Wesleyan portrait of Michael  Armstrong Roche

Michael Armstrong Roche

Associate Professor of Spanish

300 High Street, 206

Associate Professor, Medieval Studies


Associate Professor, Latin American Studies


BA Harvard University
MA Harvard University
PHD Harvard University

Michael Armstrong Roche

My recent scholarship has been focused primarily on what are often called Cervantes's "other works," the novels and plays that tend to get unjustly 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. It tracks how the novel insistently finds its pleasures and its lessons in moral complexity. Persiles is both epic and novelistic not only in the terms provided by the dominant early 17th-century reception of the Greek novel or in its characterizations, allusions, encyclopedic scope and virtuoso patterning but also in its aspiration to embrace all of the author himself--including the overriding desire to entertain. I have published on Cervantes's plays and am writing a book about them called Cervantes and the Theatrical Revolution. The book takes a close look at Cervantes's full-length plays and their imaginative, often experimental, and still-compelling theatrical 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. It has emerged from the Theater without Borders research collaborative, a group committed to exploring the international and comparative impact of early modern drama, especially of England, Spain, Italy, and France (see our website at www.nyu.edu/projects/theaterwithoutborders/index.html). Through Theater without Borders I became especially interested in exploring how divergent acting traditions in Spain and England shaped the ways in which plays were written. I have had a parallel life as an art historian: (1) as a contributing author and curator for the Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment exhibition that took place at the Prado, the Metropolitan in New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1988-1989); (2) as a collaborator on the 2014 Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ Goya: Order and Disorder show; and (3) as a translator of scholarship in art history from Spanish, French, and German. 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).

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The best way to reach me is by email at marmstrong@wesleyan.edu