Romance languages professor awarded humanities grant

Amerigo Vespucci

Nathalie Hester, associate professor of romance languages and director of European Studies at the UO, has been awarded a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities that will allow her to complete work on a book project.

Hester’s book, the first English-language study of its kind, is titled, “Inventing America in Baroque Italy: Columbus, Vespucci, and New World Epic.”

Nathalie HesterHester said she was beyond thrilled when she received the grant offer from the NEH.

“The opportunity for full-time research and writing over an extended period of time does not come along very often in my field,” she said.

Her book examines the complex and ambiguous ways in which 17th-century Italian poets represented Italy’s role in the exploration and conquest of the Americas, at a time when most of the Italian peninsula was a colony of Spain. Those writers portrayed explorers Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci as the “Italian” epic heroes of endeavors that were not Italian, historically speaking, but Spanish and Portuguese, Hester said.

She’ll conduct research and write during her term as a 2018–19 Oregon Humanities Center Faculty Research Fellow this spring. She also plans to travel to in Genoa, Florence and Rome to conduct research in libraries and archives.

Hester’s grant was one of 253 humanities projects the NEH funded totaling $14.8 million in grants in 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Hester, a professor of Italian and French, studies Renaissance and Baroque literature, travel literature, early modern French and Italian historiography, early modern Italian convent culture, feminist theory and 17th-century women’s writing. Her first book, “Literature and Identity in Italian Baroque Travel Writing,” was published in 2008.