The University of Iowa

In the news: Wise and Valiant: Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez celebrates forgotten women authors

February 25th, 2021

Obermann Center

While completing a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Iowa, Martín López-Vega took a course on the Golden age of Spanish theater. When the class read Valor, agravio y mujer by Ana Caro, López-Vega was shocked. Though he was a native of Spain and had studied literature at the University of Spain, he’d never before heard of Caro.

The course, which led him to discover the names and works of multiple women authors who had previously been unknown to him, was taught by Ana Rodríguez-Rodríguez. “Her focus was totally innovative for me,” says López-Vega, “as well as contagious. She’s an amazing professor—completely mind-changing.”

Surfacing forgotten female authors

So much so that when López-Vega began working at Spain's Cervantes Institute, first overseeing cultural programming and eventually directing an organization tasked with amplifying Spanish culture throughout the world, he called on Rodríguez. Though she had no previous curatorial experience, López-Vega wanted her to create an exhibit about Caro and other forgotten and overlooked Spanish female authors.

The result was Wise and Valiant: Women and Writing in the Spanish Golden Age (Tan sabia como valerosa: Mujeres y escritura en los Siglos de Oro). The exhibition was on view at Madrid's Cervantes Institute in 2020 and lives on as an award-winning digital exhibition. The title comes from the writings of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of the featured writers. The words were an inspiration to Rodríguez, spurring her to tell these forgotten stories and do what she said sometimes felt like “subversive work.”