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 about recognizing the power and originality of what are often called Cervantes's "other works," the novels and plays unjustly overlooked in the long shadow cast by Don Quijote. In a book called Cervantes' Epic Novel: Empire, Religion, and the Dream Life of Heroes in 'Persiles' (U of Toronto P, 2009), I explore how Cervantes's final novel transforms major literary, social, political, and religious debates of late 16th- and early 17th-century Europe into narrative art. I look at the inventive ways Cervantes honors and sends up romance (especially Heliodorus's Greek novel) and the verse epic tradition (particularly Homer, Vergil, and Tasso), which test and complete one another. What we might now call a total novel, Persiles is epic and novelistic in the terms provided by the dominant early 17th-century reception of the Greek novel; in its characterizations, allusions, encyclopedic scope, and virtuoso patterning; and in its aspiration to embrace all of the author himself--including the overriding desire to entertain. The novel insistently finds its pleasures and its lessons in moral complexity, showing us that irony can make something whole as well as new. I have published on Cervantes's plays and am writing a book about them called Cervantes and the Theatrical Revolution. It takes a close look at Cervantes as a playwright and his imaginative, often experimental, theatrical engagement with the rise of the commercial stage, women's work, Algerian captivity, the Roma community, and Habsburg political mythmaking. The book emerged from the Theater without Borders research collaborative, a group committed to exploring the international impact of early modern drama, especially of England, Spain, Italy, and France (see our website at https://pages.wustl.edu/theater-without-borders). 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, 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).

Academic Affiliations

Office Hours

During the 2021-2022 academic year, I will be directing Wesleyan's study abroad program in Madrid (Vassar-Wesleyan in Madrid). The best way to reach me is by email (rather than office phone) at marmstrong@wesleyan.edu