Carmen Chaves Tesser received her M.A. in Foreign Languages (1969) and Ph.D. in European Cultural History: The Iberian Peninsula (1976) from Mississippi State University. She did post-doctoral studies in Eighteenth Century Spanish Literature at the University of Georgia (1978) and in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature at Vanderbilt University (1980). She was research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, 1992-93.
During her 39-year career, she taught at Mississippi State University (1969-1983), University of Pittsburgh (1981-82), Ohio State University (1990-91), and University of Georgia (1984-2004). Middlebury College Portuguese Language School (2002-2007).
After joining the UGA Department of Romance Languages in 1983, Tesser was instrumental in the development of the UGA Portuguese program. She received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Georgia Humanities Council to found the Center for Latin American Studies at UGA and was appointed its first director.
During her twenty-one years at UGA, she developed three main areas of research: Literary theory in literary translation, the Spanish Enlightenment and its influence in Latin America, and the Teaching of languages as it informs the reading of literature. Her seven books and more than sixty articles reflect her interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research.
In 1988, Tesser received the Governor's Award in the Humanities from the State of Georgia. In 1998, Tesser received the "Encomienda de Alfonso X, El Sabio" from King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In 2002, Tesser received the Robert G. Mead, Jr. Award for Distinguished Leadership and Scholarly Contributions to the Profession from the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.
Tesser was active in many professional organizations. She served as President of the Southeastern American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, President of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, and President of the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations.
Tesser taught and mentored undergraduates as well as graduate students. Her teaching was recognized at UGA with a General Sandy Beaver Teaching Award as well as the Josiah Meigs Professorship.