Professor Rolena Adorno Wins MLA’s Kovacs Prize

Rolena Adorno, the Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Yale University, has won the Modern Language Association of America’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize, awarded annually for an outstanding book published in English in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures.

The prize committee said Adorno’s book, “The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative,” was “a signal achievement for the colonial field and indeed for all periods of Latin American literary studies. Rolena Adorno’s topic is the establishment of possession and authority as the bases of Spanish American society and literary traditions. Through chapters on major chroniclers of the colonial world …, Adorno argues for the primacy of narrative as a source of cultural authority and a principle of continuity. The book witnesses a masterly career built not only on formidable learning but also on an inspiring humility toward primary materials.”

Before coming to Yale in 1996, Adorno taught at Syracuse, Ohio State and Princeton universities and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. A graduate of the University of Iowa, she received her PhD from Cornell University.

Adorno’s most recent books are “The Polemics of Possession in Spanish American Narrative” (2007) and “De Guancane a Macondo: estudios de literatura hispanoamericana” (2008). She has also recently completed studies of the making and censorship of the manuscripts of Fray Martín de Murúa for the Getty Research Institute (2008). Her three-volume book, “Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: His Account, His Life, and the Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez”(1999), coauthored with Patrick C. Pautz, received the Dwight L. Smith Book Award from the Western Historical Association, the Best Book Award from the New England Council of Latin American Studies, and the J. Franklin Jameson Award from the American Historical Association. Adorno has held fellowships from the National Endowment of the Humanities and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. She is an honorary associate of the Hispanic Society of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Adorno was honored by the University of Iowa with a Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement and given a Graduate Mentor Award from the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize was established in 1990 by a gift from Joseph and Mimi B. Singer, parents of the late Katherine Singer Kovacs. Kovacs was a specialist in Spanish and Latin American literature and film.

The MLA, the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities (est. 1883), promotes the advancement of literary and linguistic studies. Adorno’s prize will be presented at the MLA’s annual meeting later in December.