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 completed an MSt and a DPhil in Spanish at the University of Oxford. I held a permanent post as a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Royal Holloway for five years, before joining Oxford in September 2015.


My research centres on modern and contemporary Spanish American fiction.

My current research project investigates how contemporary female writers respond to critical issues of the present –such as environmental toxicity, social inequality, and gender violence— by exploring novel forms of storytelling. Beyond ‘representing’ such issues, I argue, their fiction pushes against the limits of realism whilst staging unexpected interactions between plot and style that compel the reader to engage with uncertainty and discomfort at multiple levels. In this way, these narratives interrogate our unexamined notions of normality, and intervene in the debate about the agency of literature in our times.  

My first monograph examined representations of the body in canonical historical novels from the late 20th century: Augusto Roa Bastos’ Yo el Supremo (1974), Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del Imperio (1987), and Gabriel García Márquez’s El general en su laberinto (1989). I argue that, in these texts, corporeal imagery 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 have explored representations of illness in contemporary Spanish American fiction, from a variety of perspectives, in the works of authors ranging from Gabriel García Márquez to Cristina Rivera Garza and Lina Meruane.

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

‘Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream: Watery Toxicity, Percolating Disquietude’, in Contemporary Literature 62.1 (2021): 1-34. Full Text: http://cl.uwpress.org/content/62/1/1.full.pdf+html

‘Ugly Feelings in Mariana Enriquez’s Short Fiction’, in Bulletin of Spanish Studies 98.2 (2021): 289-317.  DOI 10.1080/14753820.2021.1891647

‘Estéticas de la ausencia: Amparo Dávila y Juan Rulfo en la escritura de Cristina Rivera Garza’, in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 97. 2 (2020): 187–202. https://doi.org/10.3828/bhs.2020.11 

‘Corporalidad y afecto en Umami (2015), de Laia Jufresa’, in Revista Letral 22 (julio 2019), dossier ‘Narradoras latinoamericanas de las últimas dos décadas: voces, representaciones, estrategias’: 64-89. Full text: http://revistaseug.ugr.es/index.php/letral/article/view/8771/8342

‘Myopia and Dazzlement: Visions of Venice in Sergio Pitol’, in Bulletin of Spanish Studies 95.4 (2018): 325-350.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14753820.2018.1483645

Sangre en el ojo y las narrativas del padecimiento’, in Inti: Revista de literatura hispánica 85-86 (primavera-otoño 2017), dossier Lina Meruane: 306-319. Full text: https://digitalcommons.providence.edu/inti/vol1/iss85/22/

‘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. https://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. https://doi.org/10.5699/modelangrevi.108.1.0162   Reprinted 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. Reprinted in Iberian and Latin American Perspectives on Literature and Medicine, ed. Patricia Novillo-Corvalán (New York: Routledge, 2015): 127-148. https://doi.org/10.3828/bhs.2011.27

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