Dr Caroline Egan
BA and MA (Penn State), PhD (Stanford)
Official Fellow; Director of Studies in Modern and Medieval Languages
I am originally from Pennsylvania, where I completed my undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Comparative Literature at the Pennsylvania State University. As an undergraduate, I began learning Spanish and Portuguese, and had the opportunity to study and live in Buenos Aires for a semester. In the course of my doctoral work at Stanford University, my interest in comparative American literatures developed into the focus of my dissertation—notions of orality in the early colonial Americas, and the role of Amerindian languages in shaping these notions. I received two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) awards through the Stanford Center for Latin American Studies in order to pursue coursework in Quechua and Nahuatl, two of the languages that are central to this project. While completing my PhD, I taught classes in Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford, and later, classes on pre-modern and modern World Literature at Appalachian State University. I come to Cambridge as a University Lecturer in Colonial Literary and Cultural Studies in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
I specialize in the literatures and cultures of colonial Latin America, particularly 16th-and early 17th-century works in and about Amerindian languages and their circulation in a transatlantic context. My research asks how colonial exchanges between Amerindians and Europeans shaped early modern conceptualizations of language itself—its locus and limits, its ideological plasticity or inflexibility. While oral traditions are persistent objects of scholarly attention, the concept of orality in itself has received less critical examination in comparison to the extensive scholarly corpus devoted to theoretical categories such as writing, literacy, text, and media. I am currently developing a book project on the idea of orality in this period, including studies of the Nahuatl-language compositions collected in the Cantares Mexicanos, the lyric production of Jesuit missionary José de Anchieta, and the historiographical Comentarios reales by the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.
When I’m not reading, I like to walk, run, and cycle outdoors. I also enjoy board games—RISK and Trivial Pursuit being two of my favourites.