Associate Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Portuguese
Simon’s research focuses on the history, literature, and the visual arts of the Portuguese-speaking world in the Early Modern period.
His first book, Poets, Patronage, and Print in Sixteenth-Century Portugal: From Paper to Gold (OUP 2021), examines how poets thought of themselves in professional terms and used poetry to negotiate their social status and financial success. In other words, it is a study of the various kinds of value (moral, social, financial) ascribed to poetry in the 1500s, a time of political, social, and technological change and a period when poetry’s worth (and that of its practitioners) was regularly contested.
Simon is currently working on two projects. One capsizes traditional triumphalist narratives of the ‘Age of Discoveries’ that have typically cast explorers as paragons of derring-do. Wreckers takes national heroes off their pedestals and introduces readers to lesser-known figures from across Europe whose stories challenge what we think we know about the emergence of empire. The book underlines how empire was not inevitable, taking disaster stories as a way of imaginatively ‘unlearning’ imperialism. A second project explores the use of art and material culture to articulate and justify Portuguese dominion in Africa, Asia, and South America, but brings to light how those plans to project Portuguese magnificence failed when coins were melted down, artisans made mistakes, and genealogists found bad apples in royal and noble family trees.
Simon is also interested in imaginative responses to literature, including translation and creative criticism.