Rolena Adorno, Sterling Professor Emerita of Spanish

Rolena Adorno's picture
Sterling Professor Emerita of Spanish
Ph.D. Cornell University (1974)

Areas of interest: Colonial Spanish American literature and history; the nineteenth-century origins of Hispanism in the United States; manuscript culture and textual transmission in colonial Spanish America.

In 2015, Rolena Adorno received the Modern Language Association’s Award for Lifetime Scholarly Achievement. This award has been presented every three years, starting in 1996; to date, she is the only awardee whose area is Spanish-language literatures. In its citation, the MLA described Adorno as “a premier scholar of colonial Spanish American literary and cultural history, a field that she helped bring out of the shadows starting forty years ago.”

Adorno’s more recent honors include an Honorary Doctorate (Dottorato Honoris Causa) from the University of Rome 1, La Sapienza, awarded in Rome on 15 November 2022. Awarded annually by the university which is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1303), Adorno’s honoris causa pertains to her seminal work in Latin American colonial studies, particularly her inclusion, since the late 1970s, of indigenous Amerindian perspectives, which helped spawn the development of the field and its incorporation into the Latin American canon. In 2019 the U.S. Library of Congress appointed Adorno to a four-month fellowship as Chair of the Countries and Cultures of the South, sponsored by the Library’s John W. Kluge Center. In 2018 she received the Premio Nacional “Enrique Anderson Imbert” from the Asociación Norteamericana de la Lengua Española. She was named the Phi Beta Kappa-Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program for the academic year 2016-17, during which she gave public lectures and classes at eight different universities nationwide.

Adorno’s prize-winning books include The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative (2007), which was awarded the MLA’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize. Revealing the interdisciplinary breadth of her work, her three-volume study, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: His Account, His Life, and the Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez (1999), co-authored with Patrick C. Pautz, received prizes from the American Historical Association, the Western Historical Association, and the New England Council of Latin American Studies.

Designed for specialist and non-specialist audiences alike, her reading of three hundred years of Latin American colonial writing is synthesized in Colonial Latin American Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2011). With Roberto González Echevarría, she co-authored Breve historia de la literatura latinoamericana colonial y moderna (2017), which consists of their Oxford University Press Very Short Introductions in colonial and modern Latin American literatures, respectively. With Ivan Boserup, she co-authored New Studies of the Autograph Manuscript of Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala’s Nueva corónica y buen gobierno (2003).

Adorno’s other books include De Guancane a Macondo: Estudios de literatura hispanoamericana (2008), Guaman Poma: Writing and Resistance in Colonial Peru (1986, 2000); Cronista y príncipe: La obra de don Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala (1989, 1992); and Guaman Poma and his Illustrated Chronicle from Colonial Peru (2001).

Adorno is the co-editor of Unlocking the Doors to the Worlds of Guaman Poma and His Nueva corónica (with Ivan Boserup, 2015); Transatlantic Encounters: Europeans and Andeans in the Sixteenth Century (with Kenneth J. Andrien, 1991); The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (with Patrick C. Pautz, 2003); and the print and digital editions of Guaman Poma’s Nueva corónica y buen gobierno (with John V. Murra and Jorge L. Urioste, and Ivan Boserup, respectively). She is the editor of From Oral to Written Expression: Native Andean Chronicles of the Early Colonial Period (1985).

Adorno has introduced the most recent English- and Spanish-language editions of Irving A. Leonard’s classic Books of the Brave (University of California Press, 1992) and Los libros del conquistador (Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2006).

In 2003 Rolena Adorno received the Graduate Mentor Award of the Graduate School of Yale University; in 2001, she was honored with a Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Iowa, her alma mater. In 1989-90 she was a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellow.

Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 2009, Adorno was appointed to membership on the National Council of the Humanities and served until August 2019. She has been an Honorary Associate of the Hispanic Society of America since 1996 and, since 2007, she has held an Honorary Professorship at La Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

Adorno is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.