Skip to main content

Mariselle Meléndez Ph.D.

Profile picture for Mariselle Meléndez Ph.D.

Contact Information

4080 Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics Building

Office Hours

4150-D Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics Building
Director, School of Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics
LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar


Mariselle Meléndez is Professor of Colonial Spanish American Literatures and Cultures and LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. She is also a former Conrad Humanities Scholar (2011-2016) and recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Stipend (1997). Her research focuses on issues of race and gender in colonial Spanish America with special interest in the eighteenth century, the cultural phenomenon of the Enlightenment, food studies, environmental studies, as well as visual studies. She is the author of Deviant and Useful Citizens: The Cultural Production of the Female Body in Eighteenth-Century Peru (Vanderbilt University Press, 2011 & paperback in 2021). Raza, género e hibridez en El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes [Race, Gender, and Hibridity in El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (University of North Carolina Studies in Romance Languages and Literatures, 1999), and co-editor of Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture, and Experience (Bucknell University Press, 2002). Her articles have appeared in journals such as: Latin American Research Review, Colonial Latin American ReviewBulletin of Spanish Studies, Latin American Literary Review, Hispanic ReviewRevista Iberoamericana, Revista de crítica literaria latinoamericana, Dieciocho Hispanic Enlightenment, and Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, among many others. Along with Karen Stolley she co-edited a special issue "The Enlightenment in Colonial Spanish America" in Colonial Latin American Review  (2015). Her current book project Fluid Spaces and Transient Bodies: The Cultural and Racial Geography of Spanish American Ports in the Eighteenth Century is in advanced contract with Vanderbilt University Press. She has served in the NEH Review Panel and on the Executive Committee on the Division on Literature of Colonial Spanish America for the Modern Language Association of America (MLA).

Research Interests

  • Colonial Spanish America
  • Race,  Gender & Sexuality
  • Eighteenth-century Studies & the Enlightenment
  • Colonialism & Coloniality
  • Environmental Studies
  • Food Studies
  • Visual and Cultural Studies



Ph.D. Spanish American Literature, University of Wisconsin, Madison (1993)
Master of Arts-Spanish, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1987)
Bachelor of Arts-Hispanic Studies (University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras [Magna Cum Laude] (1986)


  • Program for Cultural Cooperation between Spain’s Ministry of Culture and United States Universities.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend (NEH), 1997
  • University of Illinois Campus Research Board

Awards and Honors

  • 2023 University of Illinois Executive Officer Distinguished Leadership Award
  • LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar (2021-)
  • Awarded by the Comisión Ejecutiva Puertorriqueña de la Juventud and UNESCO a medal and certificate of recognition as “Joven destacado de Puerto Rico” (Outstanding Young Puerto Rican). Award based on professional merits. (Spring 2001)
  • Conrad Humanities Scholar Award, LAS University of Illinois (2011-2016)
  • 2019-20 University of Illinois President’s Executive Leadership Program (PELP) Fellow. 


Courses Taught

Spanish 535 “Visual Culture in Colonial Spanish America: From the Construction of Space to the Corporeal View of the World.”
SPAN535 “The Limits of Racial Formation: Constructing Black Identities in Colonial Spanish American Texts”
Spanish 442 “Visualizing Difference in Colonial Spanish America: From Bodily Representations to the Production of Space
Spanish 530 “Historiography, Literariness, and Visual Expressions in Colonial Spanish America.”

  • SPAN 466: “Between Border Crossings and Bodies of Water: Colonialism and Identity Constructions in Spanish America" (Graduate course)
  • SPAN324 "Africa in Colonial LatinaAmerica: Diasporas and the CulturesWithin"
  • SPAN 324 "Why We Eat What We Eat: Food and Culture in Colonial Spanish America"
  • SPAN 324 “Ecology and Natural Disasters in Colonial Spanish America”
  • SPAN 324 “Objects in Motion: The Circulation of Culture in Colonial Spanish America”
  • SPAN 535 “Indigeneity in Latin America” (Graduate Seminar)
  • SPAN 535: “Africa in Colonial Spanish America: Experiences, Identities, and Colonial Negotiations” (Graduate Seminar)       

