Nicole T. Hughes

Nicole T. Hughes

Assistant Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures
Ph.D. Latin American and Iberian Cultures; Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University
Nahuatl Language and Culture, IDIEZ (Instituto de Docencia e Investigación Etnológica de Zacatecas)
B.A./M.A. Comparative Literature, New York University

Nicole T. Hughes is Assistant Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures. Her research focuses on the early modern world, especially sixteenth-century New Spain (Mexico) and Brazil. She has received support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (Mellon Humanities International Fellowship), the John Carter Brown Library, and the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut (Berlin). She was awarded the Stanford-Tinker Faculty Research Fund from the Center for Latin American Studies in 2021. Previously, she was a Mellon Scholar in the Humanities at the Stanford Humanities Center.

Representations published her article, “The Sultan Hernán Cortés: The Double Staging of The Conquest of Jerusalem” in 2020. The piece argues that the festival account of the religious drama known as The Conquest of Jerusalem is a palimpsest. It contains both the indigenous Tlaxcalans’ ambitious diplomatic strategy, expressed in their performance, and the Franciscan Friar Motolinía’s efforts to steer Castile’s policies through his strategic textual reconstruction of it.

Renaissance Quarterly has accepted for publication her article, “Fiestas Fit for a King: Contested Symbolic Regimes of Power in New Spain.” This piece explores how the conquistadors’ descendants adopted heraldry, hereditary titles, and royal ceremony “in jest” in mid-sixteenth-century Mexico City. It argues that the judges’ obsession with how wealthy settlers adopted royal pomp and circumstance, on the one hand, and refusal to recognize how they imitated the Mexica nobility, on the other, helped to consolidate Spanish power—symbolic and literal—in New Spain. 

In her first book project, "Stages of History: New Spain, Brazil, and the Theater of the World in the Sixteenth Century," she analyzes dramatic performances in which missionaries, conquistadors, and indigenous populations superimposed depictions of far-flung conflicts and enactments of local struggles. She argues that by envisioning other parts of the world and relating those images back to the Americas, participants in these theatrical spectacles created foundational narratives of New Spain and Brazil. The book is a substantial reworking of her dissertation, which was a finalist for the Latin American Studies’ Association Maureen Ahern Award for best dissertation in Colonial Latin American Studies (2017-2020).

At Stanford, she regularly teaches two mixed undergraduate and graduate signature courses, in addition to Ph.D. seminars and ILAC core courses. “Shipwrecks and Backlands: Getting Lost in Literature” takes students on a journey through tales of getting lost in the Portuguese and Spanish empires. The course begins with sea-dominated stories of Portuguese voyages to Asia, Africa, and Brazil then turns to how the Amazon and the sertão, or backlands, became a driving force of Brazilian literature. In “Colonial Mexico: Images and Power,” students explore how images maintained, constructed, and transformed political power during the conquest and colonization of Mesoamerica. Students discover that images and other visual phenomena from this tumultuous period offer counter-narratives to dominant textual accounts.

For AY 2022-2023, she is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for ILAC (Iberian and Latin American Cultures), director of the Renaissances working group, and an editorial board member of the peer-reviewed digital journal Republics of Letters.



Past Courses:

ILAC 131: Introduction to Latin America: Cultural Perspectives

ILAC 157: Medieval and Early Modern Iberian Literatures

ILAC 214/314: Colonial Mexico: Images and Power

ILAC 218/318: Shipwrecks and Backlands: Getting Lost in Literature

ILAC 303: Early Modern Theories of History

ILAC 336: One World or Many? Distance, Time, and Place in Iberian Expansion



Pigott Hall, Bldg 260, Rm 227

Office Hours

On leave, Autumn 2022

Research Unit Groups