Dr Olivia Vázquez-Medina

Lic. Lengua y Lit Hispánicas (Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico), MSt, DPhil (Oxon)
Associate Professor in Spanish, Fellow of Wadham College, Lecturer at St Hugh's

I graduated with a Licenciatura en lengua y literatura hispánicas from the Universidad Veracruzana, in Mexico, and obtained an MSt and a DPhil in Spanish from the University of Oxford. I held a permanent position as a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, for five years before taking up my current post at Oxford in September 2015.


My research centres on modern and contemporary Spanish American fiction. My first book explored representations of the body of historical characters in three canonical Spanish American novels from the late 20th century that focus on 19th-century processes of nation building (Augusto Roa Bastos’ Yo el Supremo, Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del Imperio, and Gabriel García Márquez’s El general en su laberinto). I argue that corporeal imagery in all three cases can be read in allegorical terms (especially from the point of view of Benjamin’s allegory), whilst also having a performative dimension that results in decomposition, discontinuity and heterogeneity as textual processes through which these works engage with the writing of history.  

I am interested in representations of illness in contemporary Spanish American fiction, which I have approached from a variety of perspectives: from the ‘illness as a metaphor’ trope in El general en su laberinto to a concern with the history of illness and the slippage between rabies, madness and demonic possession in García Márquez’s Del amor y otros demonios; and from the socio-historical context of mental illness in early 20th-century Mexico addressed in Cristina Rivera Garza’s Nadie me verá llorar to the critical engagement with the conventions of the illness memoir in Lina Meruane’s Sangre en el ojo

Some of my work is also concerned with vision and the visible in fiction, and I am particularly interested in the semantic links between vision and knowledge. I am currently preparing two articles on ‘ways of seeing’ in the works of Mexican writers Sergio Pitol and Cristina Rivera Garza. 

Undergraduate teaching

At Wadham and St Hugh’s I teach all papers for the Preliminary examination in Spanish, as well as final-year translation. I also teach the Spanish American options for papers VIII, XI and XII to students from across the University. 

Graduate supervision

I convene the MSt special subject ‘The Body in 20th- and 21st-Century Spanish American Fiction’. I welcome potential graduate applicants interested in any of my areas of research.

Selected publications


Cuerpo, historia y textualidad en Augusto Roa Bastos, Fernando del Paso y Gabriel García Márquez. Madrid-Frankfurt am Main: Iberoamericana-Vervuert, 2013. 235 pp. https://blog.ibero-americana.net/2013/08/21/4-preguntas-a-olivia-vazquez-medina/

Journal articles

‘Myopia and Dazzlement: Visions of Venice in Sergio Pitol’, in Bulletin of Spanish Studies (forthcoming 2018)

Sangre en el ojo y las narrativas del padecimiento’, in Inti: Revista de literatura hispánica 85-86 (primavera-otoño 2017): 306-319.

‘Seeing the Insane in Cristina Rivera Garza’s Nadie me verá llorar (1999)’, in Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies 20.2 (2014): 185-209. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14701847.2014.986850

‘Reading Illness in Gabriel García Márquez’s Del amor y otros demonios’, in Modern Language Review 108.1 (2013): 162-179. http://dx.doi.org/10.5699/modelangrevi.108.1.0162 Also available in Gabriel García Márquez in Retrospect, ed. Gene Bell-Villada (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016): 165-182.

‘The Patria’s Ravaged Body: Bolívar’s Illness in El general en su laberinto’, in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 88.5 (2011): 553-570. http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/bhs.2011.27 Also available in Iberian and Latin American Perspectives on Literature and Medicine, ed. Patricia Novillo-Corvalán (New York: Routledge, 2015): 127-148.

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