Central American scholar and novelist to speak March 29

Release Date: 3/12/2012

Clarksville, Ark. --- Spanish-American novelist Dr. Arturo Arias, one of the leading scholars in the country on Central American literature and culture, will speak at University of the Ozarks at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 29, in the Walton Fine Arts Center.

Dr. Arturo Arias

Dr. Arturo Arias will speak about Central American identity, touching on what being Central American means culturally and historically

The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of the University's Walton Arts & Ideas Series.

Arias, a professor of Latin American literature at the University of Texas in Austin, will focus his talk on Central American identity, touching on what being Central American means culturally and historically, with particular emphasis on Central American identity within the larger framework of Hispanic identity in and outside the United States.

Dr. William Clary, associate professor of Spanish at Ozarks, was instrumental in getting Arias to visit campus. Clary said Ozarks' diverse student population, especially the large Central American contingent, makes Arias' lecture even more relevant.  Ozarks currently has 52 students in its Walton International Scholars Program from the seven Central American countries --- Belize, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

"I felt Arturo would be a great choice for a speaker, especially considering the dynamics of our campus," said Clary, who added that he has known Arias for several years. "Even though our campus is so diverse and we interact with Central American students quite a bit, how much do we really know about their culture, art and history? Arturo is one of the leading experts in the nation in those areas and I think we can learn from his experiences and knowledge."

Arias is a well-known expert on Central American literature, with a special emphasis on indigenous literature, as well as critical theory, race, gender and sexuality in postcolonial studies. Prior to coming to Texas he was Greenleaf Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies at Tulane University. He has published Taking their Word: Literature and the Signs of Central America (2007), The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy (2000), The Identity of the Word (1998), and Ceremonial Gestures (1998), as well as a critical edition of Miguel Angel Asturias's Mulata (2000). Arias also co-wrote the film El Norte (1984), and has published six novels in Spanish. Twice winner of the Casa de las Americas Award for his fiction, and winner of the Ana Seghers Award for fiction in Germany, he was given the Miguel Angel Asturias National Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature in 2008 in his native Guatemala.

Arias earned his undergraduate and master's degrees from Boston University before earning a Ph.D. from the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris.