Grammon identifies three pillars of his research interests: sociolinguists, language contact, and language learning. His research revolves around questions of what it means to know a language or to be a speaker of a language, which is linked to a broader platform of combating inequality and making linguistics and language learning more accessible to more people. He describes his interests as arising out of reflections on his own experience as a person who learned Spanish in high school and has lived and traveled in Peru, Bolivia and Mexico. He’s done extensive research on language contact between Quechua and Spanish in Cuzco, Peru.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently digging deep into a set of interrelated questions that revolve around the theoretical construct of sociolinguistic competence, which is about the ability to use language in ways that are socially and culturally appropriate. What is the nature of sociolinguistic knowledge and how do we implement it? How do we determine what is appropriate and for whom? What metrics do we use? These issues relate to my dissertation research and several articles I’m working on about language learning, study abroad, and heritage tourism in Cuzco. Lately, I’ve been rereading work by Oregonian sociolinguist Dell Hymes from the 1970s on ‘communicative competence’ that has helped me to problematize a lot of settled knowledge in both second/foreign language education and contact linguistics. So much of what we traditionally thought about second language learning rests on assumptions that don’t really match the reality we’re living with in 21stcentury. Globalization, mobility, and technology all play a part. People increasingly learn and use language in ways that don’t sit well with the idea of the ‘native speaker’ and bounded languages that reside in the brain. Through my work, I imagine what sociolinguistics might look like if we move away from essentialist views of language and society and ask who benefits from viewing language and competence in particular ways. I feel encouraged to engage those lines of inquiry here at UO.
How did you come to be interested in sociolinguistics?
I got interested in sociolinguistics through studying Spanish. I took Spanish on a whim in high school, as one of several options to fulfill a requirement; I didn’t think about it too hard—it was something new and different. I grew up in small towns, where those kinds of classes weren’t really offered; in high school, we moved to Cañon City, Colorado, a town of 12,000 people. That was the first time I had the opportunity to take a class in another language.
The first two weeks in Spanish, I was completely lost, just really overwhelmed, and then it started to click. What made me push through?I couldn’t easily get out of the class. But more than that, the intense process where you feel vulnerable, and make connections with other students and the teacher. This interpersonal dimension was a big reason I kept taking Spanish. And once you start to get it, it’s sort of addictive, it builds its own momentum. A process of self-discovery gets bound up in language learning. I never thought that it would be something I would do as a career; it was an interest, an add-on. Even in college, I didn’t take Spanish right away, but when I did, I really liked it. I was going to be a Spanish minor. When I was almost finished with the minor, another student and I were in the library speaking in Spanish, and I was showing her photos from my study abroad program in Mexico. A student across from us got really upset, cursed as he called us foreigners, threw a stapler, and told me to leave the country. I was in total shock. It was another moment of deep introspection; confronted with my own privilege in a lot of ways, it made me want to continue, take the next step and become a Spanish major.
What other languages to do you speak or read, even a little?
After Spanish, the two languages I know best are Quechua and Portuguese because I studied them for many years. I conducted research on/in Quechua during my 18 months of fieldwork in Peru. I’m most familiar with the Cuzco-Qollaw dialect of Southern Quechua, which is spoken in Southern Peru, Bolivia, and parts of Northern Argentina. My Portuguese is rusty, but I can read it really well; I would have considered myself close to fluent at one point. I have also studied French (family ancestry) and taken Catalan. I’ve done a bit of research into Aymara, and other major indigenous languages of the Americas (Nahuatl, Maya), in order to understand some of the complexities of language contact situations.
What courses have you most enjoyed teaching—or most look forward to teaching—at the UO?
I have really enjoyed teaching Spanish in the US (SPAN 428). It’s interesting to me because, even though my research is not on Spanish in the US per se, I was already very familiar with that literature; many aspects of the situation of Spanish in US make me reflect on the situation of indigenous languages in Latin America. What’s been exciting about that class is that it has given me and the students a space to explore issues, myths, discourses, and ideologies surrounding the past, present, and future of Spanish.