  • SPAN 314: “Ecocriticism and Nature Writing in Colonial Spanish America” 

  • SPAN 324: “Spanish American Cultural Studies, pre-Columbian-1799” 

  • SPAN 466: “Geographies of Knowledge in Colonial Spanish America” (Graduate course)

  • SPAN 535: “(Re)visions of the Colonial Past in Contemporary Colonial Spanish America” (Graduate Seminar)

  • SPAN 314: Latin American Literatures I. Special Topic: “Cinematographic Renditions of Colonial Spanish America: Visualizing Written Texts.” 

  • SPAN 324: “Spanish American Cultural Studies, pre-Columbian-1799”                              

  • SPAN 466: “Narratives of Risk in Colonial Spanish America” (Graduate course)

  • SPAN 535: “Hispanic Enlightenments: Geographies of Knowledge and Patriotic Epistemologies in Spain and Spanish America” (Graduate Seminar)                                          

  • SPAN 250: “Introduction to Literary Analysis” 


Additional Campus Affiliations

  • Center for Latin America and Caribbean Studies 
  • Women and Gender in Global Perspectives

Highlighted Publications

  • Deviant and Useful Citizens: The Cultural Production of the Female Body in Eighteenth-Century Peru. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2011. Paperback edition 2021.
  • Mapping Colonial Spanish America: Places and Commonplaces of Identity, Culture and Experience. (Co-editor with Santa Arias) Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 2002.
  • Raza, género e hibridez en El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes (Race, Gender and Hibridity in El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, University of North Carolina Press, 1999.
  • Mariselle Meléndez and Karen Stolley. Special issue "The Enlightenment in Colonial Spanish America." Colonial Latin American Review. 24 1 (2015), 118 pp.

Recent Publications

  • “Assaulted Bodies: The Case of Two Enslaved Black Women in the Port City of Santa María de los Angeles de Buenos Aires, 1764-1773. Colonial Latin American Literature in Transition. Eds. Amber Brien & Rocío Quispe. Cambridge University Press, 2023. 121-134.

  • “‘A desire of being distinguished by an elegant dress is universal': Clothing, Status, and Convenience in Eighteenth-Century Spanish America.” In Threads of Power: Lace in the Collection of the Textilmuseum St. Gallen.Edited by Michele Majer and Emma Cormack. Bard Graduate Center Press, 2022. 136-153. Recently reviewed in the New York Times by co-chief art critic Roberta Smith. Not only is the book one of the critic’s top picks for 2022, she also writes, “Inside, the history of Lace is told in about 17 highly focused essays that cover a great deal of cultural, political and economic as well as lace-making history without being overwhelming. It’s a big ongoing saga, made newly comprehensible here with the latest research, clear prose and lots of pictures.” 

  • “Port Cities as Sites of Spatial Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century Spanish America.” The Routledge Companion for Colonial Latin American and Caribbean Studies (1492-1898).” Eds. Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel & Santa Arias. New York & London: Routledge, 2021.  328-343.

  • “Negotiating Subjectivities on the Fringes of the Empire: The Port City of Cartagena de Indias as Site of Social and Political Convergence.” The Routledge Companion to the Hispanic Enlightenment. Eds. Elizabeth Franklin Lewis, et al. New York & London: Routledge, 2020.  142-156.

  • “Geography and the Enlightenment: Patriotic Views of the Port City of Havana, 1761-1791.” Latin American Research Review. 53, 1 (2018): 139-151.

  • Women’s Voices in Eighteenth-Century Spanish American Newspapers.” Uncovering the Colonial Archive: Women’s Textual Agency in Spanish America, 1500-1800. Eds. Mónica Díaz and Rocío Quispe. New York & London: 2017. 177-199.
  • “Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Reassessment of the Colonial Past.” Hispanic Issues. Special issue Gender and the Politics of Literature: Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. Vol. 18 (2017):  215-234.