“Transylvania students are smart, hard-working, adventuresome, and somewhat spontaneous. It’s such a joy every day.”
Historically, there have been close ties between the Spanish government and the Roman Catholic Church. Even today Spaniards can designate a portion of their income taxes for the maintenance of church buildings and properties in Spain.
When José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was elected prime minister in 2004, however, that relationship began to change. Zapatero was perceived to be anti-Catholic, and that created some societal upheaval.
Transylvania student Leslie Little Gailey ‘06 was doing research into the church’s position in Spain, and she was awarded a grant to travel to Spain with professor Veronica Dean-Thacker to interview writers, publishers, professors, clergymen, and others about this new attitude toward the church. Another Transylvania student, Rachel Wilson ’07, decided to join them.
“Most Spaniards are Catholic but they don’t go to church,” said Dean-Thacker. “They still pass on the values to their kids. They just don’t participate. Before Zapatero came into office, the Franco government aligned itself with the church 100 percent. If people didn’t practice their faith, they were basically turning their back on the government. That wasn’t true, but that’s what the government wanted the people to believe. That was the case for nearly 40 years. We wanted to talk about that with some key people, not only clergymen but professors of sociology, editors of socialist journals.”
The group prepared questions. Dean-Thacker reached out to her network of connections to arrange the interviews, including one with the director of Vatican radio in Rome. While in Spain, the three traveled all around the country for their appointments, talking with dignitaries and absorbing the Spanish culture.
This is the type of enthusiasm and scholarly engagement that Dean-Thacker says is typical among Transylvania students. In her experience, the students love learning and gaining new knowledge, skills, and perspectives. Some of Dean-Thacker’s other students will soon have the opportunity to collaborate with her on a new project: an article about the poetry of an important Basque author, whose works she is collecting.
This active participation among the students can lead to post-graduation success. Gailey, for example, is now working at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Another graduate is working with the Fulbright Commission in Colombia. Dean-Thacker’s daughter, also a Transylvania graduate, received a summer internship with a federal judge after her first year of law school.
“Many of our majors go on to graduate programs in Spanish language and literature, Hispanic studies, international affairs, and programs in other fields such as diplomacy, law, medicine, and business.”
Dean-Thacker attributes this success to a combination of the students’ motivation and the Transylvania professors’ skillful teaching. “We all try to have a good breadth of knowledge so we can discuss topics in general in addition to our own areas of expertise. We want the students to learn to depend on their own brain instead of what other people tell them. Read primary sources and then read the secondary sources. You decide if the critics are right or not.”
Dean-Thacker particularly appreciates working with her colleagues in the Spanish program. “It’s such a joy of a job. We work very hard, but we love it.”
Recent conference papers presented
- "Exile in the Art and Poetry of Juan Carlos Mestre," III International Conference on the Image, Poznań, Poland, September 2012
- "Silencios eróticos en Al morir don Quijote de Andrés Trapiello," Indiana University of Pennsylvania Literature Conference, October 2010
- "El dolor fantasma en El lápiz del carpintero de Manuel Rivas," Kentucky Foreign Language Conference at the University of Kentucky, April 2010
- "El amor inalcanzable en Cervantes y Andrés Trapiello," ALDEEU conference in Phoenix, April 2010
Areas of research
- Ph.D., Spanish Language and Literature, University of Kentucky, 1986
- M.A., Spanish Language and Literature, University of Northern Iowa, 1981
- B.A., Spanish, Nazareth College, 1978
- Modern Spanish Literature
- Legacies: Spanish Cities and Towns
- The Golden Ages of Spanish Art and Literature
- Twentieth-century Spain
Areas of research
- Poetry and visual art; ekphrasis
- The Catholic Church in Spanish history and society
- Spanish literature from the nineteenth century to the present
- "Dulce et utile: los cuentos de Asensio Sez," in Homenaje al Académico Asensio Sez, Murcia: Academia Alfonso X el Sabio, 2008.
- "La poesía de Rafael Alberti: el poder de la imagen," Lenguaje y textos num. 18, Rafael Alberti, La Coruña: Universidade da Coruña, 2003.
- "Imagen e imaginación en La piel del tambor de Pérez-Reverte," in Territorio Reverte, ed. by José Manuel López de Abiada. Madrid: Verbum, 2000.
- Federico García Lorca: El color de la poesía. In collaboration with Pedro Guerrero Ruiz. University of Murcia and the Ayuntamiento de Murcia, 1998.
- "Poemas visuales y dibujos poéticos de García Lorca" in Federico García Lorca en el espejo del tiempo, ed. de Pedro Guerrero Ruiz. Alicante: Editorial Aguaclara, 1998.
- "Poetic Mystery in García Lorca's Drawings and Visual Poetry," Scripta Mediterranea (University of Toronto), 1997.
- Bingham Award for Excellence in Teaching
- Spanish Ministry of Culture grants to bring three Leonese writers to campus, April 2009
- Kenan Sabbatical Research Grant, 2002, 2009
- Transylvania University Summer Research Grants for Faculty for literary research in Spain, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2010–11
- Kentucky Council for International Education for research in Spain, 1991
- National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on Alphonsine Language, Literature, and Culture, 1990
- The Modern Language Association
- Grupo Internacional de Investigación E014-06 Didáctica de la Lengua y Educación Literaria of the University of Murcia
- ALDEEU (Asociación de Licenciados y Doctores Españoles en Estados Unidos)