Eduardo Ho-Fernández talks about his time spent at the IMLR as a Visiting Scholar in the summer of 2019
The purpose of my Visiting Scholarship in the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) at the School of Advanced Study (SAS) of the University of London was to expand on two Renaissance research projects dealing with topics where linguistic and literary analysis intersected. The first project meant to explore the relationship between Erasmus and Juan de Valdés in relation to the scathing critique that Antonio de Nebrija received from Valdés in his Diálogo de la lengua (c. 1535). The second project meant to explore the linguistic features observed in the poems of bilingual Portuguese authors (e.g., Don Manuel de Portugal, Diogo Bernardes) who wrote in Spanish during the Iberian Union (1580-1640). In addition to these two projects. I can say that my experience at the School of Advanced Study far exceeded my highest expectations and I would strongly encourage pre-doctoral stage scholars to look into the many advantages that a Visiting Scholarship could bring to their overall academic portfolio.
Right after my introductory meeting at the Institute, where I outlined my research agenda to IMLR Director, Professor Catherine Davies, I received from her a list of members of the academic staff within the University of London that Professor Davies thought could potentially benefit me in addressing my research questions. Because it was summertime and my time was limited, I spent the rest of that first week contacting and setting-up appointments with the referred faculty members. In the meantime, I visited the Rare Manuscripts Division within Senate House and found/reviewed an early translation of Erasmus’ Colloquies. Professor Davies’ suggestions were outstanding, but getting in touch with the staff at the Warburg Institute to inquire about documents I had been seeking for months proved to be a point of great inflection in how I approached one of my projects. Once in touch, the current librarian at the Warburg suggested that I tried reaching out to the recently-retired head librarian at the Warburg Institute and now Professor Emerita, Jill Kraye. My interactions with Professor Kraye and what I was able to accomplish at the Warburg were significant and merit additional discussion.
One of the main goals for my Visiting Scholarship was to find the Latin-to-English translation of the letters documenting the epistolary relationship between Erasmus and Juan de Valdés. Prior to my Visiting Scholarship, I had not been able to find any bibliographical reference or the catalog number for these letters; but with the assistance of Professor Kraye at the Warburg, I finally encountered the elusive translated letters from the hundreds of letters that Erasmus wrote in his lifetime – and that was a very special and long-awaited moment for me. I also reviewed additional writings by Erasmus and of important modern biographers of Renaissance authors. From the former, of note was the English translation of Erasmus’ Ciceronianus, where Nebrija actually receives direct praise by Erasmus for his Latin style. This particular finding geared my research in a completely different direction, and I am currently evaluating its impact on my hypotheses. I cannot imagine connecting as many dots as I did with respect to the Nebrija vs Valdés controversy, and the different perspective I gained on Erasmus, without the specialized resources made available to me at the Warburg through this Visiting Scholar programme and Professor Kraye’s challenges to my thinking.
I was also fortunate enough to meet with Professor Emeritus Trevor Dadson, Professor Emeritus Christopher Pountain, and Dr Alex Sampson. I met with Emeritus Professor Dadson at the stunning British Academy headquarters, and we discussed among other themes: Luso-Hispanic relations in the 15-17th centuries; the possible status of Castilian in Portugal during that time; the work of some historians on the crowns of Spain and Portugal; other prolific authors during the Iberian Union (e.g., Francisco de Portugal, Conde de Salinas); and Professor Dadson’s idea that Garcilaso’s poetry re-emerged in Spain via the bilingual Portuguese poets that wrote in Spanish and not because of Spaniards valuing Garcilaso’s poems. I met Emeritus Professor Pountain at the Henry Wellcome Gallery, another beautiful space (one that I already considered a favorite spot), where besides enjoying a classic afternoon English tea and a more-than enjoyable chat, we engaged in a very technical and lengthy discussion of: (ir)regular features in the Spanish poems written by bilingual Portuguese poets; linguistic variation in Renaissance Spain; Golden Age metrics and rhyme; the Nebrija vs. Valdés controversy; and the possible status of the contraction nel in Old and Classical Spanish. I met Dr Sampson in his UCL office, where before discussing my projects and him offering some really insightful suggestions and additional bibliographical references, we took a stroll through the once-a-week Farmer’s Market, where we purchased some tasty sweet goods from local bakers. Two members of the academic staff that I was not able to meet in person, but that I corresponded with, and that also offered some really helpful and pointed suggestions for further reading, were: Professor Julian Weiss and Dr Elena Carrera. I also connected with Dr Barry Taylor, librarian and curator of Early-Modern collections for the Iberian region at the British Library, and he supplied me with priceless information related to the printing of Castilian books in Portugal and with some articles that I was not familiar with that related to both of my projects. Those will be of great assistance in helping me contextualize my research questions.
Events outside the scope of my research agenda at the IMLR, but that are worth mentioning, were: meeting Professor Li Wei at the scenic Caffè Tropea in Russell Square, where we had an excellent conversation (and a really great meal!) regarding the British university system and possible sources of post-doctoral work in England; travelling to Manchester where I met with Professor Yaron Matras to discuss issues and methodological problems in the study of language contact; attending sessions at the IV Linguistics Student Research Conference held at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London; working on my doctoral dissertation on Spanish word order; and, drafting a portion of a future journal article related to Spanish in contact with English in the United States.
I also had time to self-reflect and enjoy the city of London, which never ceases to amaze me. I saw two fantastic performances at the Royal Opera House; enjoyed an acrobatics show at the Underbelly Festival; saw some family members and some old friends, and even made some new ones; celebrated a birthday (one of the big ones…); reconnected with electronic music; found a talented acupuncturist; bought books that I needed for my research that are not sold in the U.S. (thanks to Institute Manager Cathy Collins for hunting them down in the mailroom!); and most importantly and memorably, I experienced a very warm reception and genuine interest from practically everyone I got to meet. I will fondly remember my time as a Visiting Scholar at the School of Advanced Study, and I am grateful for having the unique opportunity to become part of this remarkable community of scholars. I truly enjoyed this entire experience and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. From my vantage point, this experience is what you make out of it. Regardless, whether you are considering it for a short-term or a long-term arrangement, I highly recommend anyone to apply for a research program at the SAS-IMLR. It is a great academic home and the process is really straight-forward. Best of all: you will never regret it!
Eduardo Ho-Fernández, Visiting Scholar IMLR, SAS (Jun-Jul 2019)