on the Faculty: Elizabeth Wright

Alan Flurry

Professor of Spanish Elizabeth Wright builds research opportunities into her teaching that help students develop skills that will last a lifetime—whether as educators, scholars, entrepreneurs, public servants or world travelers:

My scholarship ponders an abiding paradox of empire building in the early modern era (circa 1490–1800). That is, the expanding horizons of the Spanish monarchy—both geographic and cultural—coincided with the explicit prohibition of religious diversity and with the codification of bias against ethnic and racial minorities. I seek projects that focus on borderlands of the Spanish empire, where officials representing the Crown or the Catholic church came into close contact with other languages, governing systems, people and religions. For example, my latest book, “The Epic of Juan Latino: Dilemmas of Race and Religion in Renaissance Spain” (2016), examines how this former slave from sub-Saharan Africa mobilized an array of educational initiatives meant to Christianize the Hispano-Muslims of Spain (Moriscos) to negotiate his own freedom and social advancement. In time, Juan Latino became the first black African to publish a book of poems in Europe.

Wright was the recipient of a highly competitive NEH summer stipend earlier this year, which she used to conduct research for a new book, Stages of Servitude in Early Modern Iberia, including the study of rare books, treatises, travel narratives and other documents that reveal how the nascent theaters of Spain and Portugal contributed to the naturalization of demeaning images of sub-Saharan Africans and the institutionalization of the Atlantic slave trade. The projects puts her in search of evidence of how black Africans and Afro-descendant Iberians navigated the nascent theater business to attain artistic validation and economic advancement. 

Truly one of our best, Wright inspires her students and colleagues as she brings the values of the humanities to every course and research endeavor. 

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