Researcher and literary critic who specialized in Medieval Spanish literature, Semitic and Muslim literature, the Golden Age and the Spanish Renaissance. She is known for her studies of comparative literature, particularly in analyzing the Orientalist traditions of Medieval and mystic Spanish texts.
Luce López-Baralt, the sister of scholar Mercedes López-Baralt, was born in San Juan in 1944. Her parents were Emma Cardona and José López Baralt. Like her sister, she completed her primary and secondary education at the Colegio Espíritu Santo in Hato Rey. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Hispanic Studies (1966) at the University of Puerto Rico and a Master’s degree in Romance Literature (1968) at New York University’s Madrid campus. Later, she worked as an instructor at the University of Puerto Rico (1968-69).
In 1974, she earned a doctoral degree in Romance Literature and Languages at Harvard University. Under the tutelage of Hispanicists Raimundo Lida and Stephen Gilman, she presented her dissertation, titled San Juan de la Cruz y la concepción semítica del lenguaje poético (1974). She complemented her education by taking additional graduate courses at the Menéndez Pelayo International University, Santander (summer, 1964); New York University (summer, 1967); Complutense University of Madrid (1968); and American University in Beirut, Lebanon (summer, 1971).
In 1973, she joined the faculty of the Spanish Department in the School of General Studies and the Department of Hispanic Studies in the School of Humanities at the University of Puerto Rico. She has been a researcher and visiting professor at various educational institutions, such as Harvard, Yale, Brown and Michigan State Universities in the United States; Málaga University in Spain; the Autonomous University of Mexico; Buenos Aires University in Argentina; Rabat University in Morocco; and the College of Spain in Salamanca.
Her research has focused on comparative studies of Spanish literature, particularly mystic and Arabic literature, as well as Spanish literature written in Arabic characters. In 1985, she published San Juan de la Cruz y el Islam: estudio de la filiación semítica de su poesía mística, which won first prize for literary criticism from the P.E.N. Club of Puerto Rico, as well as the first prize for literature from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature that same year. In the book, she surveys the author’s mystic verses from an Orientalist point of view, explaining certain elements of San Juan’s poetry that some critics considered inexplicable. That same year, López Baralt published Huellas del Islam en la literatura española: De Juan Ruiz a Juan Goytisolo, in which she weaves a network of Islamic influences found in images, symbols and allusions used by Spanish authors. This work won the first prize for literature from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature.
She incorporated erotology into her studies of mystic literature, particularly in studies of divine eroticlove. She returned to this topic when she discovered a Moorish manuscript in the Royal Academy of History. Library in Madrid. It was an erotological treatise from the early 15th century that presented a direct relationship between love, sex and the divine. In 1992, it was published in Spain under the name Un Kama Sutra español. Later, in 1995, a modernized and abbreviated version was issued under the title Un Kama Sutra español: el primer tratado erótico de nuestra lengua.
She wrote Asedios a lo Indecible: San Juan de la Cruz canta al éxtasis transformante (1998), in which she returned to the topic of divine love in San Juan’s mystic literature. Later, in 1999, she published an annotated translation of the Arab text Las moradas de los corazones by Abu-l-Hasan al-Nuri of Baghdad, which included a preliminary study that received the top prize from the P.E.N. Club of Puerto Rico. Later, she presented “The Sufi Trobar Clus and Spanish Mysticism: A Shared Symbolism”, which consisted of a critical monograph on the existing connections between Spanish mysticism and the trovar clus, a type of complex and dark poetry that was sung by Medieval troubadours.
Among her most recent texts are Entre libélulas y ríos de estrellas: José Hierro, poeta de lo imposible (2002); El viaje maravilloso de Buluqiya a los confines del universo (2004); «A zaga de tu huella»; La enseñanza de las lenguas semíticas en Salamanca en tiempos de San Juan de la Cruz (2006); and La literatura secreta de los últimos musulmanes de España (2009).
She has also been the editor of various books, including Sadilíes y alumbrados de Miguel Asín Palacios (1990); Obras completas de San Juan de la Cruz (1991), which she published in collaboration with Eulogio Pacho; Erotismo en las letras hispánicas: Aspectos, modos y fronteras (1995), in which she collaborated with Francisco Márquez Villanueva; and El sol a media noche: la experiencia mística: tradición y actualidad (1996), in collaboration with Lorenzo Piera. Along with her sister, Mercedes, she took on the task of editing the diary of her grandfather, Dr. Esteban López Giménez, which was published under the title of Crónica del 1898: el testimonio de un médico puertorriqueño (1998). The work won the first prize from the P.E.N. Club of Puerto Rico.
López Baralt has published more than one hundred articles in a variety of periodicals and academic journals, including “San Juan de la Cruz: una nueva concepción del lenguaje poético” (Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Liverpool, 1978); “La guaracha del Macho Camacho, saga nacional de la ‘guachafita’ puertorriqueña” (Revista Iberoamericana of the University of Pittsburgh, 1995); “Santa Teresa de Jesús y el Islam: los símbolos místicos del vino del éxtasis, la apretura y la anchura, el huerto del alma, el árbol espiritual, el gusano de seda y los siete vasillos del alma” (Ephemerides Carmeliticae, Rome, 1982); “El narcisismo sublime de San Juan de la Cruz: la fuente mística del ‘Cántico espiritual’ (Ínsula, Madrid, 1991) and “Repensando España desde las ínsulas extrañas” in (Quimera, Barcelona, 1997).
She has presented lectures in Tunis, Rabat, the Complutense University of Madrid, and the universities of Murcia, ávila, Princeton, Brown and Lima, among others. Her work has been translated into English, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, German, Italian and French. She is a member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language and a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language and the Dominican Academy of the Spanish Language. She has been a member of the Board of the International Association of Hispanicists and the editorial boards of various academic journals, such as the Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica, Journal of Hispanic Philology, Medieval and Modern Mysticism Series and Torre de Papel. She was also part of the International Committee of Moorish Studies (Tunis) and the Center for Ibero-American Research’s Scientific Committee at Leipzig University (Germany).
Luce López Baralt has received a considerable number of awards and honors, including, in addition to those already mentioned, the prize from the University of Puerto Rico School of Humanities (1996, 1997 and 1999) for academic production. The International Book Fair of Women Writers (1999) was dedicated to both Luce and Mercedes. She was also inducted into the Puerto Rico Senate’s Hall of Distinguished Women (1998) and received an honorary degree (1999) from the University of Puerto Rico.
The Arecibo campus of the university, with the sponsorship of the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities, held a conference titled Escritura, individuo y sociedad en España y las Américas (2001), which was dedicated to the López Baralt sisters. The lectures presented at the conference were collected in the book Morada de la palabra: homenaje a Luce y Mercedes López-Baralt.
In 2003, the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities named her Humanist of the Year, along with fellow man of literature Arturo Echevarría, a specialist in Jorge Luis Borges. Today, she continues teaching at the University of Puerto Rico.
Mejías López, William, ed. Morada de la palabra: homenaje a Luce y Mercedes López-Baralt. San Juan, P.R.: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2002. Impreso.
Rivera de Alvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña: su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Partenón, . Impreso.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.
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