- Arts & Literature
- Science & Technology
By Rachel McLellan
The Professor of Portuguese Studies at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages has been recognised for his expertise in the arts by Portugal’s National Academy.
The Academia das Ciências de Lisboa – Classe de Letras, the Portuguese equivalent of the British Academy and Royal Society – has made Professor Tom Earle a corresponding fellow, a rare honour for a foreign academic. Professor Earle is only the second living British person to be awarded the title.
“This accolade is a great honour,” Professor Earle said. “As a foreigner I have been received into a body that recognises outstanding achievements by scholars of Portugal in the sciences and arts.”
The Academia das Ciências de Lisboa – Classe de Letras works to promote and foster science, learning and academia in Portugal. It honours those renowned for their expertise in the study of Portugal from such disparate fields as history, literature and language as well as the sciences. Mark Damazer, Master of St Peter’s, where Professor Earle is a tutor, said that recognition by this body “brings honour and joy to St Peter’s”.
Professor Earle, who has been a lecturer at Oxford for over 40 years after gaining his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University, specialises in Portuguese literature from the Renaissance period [around 15th to 17th century]. He writes extensively on the subject and has just completed his tenth book. His recent research has focused on prose comedies from a period in which Portugal’s colonial activities across three continents precipitated a rapid development in literature in the southern European country.
Portuguese is still a small subject at the University. For two years of his undergraduate studies, Professor Earle was the only student of Portuguese at Oxford. However, since his appointment as the first King John II Professor of Portuguese Studies in 1996, the subject has been expanding.
There are roughly ten students of Portuguese admitted each year (mostly from joint schools) and a small graduate community also exists. St Peter’s has become something of a hub for Portuguese. The Master of St Peter’s emphasised their “commitment to Portuguese language and literature” and stated that Earle’s “election can only help us achieve more in the field”.
Internationally, Portuguese literature is still an underexplored academic area. According to Professor Earle: “Very little is known about Portuguese writing, even among the Portuguese themselves.” This makes the work of Professor Earle and the Instituto Camões Centre for Portuguese Language at the University all the more important.
This centre is funded and was established by the Camões Institute in Lisbon, which is a cultural and educational agency associated with the Portuguese Ministry for Foreign Affairs. “One of the special things about Portugal is the amount of money it invests in teaching its language and promoting research by foreigners,” explained Professor Earle.
The funding enables the University and Professor Earle to run events designed to foster understanding and interest in previously underexplored areas of Portuguese culture. In October, Oxford University and Professor Earle will host a conference on 16th century European Theatre at St John’s.
Professor Earle acknowledged the contribution of both Oxford University and the Camões Institute to his success in his field: “Recognition by the academy wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been in Oxford, which until now has provided excellent facilities and encouragement for research. I have been able to spend a very long time studying this esoteric subject. It has been a lifetime well spent.”