Frederick de Armas

Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor in Romance Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature, and The College
Wieboldt 409A

PhD University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1969
Teaching at UChicago since 2000
Research Interests: Early Modern Spanish Literature and culture, Literature and the Visual Arts, Italo-Hispanic artistic and literary relations

My research focuses on the literature of early modern Spain (Cervantes, Calderón, Lope de Vega). My interests include the politics of astrology; magic and the Hermetic tradition; ekphrasis; the relations between the verbal and the visual particularly between Spanish literature and Italian art; and the interconnections between myth and empire during the rule of the Habsburgs. I am also interested in the 19th century novel and its ekphrastic contents. And I also work on the transatlantic relations between Benito Pérez Galdós and the Cuban branch of the Galdós family. I locate my works of fiction in Cuba during the years around the revolution (1957-62)

From the start of my career I have been fascinated by the relationship between myth and literature. One of my early books, The Invisible Mistress (1976) dealt with the Cupid and Psyche myth in the theater of early modern Spain and is one of the first works of Spanish criticism devoted to the analysis of women characters and women writers. A subsequent book (1986) again focused on a woman from myth. Writers during the reign of Philip IV in Spain turned to Astraea in order to deal with questions of astrology, justice and imperial power. An early example of new historicism, The Return of Astraea's analysis of political criticism continues to be discussed and a new translation into Spanish has recently been published (2016). Also from the very beginnings of my career I have been interested in the relations between the visual and the verbal in Renaissance and early modern Italian and Spanish texts. This has led me to write on Cervantes and Raphael (1998) and on Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art (2006). In several edited collections I also study ekphrasis and its many types in Spanish literature: Writing for the Eyes in the Spanish Golden Age (2004) and Ekphrasis in the Age of Cervantes (2005). Both the study of mythology and that of ekphrasis necessitate a knowledge of the classics. Thus, in 2010 I sought to fill a gap by editing a collection Ovid in the Age of Cervantes (2010). My interest in Cervantes then took a turn and led me to Don Quixote among the Saracens (2011), which received the American Publishers' Association PROSE Award in Literature, Honorable Mention (2011). The book seeks to answer the question: Why is the belligerent Don Quixote at peace among the Saracens?

A number of these projects were supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I have also taught NEH Seminars for faculty. I have served as President of the Cervantes Society of America and President of AISO (Asociación Internacional Siglo de Oro).

In 2018 I was awarded a doctorate honoris causa by the University of Neuchatel (Switzerland).

Work with Students:

I have directed BA papers, MA theses and more than thirty dissertations over the years, on both early modern Spain and comparative topics dealing with Renaissance and early modern literatures and cultures. Comparative topics have included translations of Cervantes into English; forgiveness in Cervantes and Shakespeare; Spain’s perceptions of the Ottoman empire; theater and the visual arts; the role of women in the Spanish comedia; and more generally questions of myth, gender, sexuality and empire.

  • The Invisible Mistress: Aspects of Feminism and Fantasy in the Golden Age (Charlottesville, 1976)
  • Cervantes, Raphael and the Classics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1998)
  • Writing for the Eyes in the Spanish Golden Age (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Pres, 2004) 
  • Ekphrasis in the Age of Cervantes (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2005) 
  • Quixotic Frescoes: Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006)
  • Hacia la tragedia áurea: lecturas para un nuevo milenio(Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2008)
  • Ovid in the Age of Cervantes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press 2010)
  • Calderon: del manuscrito a la escena (Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2011)  
  • Don Quixote Among the Saracens: A Clash of Civilizations and Literary Genres (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011) 
  • Objects of Culture in the Literature of Imperial Spain (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013)
  • El retorno de Astrea: astrología, mito e imperio em Calderón (Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2016)
  • El abra del Yumurí (Madrid: Verbum, 2016) [NOVEL]
  • Las memorias de un honrado aguador: ´Ámbitos de estudio en torno a la difusión de Lazarillo de Tormes, co-edited with Julio Vélez Sainz (Madrid: Sial /  Pigmalión, 2017)
  • Sinfonía Salvaje (Madrid: Verbum, 2019) [NOVEL]
  • Faraway Settings: Spanish and Chinese Theaters of the 16th and 17th Centuries, co-edited with Juan Pablo Gil-Oslé  (Madrid / Frankfurt: Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 2019) 
  • Women Warriors in Early Modern Spain: A Tribute to Barbara Mujica, co-edited with Susan Fischer (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 2019)


Cervantes and the Renaissance

Myth, Astrology, and the New Science in Seventeenth-Century Spain

Astraea: The Return of the Gods and the Rise of Empire

Ekphrasis Onstage: From Terence to Calderon

Three Ekphrastic Novels: From Spain to the Caribbean

Court Theater under Philip IV

Trans-Pyrenees Baroque: 17th century Theater in France and Spain