This year, we are excited to welcome Dr. Noel Blanco Mourelle to join the Hispanic Studies Program. Dr. Blanco Mourelle is an Assistant Professor, coming to us from Columbia, where he finished his Ph.D. in 2017. We sat down with Dr. Blanco Mourelle to get to know him, his research, and his teaching a little better.
How do you feel teaching at William & Mary
I feel it is a great and unique experience. Part of what makes students so great here is that their intellectual abilities are not paired with cynicism about the world. They have a very specific and incredible ability to engage with the class material. It is so refreshing and wonderful to see that they are empathetic and connected.
What are you teaching this year?
I am teaching a medieval studies course, HISP 324, which explores the notion of nations without borders. The course explores Medieval Iberian cultures across geographic territories or religious beliefs. It also adds a linguistic dimension to the notion of nationhood. This all makes students reflect upon the fact that the cultural tapestry of Medieval Iberia is made of people across Christian, Jewish and Muslim practices writing in a variety of languages. This sort of cross-pollination is what makes this specific period so special.
I am also teaching an introduction to literary criticism course, HISP 208. This is a very special class that allows students to progress in their critical thinking skills as well as language domination. They progress from poems to short stories to novels, allowing them to very tangibly measure their development; they see their reading and discussion skills develop into powerful arguments throughout the course of the semester.
In the Spring I will be teaching a COLL 150: Waiting on the End of the World and a Masterpiece seminar on Cervantes. That course will cover, of course, Don Quijote, but it will also include some of Cervantes’ lesser-known works, and I am very excited about it.
If you could teach your “dream course,” what would that look like?
Well, my upcoming COLL 150 course is pretty close to my dream course. This course is looking at the notions of the apocalypse and our human obsession with finitude. I’m designing the course around the idea that one day our species might end and the way that that anxiety plays out in social fears and discourses of perish. More than that, through these fears, there is a contradiction between humans as conceived as the center of our own world and the fact that it very well might not be. I am always interested in issues-driven courses as opposed to specific traditions or styles.
In the future, I would like to cover other issues like the question of conversion through lenses like juridical and anthropological points of view in the Iberian archive. I would also love to teach a future course on the Inquisition.
Do you have any plans for supporting student research?
One of my fields of research and training is the history of the book. The book being tangible and I have already taken students to the archives here in Swem. I like to take them once or twice a semester to go through special collections and start to consider the materiality of the past. But I am very interested in, and hopeful that I can, take them to the National Library and other special collections in this area. I think working with archives offers a complex and nuanced version of the past. I mean, it is great to see the nice and tidy book that comes from Penguin Books USA, but it’s amazing to see the way, for example, Don Quijote was read over the centuries. It is so different to see the notes and the editions change over time.
What is your current research project?
My current project is about learning technologies in between the Iberian Medieval period and Early Modern period. I am dealing with two issues, the first being something I would call a question about political theology. I am considering the struggle to separate the temporal and religious powers in society and how that difference plays out in intellectual and pedagogical culture. The second part of this project considers how specific medieval intellectual techniques are re-purposed in the Early Modern period to achieve the expansion of the empire. This is really about situating the Iberian experience within a Global Context of New Spain, the Counterreformation and other impactful events.
Can you tell us a little about where you come from and how you are adjusting to Williamsburg?
I am used to moving around. I completed my undergraduate degree in Spain, at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela. There, bachelor degrees are five years, so I did my study abroad during my fourth year. I spent the year in Italy, in a town called, Bologna, and it was an absolutely transformative and mind-blowing experience. Because of that, I always, always, recommend to my students to do a study abroad. When I cam back to my university, I just knew I needed to continue my studies within this setting of intercultural exchanges. So, I completed my Master’s degree in Paris and then decided to do my Ph.D. in the United States. I applied to graduate school without really knowing how it was, since I had never even been to the U.S. before. Actually, my first time was coming as a prospective graduate student! I decided to go to school in New York, at Columbia University. I feel super lucky to be here in Williamsburg. I love it here at William & Mary. Everyone asks if I have had trouble adjusting, but I would not say so. It feels very nice to be here.
Thanks, Dr. Blanco Mourelle. We look forward to seeing you around campus more this Fall!