Fellowship to Fund Work on Latin American and Iberian Studies Professor’s First Book

Colleen Locke | Thu Aug 1, 2019

Isabel Gómez One of 81 American Council of Learned Societies Fellows

This fall Assistant Professor of Latin American and Iberian Studies Isabel Gómez will be an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) fellow, an opportunity which will afford her the chance to work on her first book full-time. Selected after a multistage review process of more than 1,100 applicants, Gómez is one of 81 ACLS fellows working in the humanities and related social sciences.

“The awardees, who hail from more than 60 colleges and universities, were selected for their potential to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge,” said Matthew Goldfeder, director of fellowship programs at ACLS. “They are working at diverse types of research projections that span antiquity to the present, in contexts around the world; the array of disciplines and methodologies represented demonstrates the vitality and the incredible breadth of humanistic scholarship today.”

Awards differ depending on the scholar’s career stage, and support six to twelve months of full-time research and writing. Gómez is using her $40,000 award to work on her in-progress book “Cannibal Translation: Literary Reciprocity in Contemporary Latin America” for six months. The book expands upon her dissertation from when she was a PhD student at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Cannibalism in the symbolic realm, in this project, is a positive thing,” Gomez said. “Literary translation in Brazil in particular was taken as not an opportunity to give homage or be subservient to an author or try to reproduce exactly what an author was doing, but instead to do battle honorably with this other author to absorb what a foreign, often European but not always, author or voice or literary movement had to offer and devour it and recreate it in Portuguese.”

Gómez is interested in how what she calls deliberate creative liberty translated itself from Brazil to other parts of Latin America in Spanish.

“Spanish and Portuguese are languages with a lot of similar vocabulary but there’s actually less communication between them,” Gómez said.

Gómez has studied letters between Brazilian poet Haroldo de Campos and Mexican poet Octavio Paz in which they’re arguing and disagreeing about what surrealism meant and talking about translation.

“Paz is observing, ‘Yeah, you’ve been making these changes, but I like them.’ One of the changes he adopted into his own writing. That material, in some cases, later became part of an essay or introduction, but in other cases it’s very interpersonal, and so that’s where the second part of my title comes in.

“Reciprocity you might think of as this very generous term that’s about gift giving and exchange among equals whereas cannibalism is often thought of as something much more violent. I like putting these things together when we’re thinking about the world of the symbolic because there’s still a lot of tension and fighting in the cannibal translators that I study, but then there’s also a lot of generosity in an attempt to give back what they’ve received,” Gómez said.

At UMass Boston, Gómez teaches courses in the Latin American and Iberian Studies major’s Language, Culture, and Society track and Translation Studies track. Her areas of expertise include translation studies, translation theories, Latin American poetics, and comparative literatures. In the last year, her articles on these topics have appeared in Transfer and Mutatis Mutandis. The latter received the Best Article in the Humanities Prize (Antonio Candido Prize) from the Brazil Section of the Latin American Studies Association.

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