Next quarter, I’m really looking forward to Language Contact in Latin America and Spain (SPAN 420/520). The course will focus a lot on social and cultural dimensions of language contact, looking at questions of linguistic diversity in the Spanish-speaking world. Looking at Rapa Nui on Easter Island, for example, will allow students to make a lot of connections to the situation in the US with Spanglish. We’ll look at more historic cases as well, such as varieties of Italian in Buenos Aires at the turn of the 20thcentury.
Did anything surprise you about UO or Eugene?
The biggest surprise was just that I was coming here to join you! At times it’s been overwhelming, a big transition between grad school and starting a job on the tenure track. Students seem very familiar, easy to connect to. I’ve been struck many times at their level of preparation.
If anything has surprised me, it’s the extent to which I feel really at home here, in all respects. I get up in the morning, and I can’t wait to come in and get to work. And on the weekends, I can’t wait to go explore.
Eugenia Lollini, who graduated with majors in Romance Languages and Anthropology, has published an article, “Before the Spectacle: Shaping Gender and Class in Beirut’s Beauty Salons,” in the Oregon Undergraduate Research Journal’s Winter 2019 issue. Read the article here: https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/handle/1794/24439). The Oregon Undergraduate Research Journal is an open access journal that publishes outstanding research by undergraduate students across the disciplines. Lollini’s field research and writing were supported in part by a Humanities Undergraduate Research Fellowship ( https://urop.uoregon.edu/hurf). Lollini is now a Research Consultant at UN Women in Beirut, Lebanon.
Assistant Professor of Spanish Sociolinguistics Devin Grammon has been named a 2019-20 Sustainability Faculty Fellow. The fellowship will aid in the development of Grammon’s combined research and pedagogical project on the linguistic landscape and public use of Spanish in Eugene, focused on issues of sustainability. This fellowship comes with financial and programmatic support in conjunction with a three day workshop in June that will provide Grammon with opportunities to initiate ongoing community partnerships and develop community-engaged learning activities.
Inventing America in Baroque Italyexamines the ways in which, at a time when most of the Italian peninsula was a colony of Spain, seventeenth-century Italian poets represent Italy’s role in the exploration and conquest of the Americas. Taking as its corpus eleven epic poems written in the Italian vernacular between 1596 and 1650, Hester’s bookconsiders the relationship between baroque epic poetry and local politics; between Italian poems about the Americas and Spanish colonialism; and between literary production and emerging notions of Italian identity. A principal argument of this study is that the heated debates about representing Columbus and Vespucci as epic heroes inevitably point to concerns about Europe’s global expansion and Italy’s role in that expansion. This project sheds light on texts that have not received adequate attention in studies of early modern European colonialism and in scholarship on the reception of the Americas in seventeenth-century Italy.
Congratulations, Dr. Hester!
Pedro García-Caro, Associate Professor of Spanish, has published an article, “A Play for Branciforte: Early California and the Survival of Astucias por heredar un sobrino a un tío, a Banned Comedia from Bourbon New Spain,” in the latest issue of Early American Literature (Vol. 53, Number 3, 2018: pp. 773-884). The article traces the provenance of a recently recovered literary manuscript from the Bancroft Library in California: Astucias por heredar un sobrino a un tío. This original text written in Spanish by Fermín de Reygadas is considered to be the earliest secular play performed in a European language in California. Authored in 1789 by a Spanish colonist in Mexico, and banned from the stage by the censor’s office in the spring of 1790, this satirical family drama was never printed, and was only performed (circa 1797) in the newly settled secular town of Branciforte (East Santa Cruz). It was preserved there in private archives, and then briefly rescued by Guadalupe Vallejo and Hubert H. Bancroft to be stored away again, having thus received almost no critical or scholarly attention until now. García-Caro considers some aspects of the textual origins as well as recent performances of the play.
As Tricks to Inherit (translated, adapted, and directed by Olga Sanchez Saltveit), the play was performed at the UO in spring of 2018.
