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Professor Emerita Darlene Sadlier elected to Brazilian Academy of Letters

Sep 6, 2019

Indiana University Professor Emerita of Spanish and Portuguese Darlene J. Sadlier has been elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters as a socia-correspondente. She is the only U.S. citizen and woman currently holding this lifetime position.

The purpose of the academy is to cultivate the Portuguese language and Brazilian literature. It is composed of 40 Brazilian members and 20 foreign correspondent members, all of whom are chosen through election by a secret ballot when a chair becomes vacant. The members are selected based on their publications of recognized merit.

“I was very surprised and elated,” she said. “It’s a great honor.”

Darlene Sadlier holds a copy of her book.
Darlene Sadlier holds a copy of her book, “The Lilly Library from A to Z.”Photograph by James Brosher, Indiana University

Sadlier will occupy the chair of the late Portuguese novelist Agustina Bessa-Luís. The academy will hold an induction ceremony on Nov. 14 in Rio de Janeiro, where Sadlier will give a speech and receive her diploma. Her speech will reference her academic career, Brazilian, Portuguese and Lusophone African literatures, and the work of Bessa-Luís.

The Portuguese-speaking world has been the focus of Sadlier’s career, inspiring her writings based on its literature, arts and history. Before her retirement, Sadlier spent 36 years working at IU, 30 of which she worked as the director of the Portuguese program.

“I had probably the best position in Portuguese in the United States,” she said. “While it was challenging at the beginning, I taught courses on all centuries and genres of literature and Portuguese as well as Latin American cinema. I had a wonderful position.”

Sadlier was instrumental in building IU’s agreement with the academy through the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs. In 2012 she accompanied IU President Michael A. McRobbie and his team to Rio, where he and the president of the academy, Ana Maria Machado, signed an agreement to establish formal ties between the two institutions.

Through the agreement, academy members can visit IU to give lectures, connect with students and faculty, and become a part of the academic culture. In turn, IU researchers can access the academy’s rich archives and can be invited to the academy to give lectures and participate in events.

“Indiana is the only university with an agreement with the Brazilian Academy of Letters,” Sadlier said. “So it is unique, and it’s important because IU is recognizing the significance of the academy, one of whose missions is to maintain and watch over and cultivate the Portuguese language. The academy in turn recognizes the Portuguese program here as well as the importance of IU overall.”

In the past, Sadlier has given talks at the academy and participated in the renegotiation of the agreement, which was renewed Nov. 1, 2017, for five years.

Sadlier’s most recent work is a book she published in early August titled “The Lilly Library from A to Z.” The book was issued as a part of the Bicentennial Publication and Media Series and includes a 3D online supplement, where readers can get a 360-degree view of the objects.

“I wrote it for a wide audience, who may not know that the Lilly Library contains many fantastic objects in addition to their world-renowned collection of rare books and manuscripts,” she said.

As she awaits her induction ceremony, Sadlier is working on a book that fits the theme of her previous writings, titled “Brazilian Documentary Film.” It will be a history of the genre from 1922 to the present day.

“I will continue to write about subjects that have to do with the Portuguese-speaking world,” Sadlier said.

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