Claudia Schaefer, whose work explores the social and political dimensions of Hispanic literature, art, and film, has been named the Rush Rhees Professor at the University of Rochester.
A professor of Spanish and Latin American literatures and cultures at the university since 1977, Schaefer's teaching and research encompass all aspects of cultural production in Latin America and Spain from the 19th through the 21st centuries. Through her work, which crosses a number of disciplines, she examines questions of identity by focusing on class, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality in their political and national dimensions.
"Claudia has been a major innovative figure in the broad field of Hispanic studies, and her work on literature and the visual arts has garnered her an international reputation," said Thomas DiPiero, Senior Associate Dean of Humanities. "She is distinguished by the breadth and historical depth of her publications on Spain, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America. She is also a gifted and talented leader and inspiring teacher."
Schaefer, who holds a Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, is also the chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University and the 2007 recipient of the Goergen Award for Distinguished Achievement and Artistry in Undergraduate Teaching. The Rush Rhees Professorship, established in 1981 to honor a faculty member of any department or school, is named after Benjamin Rush Rhees, third president of the University of Rochester (1900-1935).
Known on campus for her devotion to students, Schaefer commented after receiving the Goergen Award: "I wish to inspire students as citizens of different classes, communities, origins, and national groups to keep listening and questioning as their individual circumstances change. Remaining engaged with others in a productive way is the potential each of us holds. The tools for this engagementócritical thinking, careful listening, logical argumentation, and linguistic precisionócan come from the synergy of intellectual debate starting in the classroom."
Schaefer's most recent book, Bored to Distraction: Cinema of Excess in End-of-the-Century Mexico and Spain (SUNY Press, 2003), examines a variety of films of the 1990s in light of their genres and social contexts. In this book, Schaefer uses her expertise in literature, the visual arts, film, and pop culture to explore how contemporary consumer culture in Spain and Latin America appear to offer solutions to pressing social problems by offering the audience not answers, but vast arrays of goods to divert them from their everyday concerns.
Her previous books include Danger Zones: Homosexuality, National Identity, and Mexican Culture (University of Arizona Press, 1996) and Textured Lives: Women, Art, and Representation in Modern Mexico (University of Arizona Press, 1992), which was described by Americas magazine as a "thought-provoking book that contributes greatly to our understanding of the relationship between artists and their cultures in general, and Mexican women artists and their culture in particular."
Schaefer is now working on two additional books, one a biography of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The other, The Mexico of Our Dreams: Speculative Fictions and Utopian Visions in Contemporary Mexico, focuses on anarchism and utopian thought. She has also written numerous articles on post-Franco Spain, detective fiction, popular culture, the modern Spanish novel, and the socio-cultural histories of prose and film.