Javier Velasco Camacho (a Ph.D. student in the Department of Romance Languages) in collaboration with Dr. Alejandra Echazú Conitzer (Universidad Católica Boliviana), have published Cuentos by Walter Montenegro (La Paz: Plural, 2018), an edition of short stories written by Bolivian author Walter Montenegro (1912-1991). The book was published by Plural Editores, as part of the collection Letras Fundacionales, a collection directed by Professor Leonardo García-Pabón. This edition includes the short stories, a critical introduction, a chronology of Montenegro’s life, and newspaper articles by Montenegro. Velasco Camacho and Echazú Conitzer celebrated the publication with a book presentation in La Paz this past September.
Walter Montenegro wrote two extraordinary books of short stories, and is considered a canonical author of Bolivian literature. However, his work has been overlooked by Bolivian literary critics. This edition seeks to bring critical attention to this important narrative. The volume includes the two books of short stories: Once Cuentos (1938)and Los Últimos (1947). The first book was motivated by the Chaco War with Paraguay. The second is a critical look at the new middle classes and characters emerging in the city of La Paz in the middle of the 20thcentury, and who would be main actors in the revolution of 1952 (considered the main political event for the process of modernization of Bolivia).
This essay examines Girolamo Graziani’s well-received epic poem, Il Conquisto di Granata (The Conquest of Granada, 1650), as a compelling piece of an Italian genealogy of New World Italian epic poetry, to which corpus the Conquisto belongs, despite its title. Indeed, in a convenient reworking of the historical timeline, the Columbus of this work returns to Spain from his first voyage to the Americas in time to fight the Moors of Granada, and he plays a decisive role in their defeat. The poetic project of the Conquisto incorporates three main aims: to address and remedy criticisms leveled against earlier Italian epic poetry about the New World, to establish Columbus as the narrative and ideological link between Conquest and Reconquest and, more broadly, to maintain the international status of Italian letters at a time when deeds and facts—expansion, colonialism—come to define the prestige of European proto-nations.
Hester, Nathalie. “Baroque Italian Epic from Granada to the New World: Columbus Conquers the Moors.” The Discovery of the New World in Early Modern Italy: Encounters with the Americas in the 16th-18th Centuries. Eds. Elizabeth Horodowich and Lia Markey. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2017. 270-287.
Astucias por heredar, un sobrino a un tío (1789) by Fermín de Reygadas has recently come out as an e-book available on different electronic formats. It is a critical, annotated, edition with a detailed introduction to the context, the author, and the provenance of this comedy. According to the oral and written sources surrounding its donation to the Bancroft collection (which forms the basis for UC Berkeley’s Library) by Californio historian Guadalupe Vallejo, Astucias was “the first drama performed in California after its foundation” as a Spanish colony in 1769.
García-Caro’s groundbreaking research has located the source of the play in Mexico, including the censorship files which had banned it from the Mexican stage in 1790, and has traced the likely place of its performance, in the secular Villa de Branciforte, in what is now Eastern Santa Cruz. This play is a Neoclassic comedy which clearly draws heavily from French and Italian sources but is profoundly familiar with Spanish literary traditions as well and completely adapted for a Hispano-Mexican audience. The fact that it remained in manuscript form and has never before been printed or published has meant that the text remained uncensored with all its original lines, which include a large number of improprieties that could have otherwise been lost along the way.
It is a rare find as we have relatively scant information and little textual evidence of the kind of cultural production that secular Hispanic settlers engaged in or brought with them as they populated the emerging network of villas and pueblos in what is now the US South West in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The play is now available through Arte Público Press, the preeminent publisher of contemporary Latino and Recovered US Hispanic Literature. Teatro Milagro in Portland took up Prof. García-Caro’s proposal to stage this original play and shows run February 9th to March 3rd in Spanish with English superscripts. Early reviews of the production are raving about the currency of the topics and the humorous exchanges, as well as the vibrancy of the language. The troupe of actors at Teatro Milagro comes from a diverse set of backgrounds from all over the Spanish-speaking Americas, and is working under the direction of commedia dell’arte expert Robi Arce, from Puerto Rico. Prof. García-Caro and theatre Director Robi Arce participated on February 16th in a roundtable at Portland State University, a recording is available here.
Watch Latino Network TV news on the play!