Jorge Ledo has a degree in Spanish Language and Literature from the Universidade da Coruña, and subsequently completed his education at the Universitat Autònoma in Barcelona, at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, at the Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo and at the Centre for Modern Thought (University of Aberdeen). He was Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan(Ann Arbor, 2009-2011) and Assistant Professor at the University of Basel (Switzerland, 2011-2017). Although his academic education stems from the field of Spanish Language and Literature, his interests and his work have moved towards the history of late-medieval and renaissance thought, in fields such as rhetoric and poetry, the history of the early Reformation, Erasmus and Erasmism, a History of the Spanish Heterodox and the history of philosophy.
We interviewed Jorge Ledo, who has joined the InTalent UDC-Inditex Programme to research in the field of Humanities at the University of A Coruña.
1. At what point in your career does the InTalent Programme arrive? What has the programme meant for you and in what way can it influence your future as a researcher?
The InTalent Programme has had a pioneering role with Galician university culture in two ways: on the one hand, it involves the combined investment of private capital and public infrastructure to support research and attract talent; on the other hand, it is a step ahead of the current government which promises to try to recover (in some way, at least) part of the talent lost during the economic crisis which began in 2008 and to make Spanish universities attractive to foreign researchers. It is important to acknowledge the economic effort made by Inditex and the initiative shown by the OTRI, the chancellor and vice-chancellor for Research at the UDC. We people of Coruña can feel proud of the great professionals and representatives that are interested in the future and in the internationalization of our university. I have accepted this post after spending 17 years away from A Coruña and 12 away from Spain, having spent lengthy periods in Barcelona, Madrid, UK, USA and Switzerland. Personally it means that I can come home with the possibility, and capability, of carrying out the type of multidisciplinary research in which I have trained.
The independence and the confidence given to me by those in charge of the Programme have made me feel that I have a strong institutional backing from them. Likewise, the warmrth with which the members of the Faculty of Philology have welcomed me and their openness in letting me collaborate in areas where my training can be put to use has made it very easy for me to adapt. If the professional circumstances are, as they would seem to be, suitable, I would be honoured to be able to continue my career at this University once the programme draws to a close.
The independence and the confidence given to me by those in charge of the Programme have made me feel that I have a strong institutional backing from them.
2. Your academic training and interest in renaissance and medieval history and culture has led to you living in different countries, such as Switzerland and USA. Had you been thinking about coming home before now?
My current interests in terms of research are a result of curiosity arising from the various places in which I have worked and trained, a sustained and thorough study of primary sources and my own will to acquire the abilities that I believe should define a specialist in renaissance studies. My approach to research is founded on various disciplines, each with their own traditions and with different working methodologies, with secular confrontations between them (in some cases) which have, however, become increasingly permeable. Besides the obvious personal and family sacrifice which a long stay abroad has meant, I am aware of how fortunate I have been: I have been able to train, teach and research at Universities which are among the top 100 in the world and meet extraordinary professors and specialists of the very highest level, many of whom are exceptional individuals not only intellectually but also personally.
As is the case, with many Spanish colleagues of my generation, the thought of returning to Spain has crossed my mind more than once. Apart from the lack of posts, and the lack of a system to channel the offers, the most common doubts about moving back on my part were if I would have the chance to continue my research in a dynamic environment, with a reasonable salary for the degree of preparation and level of production demanded of me, and even more importantly, if it would be possible to work at a Spanish institution in the same way I had been doing so abroad. Frankly speaking, if it weren’t for what InTalent offers, it would have been much more difficult to take this step.
3. What made you apply to the UDC-Inditex InTalent Programme?
There are various answers to that question. The most personal, and most important for me, is that my daughter lives here and without the InTalent Programme it would have been impossible to see her grow up, help her in that process and to grow with her. Although there may have been other opportunities to return to Spain in the future, without this Programme and the huge effort behind it in terms of doing things the right way, I wouldn’t have thought about coming back just yet.
