Rolena Adorno
64BA

Achievement 2001

Rolena Adorno, 64BA, professor of Latin American literature at Yale University, is an esteemed scholar and leading literary critic who has helped shape the new landscape of Latin American literary studies in this country.

When she earned her bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Iowa, Adorno graduated "with highest distinction," a qualification that aptly describes the span of her academic career. After obtaining her doctoral degree from Cornell University, Adorno published dozens of critical articles over the next 12 years and developed imaginative, new approaches to the study of colonial Latin American literature.

She became most importantly known for the publication in 1986 of the groundbreaking book, Guaman PomaWriting and Resistance in Colonial Peru. Combining a rigorous analysis of texts by the colonial author, Guaman Poma, with an historical overview of the colonization of Peru, Adorno's book offers a vivid look at the confrontation of an indigenous culture with its colonial conquerors and reveals the survival of a vital native legacy.

Continuing to work on the frontiers of humanities scholarship, Adorno recently cowrote a prizewinning, three-volume book on early Spanish exploration in North America, Álvar Núnez Cabeza de Vaca: His Account, His Life, and the Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez. She is currently collaborating with the Royal Library of Denmark, Copenhagen, in making Spanish colonial-era manuscripts available worldwide on the Internet.

In her re-mapping of the field of Latin American colonial literature, she is first among equals. Adorno's peers praise her commitment to careful scholarship and her openness to innovation and interdisciplinary study. According to Brian Gollnick, UI assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese, the kinds of knowledge Adorno uses to complete her critical writing "exemplify the painstaking work of traditional philology, put to service of a new approach to cultural history."

The vibrancy and relevance of her scholarship also show up in her many journal articles. Another contemporary, UI professor of Spanish Adriana Mendez Rodenas, calls Adorno's compelling list of published research a "working model for tracing the anthropological mediation of Latin American literature and the relation between history and literature."

With scholarship that has revolutionized and reinvigorated a once-marginalized field of study, Adorno has demonstrated the highest level of accomplishment possible within the U.S. university system. Her imaginative research not only stands as a groundbreaking body of work, but also continues to inspire new scholars coming to the field.

Adorno is a member of the UI Alumni Association's Directors' Club Honor Circle.