Introducing Hérica Valladares
As the daughter of Brazilian diplomats, I grew up traveling. Every three or four years, my family and I would start a new life in a new place. Life at home and at school was always bilingual and bicultural. At home, my parents always insisted I speak Portuguese to them, read Brazilian literature, and keep up with current events in Brazil. At the same time, they were adamant that I attend local schools and learn the language of the country in which we were living. By the time we moved to Washington, D.C. in 1987, I had learned French, Spanish, and English and grown used to reading books in their original languages. Indeed, it was a youthful suspicion of translations that first drew me to Classics. In high school, I read Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides as part of an English class and I knew immediately that this was not enough: I needed to learn Greek!
At Oberlin College I devoted myself to learning Greek and Latin. My ambition then was to go on to graduate school to become a Homerist. But in my sophomore and junior years I began to take art history courses and my focus began to shift. A semester in Rome at the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies plunged me into the world of Roman archaeology and ignited a desire to bridge my linguistic training with a deeper study of ancient material culture.
In 1996 I moved to New York to pursue a PhD in Classical Studies at Columbia University. I was very fortunate to work with a group of dedicated teachers with whose guidance and support I was able to create an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary course of study. My dissertation, which analyzed the representation of love stories in Roman painting and poetry, was the fruit of an intellectually rich, though somewhat unorthodox, curriculum that included courses ranging from Greek and Latin prose composition to seminars on critical approaches to Roman art and the reception of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the Renaissance.
Over the past ten years, I have published several articles on the relationship between images and texts both in antiquity and the early modern period. I’m currently finishing a book manuscript on the representation of amatory tenderness in Roman painting and poetry of the early empire. Although tenderness is not a notion commonly associated with the Romans, beginning in the middle to the late first century BCE we see both the crystallization of Latin love elegy as a poetic genre and the emergence of a new style of Roman wall painting that featured large mythological panels depicting well-known, star-crossed lovers. In my book, I explore why Roman poets, artists, and their audience became increasingly interested in describing, depicting, and visualizing the more sentimental aspects of erotic experience. I also investigate how the elegiac, counter-cultural amatory ideal, which valued private pleasures over the traditional rewards of public life, was gradually incorporated into Roman familial ideology.
During my first year at UNC, I have taught courses on Hellenistic art, Roman wall painting, Roman architecture, and everyday life in ancient Pompeii. It’s been a pleasure to work with such diverse, inquisitive, and talented students. Whether they were designing their own Campanian atrium houses or giving presentations on the problems surrounding the dating of the Pantheon, I invariably felt that I learned as much from them as they did from me.
After many moves across the globe and the U.S., my husband (Mike), my son (Lucas) and I are thrilled to be in Chapel Hill. Our plans for the summer include tending to our large, unruly backyard, working on our writing projects, and exploring North Carolina–a place we’re very happy to call home.