June 5, 2020

The Graduate Center community mourns the death of a renowned scholar and beloved teacher of early modern Spanish literature, history, culture, and philology.

The Graduate Center community is mourning the death of Distinguished Professor Lía Schwartz (Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures; Comparative Literature), a renowned scholar and beloved teacher of early modern Spanish literature, history, culture, and philology. Schwartz died on May 31st after a long illness.
Professor Carlos Riobó (Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) called her loss heartbreaking. “She was an authority in her field, a generous mentor, and a pride of LAILaC for 20 years,” he said.  
Schwartz also taught in the comparative literature program and served as executive officer of the Ph.D. Program in Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures,, then called the Ph.D. Program in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages, from 2000 to 2011. Riobó lauded her, saying, “She defended the values of our profession and pushed its boundaries, all while receiving numerous international awards and recognition.”
Her research focused on early modern Spanish literature and Renaissance and baroque satire, and she published extensively on the Spanish poet, humanist, politician, and satirist Francisco de Quevedo. Reflecting her varied interests, including love discourses in the Renaissance and the baroque, and Renaissance political philosophy, her many articles and reviews were published in scholarly journals in the United States and throughout Europe. 
Schwartz was a revered teacher and mentor. Many of her graduates have gone on to their own careers in academia. She also contributed to her profession as a member of national and international professional societies including the Modern Language Association, Cervantes Society of America, Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas, and the International Comparative Literature Association. In 2000, she was honored by the Spanish government with the Encomienda de la orden civil de Alfonso X el Sabio.
Schwartz was born in Argentina and received her doctorate from the University of Illinois. She came to The Graduate Center in 2000 from Dartmouth College, where she chaired the department of Spanish and Portuguese. She taught at Fordham University and, throughout her career, was invited to lecture at universities in the United States and abroad.
Schwartz was a member of an esteemed CUNY family. Her husband, former Distinguished Professor Isaías Lerner (Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures), who died in 2013, was a specialist in early modern Spanish literature and a renowned Cervantes scholar. The Graduate Center offers deepest condolences to their daughter, Professor Bettina Lerner (GC/CCNY, Comparative Literature, French), a scholar of 19th century French and Caribbean literature.

Paying tribute to Schwartz, her colleagues and students remembered her formidable scholarship, and even more, her deep devotion to them and their success.
Graduate Center alumna Rosa Herrera-Rodriguez (Ph.D. ’20, Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) said she had been looking forward to seeing Schwartz, her “professor, adviser, mentor, and friend,” when the city reopened. She called Schwartz “a source of intellectual inspiration, an example of fortitude and constancy.” She added, “I will always be grateful to her.”
Professor Jean Graham-Jones (Theatre and Performance; Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) met Schwartz soon after joining the faculty at The Graduate Center. “Lía, clearly concerned that I might be a theater scholar dabbling in Latin America, elegantly ran me through what amounted to a bilingual examination in the cultures and literatures of Argentina, Latin America, and Spain,” she recalled. They became both professional colleagues and friends. Graham-Jones added, “I confess I felt an almost immediate kinship with both Lía and Isaías, as the three of us united over our Argentine connections, and I will always remember them both with the greatest affection and admiration.”
Distinguished Professor Paul Julian Smith (Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Cultures) got to know Schwartz at the outset of his career and said, “It was she who encouraged me to come to The Graduate Center where, 10 years ago, I was so excited to become her colleague. I would not have left Cambridge University to come to the U.S.A. without her. Lía has marked so many of us in so many ways, and we will never forget her.”

Read more tributes to Lía Schwartz from faculty colleagues, students, alumni.

Read an obituary in El Cultural.