Welcome to our new Faculty member, Angélica Serna Jeri, Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies. Professor Serna Jeri is a Peruvian scholar specializing in the indigenous cultures of Latin America. Among her research interests are the colonial archive, biopolitics, material culture, and its circulation in the emergence of Quechua writing.
How your first few weeks have been at William & Mary?
What stands out to me has been the chance to meet scholars and teachers across the sections of the Department of Modern Languages and Literature. It has been a very welcoming experience—I think having the chance to talk with my new colleagues and learn about their projects both in talks as well as in the context of small, informal gatherings has helped to make me feel like part of this very diverse community of scholars. About the students, I can only say how impressed I’ve been by their curiosity and motivation. They have fearlessly jumped into new material—and in a second language—bringing fresh and new questions into the discussions. Their spark makes the classroom enjoyable and stimulating, and there is always space for incorporating multiple points of views.
What are you teaching this year?
I am teaching HISP 208, “La imaginación cultural: arte y literatura en el mundo hispano-hablante,” a class that introduces students to strategies for reading texts critically, covering the main critical approaches to the study of literature and cultural production in the Hispanic world. I am also teaching HISP 290, “Las lenguas indígenas y sus hablantes” a class that focuses on the role of indigenous languages and their speakers in the literatures and cultures of the Hispanic world. A fundamental goal in this class is to learn about the continuities and ruptures between the pre-Columbian past, the colonial experience and the present.
What is the focus of your research? What projects are you working on right now?
My research focuses on the intersection of indigenous studies, literature, and visual and material culture, with a geographical focus on the Andean region. I study the material aspects of writing in indigenous languages from the Hispanic world in order to shed light on issues of indigenous agency, coloniality, subalternity and the role of indigenous speakers in the production of literary and cultural artifacts. Currently, I am working on an article about the role of Quechua speakers in the development of cartography in the Andes. The processual aspect of cartography and its simultaneous representation of space and language has fascinated me since I started to study literature.
What classes will you be teaching next semester?
I will be co-teaching HISP 281, “Introduction to Hispanic Studies,” with Prof. Sylvia Tandeciarz. The course will introduce students to critical and analytical practices that will allow them to develop their own understandings cultural production such as narrative, film, oral tradition, and material culture. I’m excited to have the chance to guide students as they learn to approach such forms in a sophisticated fashion that takes into consideration their historical, social, political, and intertextual situation.
Any advice or words of wisdom for students starting Spanish this semester?
You certainly can’t speak a language without the grammar, but the grammar isn’t everything either. As you use a new language—whether to read texts, collaborate with native speakers, or even just to watch TV—making sense of words most of the time calls on knowledge of cultural and historical background. Think about learning Spanish as learning not just a language, nor even a single culture, but as a complex history of interactions through which cultures, identities, languages and art forms emerged and transformed.