Field of specialization: Mexican literature and intellectual history, Comparative Literature. Before coming to Penn State, John Ochoa was Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of California, Riverside. He was awarded a Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in 2001-02. His first book, The Uses of Failure in Mexican Literature and Identity (University of Texas Press 2005) studies the relationship between awareness of failure and national culture. It examines the work of several "monuments" of the Mexican canon, including Bernal Díaz del Castillo, J. J. Fernández de Lizardi, Alexander von Humboldt, José Vasconcelos, and Carlos Fuentes; it argues that the acknowledgement of failure, both historical and aesthetic, can actually be constructive and ultimately lead to both self-knowledge and self-definition.
Besides Mexican intellectual and cultural history, his other teaching and research interests include post-colonial theory, colonial Latin American literature, Chicano performance art, and, of all things, culinary history. He has published book chapters and articles on Edward Said’s debt to Foucault, on the novels of Agustín Yáñez and the end of time, and on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and food. He edited an anthology of work by the Mexican/Chicano poet and performance artist Guillermo Gómez Peña, Bitácora del cruce (Fondo de Cultura, 2006), and has published several studies of his work.
His current research, comparative in nature, explores American exceptionalism. It will pair readings from the United States and Latin America in order to consider claims for the uniqueness of the American condition.