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Blog: Auia Loca. An Interview with the Steering Committee of Hesperides

A painting of four women sitting in a room weaving. One woman is spinning wool, two are arranging wool, and one is picking up tools off the floor. In the background is another room filled with women.

Welcome to Auia loca: New Paths in Classics, a new series launched by the SCS Communications Committee! Taking inspiration from Lucretius as he wanders through remote and unfrequented paths (auia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante | trita solo, DRN 4.1–2), Auia loca seeks to spotlight new initiatives which themselves represent new and untrodden paths for Classics, as both a discipline and an academic field.

To kick off the series, it is my pleasure to introduce Hesperides, a new scholarly organization devoted to the study of Classics in Luso-Hispanic Worlds. Hesperides recently gained Category II affiliate status with the SCS, an affiliation which entitles the organization to a panel or paper session at the annual meeting. It joins a host of other SCS affiliated groups which likewise focus on the rich and complex receptions of the ancient Mediterranean across modernity, including Eos and the Asian and Asian American Classical Caucus (AAACC).

To learn more about Hesperides’ aims and plans, I sat down with its founding steering committee members: Julia Hernández, Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish at Washington and Lee; Erika Valdivieso, Assistant Professor of Classics at Yale; and Adriana Vazquez, Assistant Professor of Classics at UCLA.

Rosa Andújar: Why Hesperides? What are the organization’s overall aims?

Erika Valdivieso: First, we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you to you, Rosa, and to the SCS Communications Committee for offering the platform to share Hesperides with the broader SCS community! When the three of us started talking about organizing this group for reception in the Luso-Hispanic world, we were inspired by the work of Eos and the AAACC. As we brainstormed possible names, I kept thinking of a poem written in seventeenth-century Mexico, which refers to the Americas as Hesperia. That word gave me pause: what did it mean? In antiquity, the Greeks and then the Romans had used “Hesperian” terminology to define the western edge of their world, with the mythological garden of the nymphs, the Hesperides, representing that boundary.

Julia Hernández: It’s unsurprising that early modern Iberians would come to use this Hesperian language for their own shifting frontiers, thus framing their global expansion as a continuation of Greco-Roman antiquity. Since our organization promotes the study of Classics in Luso- and Hispanophone contexts, we felt this name would be a nod to this history of Spanish and Portuguese speakers envisioning themselves as heirs to classical legacies. However, by calling ourselves after the nymphs originally thought to inhabit this mythological realm, we wanted to emphasize the agency of those who have and still do live in spaces shaped by Iberian contact and colonialism. The name reflects our interest in drawing attention to the plurality of traditions that inform classical legacies in these regions, with particular emphasis on groups whose transformations of these traditions have been overlooked, such as Indigenous, Afrodescendent, and women writers.

Adriana Vazquez: Part of the appeal of a geographically oriented name like Hesperides is precisely this historical fluidity. The boundaries of what constituted “Hesperia” changed over time, just as the reach of the Luso- and Hispanophone worlds have consistently changed, whether by means of diaspora or the shifting boundaries of reception. The dynamics of the tradition we consider in the purview of our organization is as much part of what makes this growing discipline intellectually appealing.

RA: Hesperides has a trilingual website. Would you elaborate on why this is the case?

EV: We all came to this project with the firm belief that research on classical material in Luso- and Hispanophone contexts should be in dialogue with those who speak Spanish and Portuguese. While studies of classical reception in Latin America or in the Spanish Pacific may only now be gaining traction in the Anglophone world, generations of scholars based in these regions have made (and are making!) important contributions to the literature on these topics.

AV: Yes, many interesting objects of study come from the Luso-Hispanic world, but it is also a site of knowledge production and scholarship. That’s why it’s so important to credit the work of our Lusophone and Hispanophone colleagues in any work that explores their worlds. Accessibility and equitability have been key orienting principles for us. We are committed to the idea of trilingual correspondence and platforms to generate a truly welcoming environment that speaks to and serves a body of membership in which no single language or perspective takes precedence.

JH: Our trilingual website is really an embodiment of these goals of accessibility and equity; it immediately signals to the visitor our intent to bridge linguistic divides and to foster relationships between students, teachers, and researchers based across the globe without centering one region or tradition. We hope this will be clear from the moment visitors land on our splash page, where the “choose-your-preferred-language” feature is conspicuously placed front and center, allowing guests to shape their own Hesperides experience — and hopefully encouraging them to see themselves as active participants in shaping Hesperides itself as we continue to evolve.

RA: Tell us more about your plans with the SCS. Do you have any events already planned for 2022?

EV: We are delighted about this new phase of collaboration with the SCS! The next meeting in San Francisco will be our official debut as an affiliated group, which we will mark with a virtual business meeting and an in-person social hour. We encourage anyone curious about collaborating or who’s simply interested in showing support for our mission to attend either event! The following meeting in New Orleans will see our first panel, so stay tuned for more information soon.

AV: The SCS has done an admirable job in recent years of expanding its programming to include more global perspectives and creating a home for work in receptions studies. We look forward to partnering with the society in our mutual goals of expanding the remit of classics and incorporating new perspectives.

