Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Monday, May 27, 2024 — Houston, TX

José Negroni Cicerchia brings energy

Courtesy José Negroni Cicerchia

By Sarah Knowlton     3/5/24 10:08pm

Most professors can’t say that they grew up with their research topics. But José Negroni Cicerchia isn’t like most professors.

“I was raised by parents who were pro-democracy activists,” Cicerchia said. “Through that, having been born and reared in Argentina, I myself was an activist in my own right, with Amnesty International and the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo.”

Cicerchia is a lecturer in the Department of Modern and Classical Literatures and Cultures, focusing on autofiction — fictionalized third-person autobiographies that proliferated in Argentina after the country’s military dictatorship was ousted in 1983.

“It’s a canon that was developed by the children of those who either disappeared or [were] persecuted in Argentina during the dictatorship,” Cicerchia said. “I think that these texts are very significant, because they are contemporary to what happened, whether it was Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay [or] Bolivia, it was not far away or long ago.”

For Cicerchia, his area of study is crucial to shaping nuanced viewpoints, no matter the era.

“The institutions in this country, and all over the world, are holding, but they’ve been challenged,” Cicerchia said. “I think it’s important to take a look at what happened with Latin America in the 20th century.

“I feel as if these courses provide a useful overview of what took place and what could happen in the future,” Cicerchia continued. “That being said, my wish is that students will not have to live through coup d’états and ominous authoritarian regimes.”

Cicerchia’s enthusiasm is a key component of his classroom. Hayden Beck, a student in Cicerchia’s SPAN 332: Approaches to Hispanic Literatures course, said that this enthusiasm is infectious.

“He brings this certain energy that’s just over the top,” Beck, a Martel College sophomore, said. “Even if I’m tired, going into that class, seeing someone who’s as passionate as they are about whatever they’re talking about … it’s kind of invigorating.”

Beck said he appreciates Cicerchia’s commitment to getting on his students’ levels, from taking them for meals to checking in.

“He takes students out on his own dime to different restaurants within the Rice area,” Beck said. “He actively emails students and gets a group of students together so we can go practice Spanish … It’s generosity like that that really stands out to me, and I think it’s pretty incredible.”

Lauren Verthein, another SPAN 332 student, also noted that Cicerchia’s closeness with his students makes his courses unique.

“He takes the time to get to know our interests and checks up on us when he knows that we are going through something difficult in our lives outside of class,” Verthein, a McMurtry College sophomore, wrote in an email to the Thresher. “When I sprained my ankle and was on crutches he would check in with me every class, and [he] even gave me a book about an inspiring story of an athlete who used his injury to find new opportunities in life.” 

For Cicerchia, these acts of generosity are all part of preparing his students for the future.

“I’m looking to ensure that my students grow into very well rounded individuals who become experts on Latin American literature,” Cicerchia said. “Taking these courses — whether in Latin American film, the effects of neoliberalism, approaches to Hispanic literature, post-dictatorial traumas [or] autofiction by the children of the disappeared — will make them huge assets to the Rice community at large and also to the outside world.”

More from The Rice Thresher

FEATURES 4/16/24 11:07pm
Peggy Whitson breaks the glass ceiling, lands among the stars

Peggy Whitson has spent more time in space than any other American. She was the first female, nonmilitary Chief of the Astronaut Office for NASA and the first woman commander of the International Space Station, but despite all her success, Whitson denies any claims of special talent or giftedness. Above all else, she said, hard work and perseverance brought her to the top. 

FEATURES 4/16/24 10:26pm
Sitting Around the Bonfire with Ben and Michael

Being a small school has benefits and disadvantages. Some claim that one of the drawbacks of being a relatively small campus and having a strong residential college program is that it is often difficult to find events or activities happening across campus. That’s where Benjamin Liu and Michael Mounajjed stepped in.


Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.