Mercedes Vaquero Professor of Hispanic Studies

Mercedes Vaquero was born in Toledo (Spain). She received her Licenciatura at the Universidad Complutense (Madrid) in 1976, her first M.A. from Michigan in 1979, and her second M.A. and PhD degrees from Princeton in 1981 and 1984 respectively. She joined the Department of Hispanic Studies in 1989, and became a part of Brown's Medieval Studies Program in 1991. She had previously taught at Boston University, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Middlebury College and Saint Lawrence University. In 1996-97 she was the director of the International Institute in Spain, one of the oldest American institutes in Europe.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

research overview

My teaching and research interests include the Medieval Spanish epic, chronicles, ballads, and oral tradition, and I also regularly offer a graduate/undergraduate course on Spanish Philology. Along with numerous articles, contributions to books, and bibliographies on Medieval literature, I recently published a book on an unknown prosification of the Poema de Fernan Gonzalez (Oretania Ediciones, 2008), and another one on women and the epic (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2005). I currently work on several research projects on the epic and private libraries.

research statement

The main focus of my research is the medieval Spanish epic and historiography, and my main aim is to ask what forms oral narrative takes, what work it does in the world, and how. My past and current research is also concerned with two essential problems: first, the relationship between epic and history, or the relation between "just another story about the past" and historical "facts"; and secondly, the phenomenon of "transitional literacy" or how scribal records show evidence of oral modes of thought. My research—and teaching--is basically historical and philological in orientation, although my work tends to be eclectic and interdisciplinary.

My monograph on Fernán Pérez de Guzmán is the product of serendipity. Like my book on Tradiciones orales (1990) it was triggered by discovery of an unknown or ignored manuscript. Fernán Pérez is a major intellectual figure in 15th century letters. His library was known to us partially, only through a short and incomplete catalogue preserved in an 18th-century manuscript. The manuscript I edited in my recent book contains his last will and testament from 1463, which includes the entire catalogue of his library, with a description of the value of its contents and, in some cases, the physical appearance of its volumes. I study this library in the context of other seigneurial collections that belonged to other "grandes familias" that controlled the political destinies of Castile in the 15th century. The manuscript is also a gem because it gives us extensive biographical information about Fernán Pérez, which was previously unknown. It should be of great value to historians and other scholars of 15th century Castile.

Several of my contributions interweave many of the issues that have concerned me over the years (epic, historiography, orality, and women). My recent book on women and the epic ( La mujer en la épica castellano-leonesa en su contexto histórico ) is partly a result of my research on the epic over the years, and partly the result of teaching several courses on women and the epic. The hypothesis of the monograph, which synthesizes this work, is as follows: the origins of the primitive Castilian-Leonese epic songs can be found in the Imperial program of King Fernando I of Castile and Queen Sancha of León in the 11th century, and these songs were probably recreated in the first half of the 13th century, when king Fernando III of Castile 1217-52 and of León 1230-52, planned and almost fulfilled his Imperial program.

I am currently at work on two studies and editions: first, a 15th-century prosification of the Poema de Fernan Gonzalez, and second, the Cantar de Sancho II . Another research project with which I am involved is the study of private libraries of the late Spanish Middle Ages.

funded research

Richard Salomon Grant, Brown University (to support field trip for SP 121 "Judeo-Spanish Literature and Culture), Fall 2001-02.
Wriston Grant, Brown University (to support research on Medieval Iberia, 1998 - 1999, with Professor S. Bonde).
Curriculum Development Grant, Brown University (UC 62 Medieval Iberia, 1999, with Prof. S. Bonde).
Wayland Collegium Grant, Brown University, 1996 - 1997, grant to support research on Medieval Iberia (with Profs. S. Bonde, A. Remensyder,and S. Slymovics)
Wriston Grant, Brown University, 1991 (to support research SP 19 "Mexican and Spanish Culture).
UTRA Grant, 1999 to support collaborative student research on Spanish Ballads.