JH: We also hope to work in solidarity with other SCS affiliate groups who have served as inspiration for us and include, as Erika mentioned, Eos and the AAACC, in addition to the Mountaintop Coalition, MRECC, and others. We are particularly excited about Pachanga Latina, SCS’s first social space for Latinx members, created by Naomi Campa and Yesenia Brambila. As we think about the future, the hope is that Pachanga Latina and Hesperides can help increase the visibility and representation of Latinx people at the annual meeting.

RA: Hesperides has links to other scholarly organizations beyond the SCS. Which ones and why?

AV: The intellectual aims of our organization are by their nature so truly interdisciplinary. We’ve seen this from the start even among the three of us, that being in dialogue across academic fields and linguistic traditions has generated so many interesting connections and discussions. Part of what we hope to achieve with Hesperides is a space where different disciplines can meet and interact, so looking beyond the SCS is central to creating that interdisciplinary space.

JH: Yes, and this is a particularly exciting area of growth for us at the moment. In addition to our affiliate status with the SCS, we are formally affiliated with the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) and the Sociedade Brasileira de Estudos Clássicos (SBEC), with programming planned for their upcoming conferences; we are also developing events for the 2022 meetings of the Society for Renaissance and Baroque Hispanic Poetry (SRBHP) as well as the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques (FIEC). As an interdisciplinary organization, our relationships with the RSA and SRBHP represent key avenues of exchange with scholars from outside the field of Classical Studies proper. Our work with the SBEC and FIEC, on the other hand, helps create international dialogue between classicists from a variety of geographic and linguistic contexts, which is so central to Hesperides’s mission.

RA: Hesperides’ mission statement includes “international scope”. What links do you have beyond the U.S. and how do you hope to build on those?

EV: In addition to the inter-organizational collaborations discussed above, we have built Hesperides from the ground up to ensure space at every level for scholars based in Luso-Hispanic regions. From the outset, we sought to decenter Anglophone, global-North perspectives, so that Hesperides’ efforts can be truly equitable.

JH: You can see this, for instance, in the structure of our advisory board. We are grateful to this team of trilingual, interdisciplinary, and international scholars for providing counsel and inspiration over the past year. They hail from many countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and the UK, and, in addition to Classical Studies, represent fields as varied as Philosophy and Art History. With their guidance, we have expanded our steering committee to further reflect our goal of balanced and equitable leadership. We are pleased to welcome two new members to the steering committee: Brenda López, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the Humanities at Universidad de Chile, and Marihá Barbosa e Castro, Portuguese and Latin Instructor at the Federal Institute of Espírito Santo, Brazil.

AV: We are also happy that our growing membership base — 58 people since January — comes from eight different countries. This includes a mix of faculty at all career levels, graduate and undergraduate students, primary and secondary instructors, and members of the public at large. Anyone who shares in our mission is welcome to join. Upcoming opportunities for members include a collaboration with the UK-based Classical Receptions Studies Network, which has offered Hesperides a blog takeover in 2022 and for which we are already receiving pitches from members. And finally, we are excited to be building a member-facing database, which will further facilitate networking and build new collaborations around shared areas of research, teaching, and outreach.

For more on Hesperides, or to become a member, please visit their website.

Header image: "Las Hilanderas" or "The Weavers" by Diego Velázquez. Image courtesty of Wikimedia Commons.

Julia Hernandez. A woman with long, dark hair smiling at the camera. She is wearing gold earrings, a black cardigan, and a multicolored blouse underneath.
Julia C. Hernández is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish at Washington and Lee University and managing editor of the journal Bulletin of the Comediantes. Bridging Classics and Hispanic Studies, she specializes in the history of ancient Greek—from its teaching to its translation to its reconstructed literary production—in the early modern Spanish-speaking world. Her interests also include the intersections of Classics and Latinidad, or US Latinx identity.

A woman with dark brown hair smiling at the camera. Behind her is a large room lined with tall wooden bookshelves filled with books.
Erika Valdivieso is an Assistant Professor of Classics at Yale University. Her current book project examines four Latin epics from colonial Mexico and Brazil in relation to the Virgilian tradition. She specializes in Latin poetry, book history, and the legacies of classical humanism in Spanish and Portuguese America.

A woman with long, black hair smiling at the camera. She is wearing a black sweater and standing in front of a Roman mosaic that depicts a man's head with light hair and an open mouth.
Adriana Vazquez is an Assistant Professor of Classics at UCLA and 2021-22 Andrew Heiskell/Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Rome Prize Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. Her current book project analyzes the neoclassical vernacular poetry of the Brazilian colonial period and Brazilian Arcadianism. She is especially interested in classical reception in Lusophone contexts and vernacular/Latin intertextuality. 

Rosa Andújar's picture

Rosa Andújar is a Senior Lecturer (i.e. Associate Professor) at King’s College London, where she is affiliated with the Departments of Liberal Arts and Classics. Her main research interests address Greek tragedy and the global reception history of antiquity in modernity. She has edited three books, including The Greek Trilogy of Luis Alfaro (Methuen Drama/Bloomsbury 2020) (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/greek-trilogy-of-luis-alfaro-9781350155404), which was awarded the 2020 London Hellenic Prize, and is the author of numerous articles (https://kcl.academia.edu/RosaAndujar) in these two areas. You can reach her at rosa.andujar@kcl.ac.uk.

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