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Office of the Provost

Phi Beta Kappa

Visiting Scholars

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars.  The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.

Rolena Adorno visits campus

The Phi Beta Kappa chapter at USC welcomes Dr. Rolena Adorno, Sterling Professor of Spanish, from Yale University.  She will conduct class visits, give a public lecture and meet with students during her two day visit.

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016, Gressette Room of Harper College

10:05 - 11:20 am 
“Dancing with the Stars” (Baroque Style)


“Dancing with the Stars” (Baroque Style): Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora are arguably the two greatest figures (“stars”) of El Barroco de Indias, that is, the Baroque literature of colonial Spanish America.  They were often friendly competitors (hence, their “dance”) who were called upon to commemorate the great events of their day.  One of the most important was the installation of a new viceroy.  How best would they honor the devoutly Christian Spanish nobleman who was to rule New Spain?  For models for this Christian prince to follow, Sor Juana turned to the Greco-Roman gods of antiquity and Sigüenza, to the pre-Columbian deities of Mexico.  Their respective and differing interpretations of the Roman god of the sea Neptune and the pre-Columbian Mexican god of war Huitzilopochtli allow us to consider the theories of interpretation they used and the evolving meanings of Old and New World mythologies in their time. This lecture will be illustrated (PowerPoint).

11:40 am - 12:55 pm 
What Does Columbus Day Mean Now?


What Does Columbus Day Mean Now? or Why Hispanic Heritage Month Matters

National holidays are always controversial, and none is more so than Columbus Day.  Hispanic Heritage Month offers a welcome alternative in educational and cultural institutions around the country.  The current image of Columbus as a “Renaissance Darth Vader” has a long history, and Hispanic Heritage Month has a shorter but more immediately (indeed!) important one. If the former is concerned with European overseas expansion and the colonization of native Amerindian peoples, the latter involves United States domestic issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration.  This talk will cover briefly the history of Columbian commemorations in the United States (mentioning its observances in Spain and Latin America) and, at greater length, the development of Hispanic Heritage Month.  The interpretation of the figure of Columbus and his contemporaries in contemporary Latin American novels will round out this presentation. This lecture will be illustrated (PowerPoint).

2:50 - 4:05 pm 
Insights into Colonial Latin American Studies from Postcolonial Africa

Reception to follow

Estevanico’s Legacy: Insights into Colonial Latin American Studies from Postcolonial Africa

 Estevanico was a black African slave—Christianized but Arabic-speaking—who in the 152os helped Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and two other Castilians survive nearly eight years of hardship in the Texas wilderness.  After the men’s successful return to Spanish-held territory, Estevanico was resold into slavery and died violently somewhere in today’s New Mexico.  From his native North Africa to Castile to the Caribbean to eastern coastal Texas to Mexico-Tenochtitlan, and ultimately to the land of the Zuni in today’s New Mexico, Estevanico trudged a trail of forced migration common to the colonized subjects of imperial Spain. Today, he is heralded as having been “the first black man in North America.”  This lecture will consider his years with Cabeza de Vaca in native North America, during which Estevan imposed his own, talisman-like authority on the native Amerindian communities to which neither he nor the white men, belonged and whose bidding he was forced to do. This lecture will be illustrated (PowerPoint).

Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, Classroom in the International House at Maxcy College

10:50 - 11:40 am
Spanish in the World, Then and Now

Meeting with students (SPAN, other), members of Gamecock Spanish Club, Sigma Delta Pi, Tertulia group, the International House at Maxcy College, etc., also for Parents Weekend

Spanish in the World, Then and Now
When the existence of this Western Hemisphere was first announced to Europe, it was done in Spanish. Quickly translated into Latin and published, Christopher Columbus’s 1493 “Letter of Discovery,” as it has come to be called, was as much a world event as the remarkable discoveries it described and the promises it made to its readers at the Castilian royal court.  Soon afterward Spanish accounts of exploration and conquest were translated into Italian, English, French, German, and Dutch as readers of those languages sought to answer the question, “What are those people doing over there?” 

If Spanish emerged on the world stage in the sixteenth century, it occupies front and center today as the world’s second most spoken language.  It is also the second language of the United States.  The challenges and opportunities that this offers to those of us who study (or teach) Spanish are real.  The relationship of Spanish to the humanities at large, including its role in European cultural history, is the topic of this lecture.


12:00 - 12:50 pm
Legacy of One of the Earliest European Sojourns in North America


Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and the Legacy of One of the Earliest European Sojourns in North America

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios (“Shipwrecks,” “Calamities”) has long been considered the quintessential story of the European and the African, confronting for the first time the wilderness of North America and its native inhabitants.  The themes it evokes—quest and adventure, freedom and bondage, empire and colonialism, miracles and shamanism—have made it a tale retold in Spain, Latin America, and the U.S., where the Cabeza de Vaca route through North America has been the subject of scholarship and legend since the end of the nineteenth century until today. 

Cabeza de Vaca’s pan-American experience has engaged the creative and critical energies of Anglo, African, Latin, and Latino Americanist interests as well as that of European scholars, translators, writers, and artists.  This lecture will suggest why Cabeza de Vaca’s ever-unknowable experiences—those that he described, as well as those upon which he did not comment—perpetually stimulate the reader’s imagination and make Cabeza de Vaca’s saga relevant to other people in other times and places, including our own.

This lecture will be illustrated (PowerPoint).

2016-2017 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars

The 15 men and women participating during 2016-2017 will visit 110 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, spending two days on each campus and taking full part in the academic life of the institution.  They will meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a lecture open to the university/college community and the general public.  Now in its 61st year, the Visiting Scholar Program has sent 648 Scholars on 5,288 two-day visits.

Participating Visiting Scholars for 2016-2017 are: 

  • Rolena Adorno, Sterling Professor of Spanish, Yale University, 2016-2017 ɸßК-Frank M. Updike Memorial Scholar;
  • William Bialek, John Archibald Wheeler/Battelle Professor in Physics, Princeton University;
  • Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
  • Barbara J. Grosz, Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences, Harvard University;
  • Jennifer L. Hochschild, Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard University;
  • Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University;
  • Marsha I. Lester, Edmund J. Kahn Distinguished Professor in Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania;
  • Nora Naranjo Morse, Sculptor, Poet, Espanola, New Mexico;
  • Daniel T. Rodgers, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History, Emeritus, Princeton University;
  • Jeremy A. Sabloff, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania;
  • David F. Weiman, Alena Wels Hirschorn ’58 Professor of Economics, Barnard College;
  • Laura Wexler, Professor of American Studies and Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Yale University;
  • John Fabian Witt, Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law, Yale Law University;
  • Patricia Wright, Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology, Stony Brook University;
  • Shuhai Xiao, Professor of Geobiology, Virginia Tech.

Founded in 1776, the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the nation’s most prestigious  academic honor society.  It has chapters at 286 colleges and universities and more than half a million members throughout the country.  Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression.

Additional information about the Visiting Scholar Program can be found on Phi Beta Kappa’s website (