Texas Tech University.

2009 Texas Tech Integrated Scholar

Janet Pérez

Janet Perez

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Paul Whitfield Horn Professor of Romance Languages; Qualia Chair of Spanish; Department of Classical & Modern Languages & Literatures; College of Arts & Sciences

“(I've enjoyed) working with students, mentoring students in particular, and mentoring junior faculty. This is something that to me is very important. I’ve mentored a lot of junior faculty, not necessarily in my department, although in my department also.”
- Janet Pérez

What is your research objective/interest(s)?

I've had quite a few changes of emphasis over the years, always within the orbit of contemporary Spanish (Peninsular) Literature: contemporary, meaning from 1898 to the present, and Peninsular as distinct from Spanish-speaking areas outside Spain, Iberian Peninsula (Europe). 

This has always been my primary teaching and primary research area, although there have been numerous secondary ones, often because I was required to cover other areas when the department had no one to teach them. Over the years, I taught not only 20th century, but for some 20 years, also 19th century (and various aspects of Latin American literature, some of which is also reflected in my research). And because of the time I had to fill in teaching the other areas, especially 19th century, for which I was responsible for 20+ years, I directed eight or nine dissertations in that area. But, my primary area is 1898 to the present. When I was deciding on my dissertation, Spain's best-selling non-fiction author of the 20th century, José Ortega y Gasset, had just died, and I decided to write on him, even though my graduate professors at Duke told me, "You can't write on anyone who hasn't been dead at least 100 years." And I said, "I don't want to spend my life moving bones  from one heap to another." At that time, it was very rare in academic literary studies to write on living authors, although such writing was found in newspapers and the popular press. Then I had a post-doctoral Fulbright and went to Spain and interviewed 40 novelists and from then on was an "expert" on contemporary writers, mainly novelists, although I also taught (and researched) the essay, poetry and theatre. And have continued to do so up until the present. My present specific research "emphasis" is the Literature of Spanish Exile,  an interest that I've had since around 1970 when I became aware of the significance of this area (which had been totally silenced, censored and all mention of it prohibited under the Franco dictatorship). I've been collecting relevant materials ever since, and am currently beginning to draft an outline. This was the project for my 2010 Faculty Development Leave, which will produce a book to be entitled The Novel of Spanish Exile. This is enormously significant, because almost no survivors of the 1939 exile remain.

How do you feel your research impacts the globe?

I never thought about impacting the globe, although in the consideration of your question, I've had to think about it. First, my research impacted what was known about Franco Spain (or post-Civil War Spain), which had been very much forbidden territory, and there was little contact between those in Spain and those in exile. All the textbooks on Spain and Spanish literature ended with 1939. There was a reluctance in the free world to talk about Spain, in part because of the near-total absence of first-hand knowledge, in part because friends of the defeated Republic felt it was disloyal to discuss life under Franco or literature produced under the dictatorship. I received a postdoctoral Fulbright and spent a year in Spain, interviewing 40 novelists and was perhaps the first in the U.S. to write extensively on that. In the next 10-20 years, academic writing on Spanish literature became predominantly focused on the 20th century, especially the previously unknown postwar era. Another impact was that I began early on to write on women, on whom there had been almost nothing—this was before Feminism—and that expansion has continued to the present. I have not "specialized in women" (at least 60 percent of my work is on male writers), but when I attended a conference in Spain devoted to women writers in 1999, several people told me that I was the one who has "done the most" on women writers. Another area where I expect to "impact the globe" is an interest that I've had since the 1970s, which I call the Literature of Spanish Exile. The writers in question, the most important intellectuals of the Spanish Republic, were driven into exile at the end of the Civil War in 1939; many remained in exile for 40 years or longer, some dying there, and others returning to Spain after the death of the dictator in 1975. There have been studies of individual exiles, but nothing that pulls together the portrait of exile as a whole. I will not take on the full spectrum of that literature at once, but plan a book first on The Novel of Spanish Exile, arguably the most significant and extensive area, the most interesting, although both exile poetry (on which I've written, most particular women's poetry in exile) and essays are also fascinating. And exile literature is a subject with a global impact, because there have been so many wars and instances of genocide, forced migrations, so that much of 20th century literature is to a very real extent the literature of exile. (I'm also developing a graduate course on Spanish Exile Literature).

