Twenty years of dogged research have yielded a remarkable book by longtime Laredo educator Dr. Ray Keck, Texas A&M International University's provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of Spanish literature.
Dr. Keck's "Love's Dialectic: Mimesis and Allegory in the Romances of Lope de Vega" will be recognized in a special book-signing ceremony on Saturday, March 25 between the hours of 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. at BookMark Books, 7305 San Dario. The public is welcome to attend and meet the author.
Copies of the 200-page book published by Romance Monographs: University of Mississippi Press will be available for sale. The reception is being hosted by the A&M International College of Arts and Humanities
Keck said his interest in Lope De Vega first grew as a graduate student at Princeton University and has never abated. His studies here and in Spain have convinced him that Lope De Vega's works and thoughts can continue to enlighten, despite their 17th century origins.
"Lope De Vega is to Spanish letters what Shakespeare is to English letters. Lope penned approximately 2000 plays, almost 500 of which are still in existence, and hundreds of devotional poems that are cornerstones of Spanish literature and life. He is still much read and revered today," Keck explained.
Keck said Lope De Vega dedicated his life and art to searching for a way to address the clash between love as we experience it in our bodies and our souls.
"Lope De Vega probes the question of how love functions as part of our bodies and as a keeper of our soul and how inevitably the two come into conflict. This contradiction was central to Lope De Vega's life as he himself struggled with his physical desire of love and a spiritual hunger that seemed in opposition to his body. He turned to literature in an effort to understand this fundamental contradiction in his life," Keck said.
Keck said his book is intended primarily to offer the reader an acquaintance with a remarkable writer, but also to consider the writer in his own words through a look at the solutions he posited in his central romance, "El Peregrino en Su Patria" (The Pilgrim in his Homeland.)
"What we see is that the difficulties and losses of Lope De Vega's life, recorded in romances, places, innumerable poems, and two volumes of personal letters, still resonate today: we don't have any more substantial answers for the difficult questions of birth, death, love, pain, fear and hope than Lope himself, or St. Augustine or Plato before him. We can face the same uncertainties that he faced, and draw comfort in knowing that we face the same contradictions as many before us," Keck noted.
Keck said that his lengthy effort in bringing his book to life brought challenges as he balanced his academic, family, and administrative lives. He said a lesson he has frequently imparted to his students helped him throughout the process.
"I've often told my students to write about something that you feel passionate about. We write best when the subject is of enormous importance to us. I believe that in his struggles of the body, the heart, and the spirit, Lope De Vega is a character to be passionate about," Keck concluded.
Keck, a member of the A&M International faculty since 1983, holds his Ph.D. in Romance Languages from Princeton University. His A.B. was also earned at Princeton. He was a Rockefeller Brothers Fellow at the Harvard Divinity School.
He is a gifted organist and frequently performs in area churches. He is especially fond of the works of J.S. Bach.
He is married to the former Patricia Gonzalez Cigarroa. The couple has three daughters.
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