CLAS professor wins 2023 Goldberg Book Prize

Luis Martín-Estudillo, professor and collegiate scholar in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, has received the 2023 Norma L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize for his latest book.
Monday, October 9, 2023

By Charlotte Brookins 

Portrait of Luis Martín-Estudillo
Luis Martín-Estudillo

The Norma L. and Roselea J. Goldberg Prize is an award presented by Vanderbilt University Press on a yearly basis to honor the best book in the area of art or medicine. This year, the recipient of the prize is University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty member Luis Martín-Estudillo, professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. He is being honored for his recently published book Goya and the Mystery of Reading

“My book examines reading through the art of Francisco de Goya,” says Martín-Estudillo. “Following his lead, one can see that although we have normalized reading as something routine, it is actually very far from simple. The book connects his captivating paintings, prints and drawings related to reading with debates on issues that range from politics and sex to identity and witchcraft.” 

Goya, who lived from 1746 to 1828, is widely considered the most important Spanish artist of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Martín-Estudillo says he was inspired to write the book by his own fascination with Goya and his work, as well as the historical context surrounding him.  

“Goya was a sort of lightning rod for a variety of cultural phenomena,” Martín-Estudillo explains. “He lived through a time of profound societal change.” 

Martín-Estudillo argues that we in the modern day have experienced transformations comparable to those in Goya’s era, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the rapid expansion of the internet. It is these changes that allow us to connect more deeply with Goya’s works and their links to reading. 

The author says he is very grateful for his time at the University of Iowa, explaining, “Our university encourages faculty and students to explore new terrain, to experiment without being too concerned about failing. That general philosophy is very important for undertaking interdisciplinary work in any area.” 

Goya and the Mystery of Reading is also published in Spanish; both versions of the book have received critical acclaim. 

Martín-Estudillo says he is excited not only about receiving the award, but also about what it means for this topic of study as a whole. 

“I am very happy to see that this book has been well-received in the U.S. and abroad,” he reflects. “The prize further indicates that it is adding something valuable to the discussion of art and culture.”

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.