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration came originally from my first visits to Spain, before I was even fully out of graduate school, before the country was open to tourism under the dictatorship, talking to the people, and later (when I returned with the Fulbright) talking to the writers, nearly all of whom were very passionately devoted to Spain and to the group that was writing. I also draw inspiration from my students, especially my graduate seminars. And I get inspiration from my dissertation students, as talking and working with them makes me aware of the existence of other "dark" areas in need of illumination.

What type(s) of service projects do you enjoy doing?

1) Editorial projects. In  addition to the numerous editorial boards on which I've served and the major editorships, I also edited two large (two volume) reference works, including the Feminist Encyclopedia of Spanish Literature (2002) which was totally my idea. It's a tremendous job to coordinate a couple hundred collaborators and get it all to come together, but also exciting.

2) "People" projects: I like to work with things like orientation, speaking to incoming students, especially non-traditional students, making them aware of graduate school and its potential and letting them know that it is not something beyond their reach; mentoring: I'm something of a compulsive mentor (I'm still mentoring "students" I had at the University of North Carolina over 30 years ago), and I also mentor junior colleagues, especially women.

3) Work with immigrant or migrant groups: I especially enjoy helping those who don't know English and helping them to begin language study to connect with other groups that can help them. As is probably implied in the above examples, all of the "service" projects are somehow an extension of the teaching function.

4) Departmental, Graduate School and university affirmative action committees: For years, I worked with departmental, Graduate School and university affirmative action committees, and I actually chaired the one at TTU for six years while I worked in the Graduate School. That was also very important to me.

What are you currently working on?

I have two large projects, one the book on the Spanish Novel in Exile, mentioned above, and another that is the second part of a volume I did entitled Modern & Contemporary Spanish Women Poets (1996). It was part of a series and the publishers had size limits, so I had to stop in 1970 rather than finishing (going to 2000—now it will be to 2010). I've been collecting the books for years, and this is also ongoing. I have various other smaller projects, mostly articles based on papers I'm revising and updating.

What advice do you have for new faculty members on balancing the components of an integrated scholar into their careers (academics, research and service)?

What works best for me is to have a program which is integrated or inter-connected. Mainly, it's best if you can move back and forth between your research and teaching—bring your articles and books into your classes. Usually I include in my contemporary novel classes some authors on whom I've written, writers who I know (have met, interviewed, corresponded with) and use these experiences to draw students into deeper discussions of the works. Sometimes I can invite some of the writers or take some dissertation students to meetings where some of the writers might be in attendance. Although I do not believe in using my own books for texts, I do often distribute offprints of articles I've done on a given author, maybe four or five on the same author, and have students discuss the different articles and try to integrate the several articles. Conversely, teaching a given writer might give me an idea for a research project, often initially a conference paper, and in this connection I often arrange a session on a given writer and have students present papers in that session, and then later present the papers to the rest of the class. If there are students who have time to be involved in a service project, I often encourage them to become involved with the graduate student organization "Céfiro" and to present a paper at the annual meeting(s) and ready it for publication, and perhaps in their final year, to be part of the conference organizers or journal editors, as this is not only needed service, but gives them good experience for when they move into the profession.

Scholar Background

I grew up on a farm in the Ozarks, lived in Missouri long enough to do a degree there, then spent 15 years in North Carolina, doing my graduate work at Duke and then teaching at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, the oldest state university in the U.S., and an AAU university. I was the first woman ever hired full-time in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill. This was pre-affirmative action, and some of the southern gentlemen weren't too gentlemanly. When I made full professor, I left and came to TTU. I've lived in Lubbock longer than I ever lived in any single place in my life, so Lubbock is my hometown.

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