Armstrong Roche, Michael

Associate Professor of Spanish
Romance Languages and Literatures Department

Associate Professor, Medieval Studies
Medieval Studies Program

Chair, Romance Languages & Literatures
Romance Languages and Literatures Department

Italian Section Head
Romance Languages and Literatures Department
BA Harvard University
MA Harvard University
PHD Harvard University



SPAN230 - 01


Cervantes; Spanish (and European) classical theater; Spanish and Latin American poetry; medieval and early modern Spanish literature and history (including Latin American colonial, transatlantic, and global perspectives); comparative literature and history (classical, medieval, and early modern European primarily); Goya


My recent scholarship has been focused primarily on what are often called Cervantes's "other works," the novels and plays that tend to get overlooked in the long shadow cast by Don Quijote. A book called Cervantes' Epic Novel: Empire, Religion, and the Dream Life of Heroes in 'Persiles' (U of Toronto P, 2009) explores how Cervantes's last novel transforms major literary, political, religious, and social debates of late 16th- and early 17th-century Spain into narrative art. It looks at the inventive ways Cervantes ironizes romance (especially Heliodorus's Greek novel) and the verse epic tradition (primarily, Homer, Vergil, and Tasso) by pitting them against each other and other genres. And it tracks the novel’s insistence on finding both its pleasures and its lessons in moral complexity. Persiles is seen to be epic not only in the terms provided by the dominant early 17th-century reception of the Greek novel or in its allusions, encyclopedic scope and virtuoso patterning but also in its aspiration to embrace all of the author himself--including the overriding desire to entertain. For several years now I have been at work on a book provisionally entitled Cervantes Plays: Ironies of History on the Early Modern Stage. It takes a close look at Cervantes's full-length plays and their imaginative, often experimental, and still-compelling dramatic engagement with key historical debates about Habsburg political mythmaking, Algerian captivity, the gypsy community, the rise of the commercial stage, marriage choice, and women's work. This book has emerged from the Theater Without Borders research collaborative, a group committed to exploring the international and comparative impact of early modern drama, especially--but not exclusively--of England, Spain, Italy, and France (see our website at Earlier I was contributing author to the scholarly catalogue for an exhibition I helped organize called Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment, which could be seen at the Prado, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum in NYC (1988-1989). Throughout, I have tried to practice a kind of scholarship that moves fluidly from text to context and back again (reading the text with and against the pressures of the moment and then reading that moment through the lens of the text); that draws on close reading in multiple disciplines (history of literature and art, comparative literature, genre theory, political, social, and economic history, history of ideas and philosophy, theology and religious history, and jurisprudence); and that is informed by textual, historical, and theoretical approaches to literature. Finally, I have looked for ways to bring my scholarly interests to a wider audience, serving--for instance--as general editor and primary co-author of three Let's Go travel guides (Let's Go France 1986, Let's Go California and the Pacific Northwest 1986, and Let's Go Spain & Portugal 1992).


Spring 2014:  Tuesdays and Thursdays 4:15-5:15pm or at other times by appointment, at 300 High Street (office #206, tel. 860-685-3128).  The best way to reach me is by email at  



Wesleyan Campus Representative for the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Madrid