“With the sponsorship of the Fulbright Commission Portugal I was able to return to Mississippi for the summer of 2008, after two previous conference visits.
My stay at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture of the University of Mississippi could not have been more productive or pleasant. The campus provided excellent resources for my study of two Southern authors, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’ Connor, and the Fulbright grant allowed me to acquire a good part of the titles I used at the J.D. Williams library, which has enabled me to continue the research back in Portugal.
Ole Miss, as the University is affectionately nicknamed, offers wonderful conditions for research visitors.
The extraordinarily beautiful city of Oxford, MS also boasts a wonderful quality of life and is a destination for visiting scholars: besides the excellent campus facilities and resources available, the city is walking- and cycling-friendly and is permanently buzzing with a variety of cultural events (book readings, conferences, quality music events, art exhibitions, etc). Its community I found on every occasion exceedingly friendly and hospitable. Through the Occasional Lecturer Programme I was also able to visit Willa Cather sites and a Richard Wright Symposium in Nebraska, two other authors I am interested in.
In fact, working from Mississippi made possible the organisation of a major international Richard Wright centennial conference in Portugal last November, a great success. Travelling through Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana and attending a variety of cultural events, I also came to learn much about Blues history, sociology and culture in the South.
This invaluable experience afforded me crucial insights and new perspectives into Southern social history and culture – and consequently, its literature, my main field of specialisation. In an astonishing turn of events, this new avenue of learning would lead me to personally meet B. B. King, that most eminent Mississippian and ambassador of Southern culture, at the inauguration of the B. B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center (Indianola, MS). There I was especially privileged to attend a live performance on the eve of his 83rd birthday. This will last undoubtedly in my mind as one of my most memorable personal and cultural experiences anywhere, and a truly special moment of my stay in the United States in 2008.
I also could hardly believe my luck when I discovered that the first debate between the two Presidential candidates would take place at the University of Mississippi on the eve of my departure. The expectation of such a historical event stimulated even further the political debate around me throughout the summer, and again I felt like a privileged observer of such a crucial stage of the electoral process.
On both an academic and a personal level my Fulbright experience greatly exceeded what were already high expectations. I was immensely fortunate to have visited the United States at a historical moment of political change, and left with a much deeper understanding of the complex issues and debates concerning the American people today. For this unique research opportunity, I am forever indebted and profoundly grateful to the Fulbright Commission Portugal and to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss.”
Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the University of Mississippi, 2007/2008