When I say that things have been done the right way, I am referring to both the guarantees given by InTalent concerning the objectivity of candidate selection, and the Programme’s interest in strengthening the development of each and every line of research within the UDC. To begin with, the committee in charge of choosing the candidates is made up of independent experts and all scientific disciplines have the same consideration. Secondly, researchers are given the chance to join the department of their choosing and the field they find most suitable, meaning that the researcher feels that, within reason, his or her criteria is respected and valued. Thirdly, the response to whether it can favour the institution at short, medium and long term is not without doubt, and even if it were, some important variables should be considered between disciplines, and even within each one of them. Those in charge of each research area at the UDC are very much aware of this, and of the particular dynamics in different fields, something which is not at all common and should be acknowledged. Finally, the level of involvement of OTRI and InTalent with the candidates from the moment they are chosen, and above all, after their incorporation to the Programme, is exemplary not only on a national scale, but also on the international stage in terms of the very best research talent attraction programmes worldwide.
Without this combination of factors, it is quite improbable that I would have applied to the programme, and that once I had been awarded the place, I would have rejected other job offers.
4. Tell us about the project you’ll be working on at the UDC, what results do you hope to obtain from your research?
My project consists in studying the way in which intellectuals from the XIV until the XVI century interacted, how it was perceived and how it was practised. In other words, with which premises did the communication of certain content need to have in order for it to be considered true or irrefutable and with which the ideas which in some way destabilized a group of widely accepted beliefs. And, in this last case, what factors determined their accepted, which to being condemned and which to be subjected to debate. Therefore, my research not only moves between what is true and false, but also into other classfications – acceptable, reprehensible, heretical; authorized, proven; etc. This dynamic allows us to understand how various phenomena which lead to modernity in Europe came to be: freedom of expression, religious tolerance, the idea of progress, scientific criteria, etc.
The new development present in my work lies in that I attempt to show that communicative premises existed which were shared by intellectuals of the time and that they were elements of fundamental legitimization in these processes. So, in contrast to what is usually held, there was a type of previous communicative “ground rules” which allowed certain “deviations” from orthodoxy to take place. Approaching the problem from this perspective allows us to look at the major transformations of the XV and XVI centuries moving away from it being a mere fluke and complementing disciplines such as social history, history of mentalities and history of religions – to name the main fields – from the point of view of the history of communication.
The difficulty of the project arises from the fact that we do not have critical editions of various essential texts needed to trace this history in all its complexity and that, given the time frame and the amount of phenomena that are occurring at the same time, it is necessary to progressively narrow down and connect various processes. During the project, I intend to address the origins of freedom of expression, which in the case of renaissance studies has not been studied very thoroughly.
5. Ficta eloquentia is your little online space, what made you set it up?
Ficta eloquentia has experienced various transformations since it was formed, quite a few years ago now. What I was essentially aiming to do by setting up the page was to have my research notes in an indexed place which would allow me to search through them quickly. If it could be used so that other people interested in medieval, renaissance studies, in relationships between research in humanities and Internet and new technologies, etc., at that time I thought, then all the better. I was lucky enough to create the page in the golden age for blogs in Spanish, at a time when the current ubiquity of social networks did not yet exist, and it allowed me to establish contact with both Anglo-Saxon and Spanish and Latin American disseminators. Subsequently, it served as a platform for distributing information, programmes, material, etc. to my students, something which gave a second life to the site, it has never been public. Currently the blogs original entries are still there, there is up to date information about my most relevant publications and I don’t rule out the blog being fully operative again in the future, with perhaps some changes in depth and with a more collaborative focus.
6. And, finally, are you thinking about applying to any calls or projects in the coming years?
I joined the project in August this year. Since then, a proposal for a project on a national level has been sent in which collaboration between the UDC, the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona and the Universtitat Pompeu Fabra will be established, and to which leading specialists from various centres of international excellence will be added (University of Sorbonne, University of Michigan, etc.). This project will take charge of analysing a poorly studied field of the doctrinal history of the Iberina peninsula in the XVI century. If it is successful, it will not only benefit the collaboration for the researchers involved and the UDC itself, but it will also allow our students to have a wider scope of specialisation than what is currently on offer in the Faculty of Philology at the UDC. At the moment, I am working to have my research and the UDC incorporated into networks of excellence, something that I hope will bear fruits sooner rather than later, and I am also trying to organize transfer activities between the city and the university.
My intention is to present a project to ERC Consolidator Grants next year. The aims of this project are included within the scope of the long-term research that I commented on previously.