Category Archives: Noticias

Some things learned and decided…

Some things learned and decided about teaching this semester, lower division:

1. We need minute essays in the language courses — lower division courses.

2. We need reading and music and film and culture in these courses, and not canned culture, either. Without these things the courses are not interesting and also, the students do not have enough examples of good uses of the language.

3. The kind of communicative language teaching that seems to be promoted by people in linguistics, and that seems to be designed for people who want to use the language for “practical” reasons, is wrongheaded. This approach claims to be as far from grammar and translation as one can get, but it is actually grammar and translation’s close sibling.

4. That last point is a research insight and if SLA were my field I could and would do research to test this hypothesis, publish about it, and cause a major scandal first and a paradigm shift next.

#OccupyHE.

Axé.

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I am taking a MOOC

That is the professor. Discuss.

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Insufficient mestizaje

Joshua Goode says Spain attributed its 1898 defeat to the racial inferiority of its soldiers — they were not mixed enough. Mixing the blood of Spaniards would also help dissolve regional divisions in the country.

They reasoned that when you choose the most robust youths for soldiers, you then remove their genes from the general pool. Thus do military adventures weaken the Spanish stock; soldiers must be selected differently.

There is more to this but I must find out when Spain, or anyplace outside Latin America, started valuing mestizaje. Goode is studying the 1870-1930 period but the answer to my question may be in his book or in one of the many others I have on this matter. Where did Bolívar get his ideas?

Well, he got them in part from Bello, who theorized a mestizo grammar and lexicon; what else did Bello say about mestizaje and statesmanship? I talk so far about mestizaje and culture from the point of view of language and Nebrija, but Bolívar spoke at Angostura at a time when the modern idea of national consciousness was quite new.

I have to follow up on this — does he have a single source for this idea? Will Maduro give me a grant to go to Venezuela and learn about these things?

One might also read Susan Martin-Márquez on Spanish identity in relation to its colonial adventures in Africa, and then that other book, The Return of the Moor.

Axé.

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C’est tout fini

I cannot tolerate further work on this abstract so, despite my dissatisfaction with it I am sending it in. This is the literary version; the Spanish version will be more sociological. Its title is El lado oscuro del mestizaje: raza y estado en tres textos decimonónicos, and I like that better.

This was hard to write because I thought it would be easy. I would sit down to knock it out and get mesmerized for hours, not necessarily making headway. Now that it is finished I will lead a more rational life. I will write on a schedule, not just when I can.

The Darker Side of Mestizaje: Three Tropical Texts

This paper rereads three nineteenth century novels from the Americas: Jorge Isaacs’ María (Colombia), Cirilo Villaverde’s Cecilia Valdés (Cuba/U.S.A.), and Aluízio de Azevedo’s O Mulato (Brazil), in light of David Theo Goldberg and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s theoretical work on race, modernity and the state. If race is constitutive of the modern state, as Goldberg demonstrates (2002), or of modernity itself, as da Silva argues (2007), the liberal assumption that inequality can be addressed within the framework of the nation does not hold. How might this perception change our readings of the nineteenth century texts commonly read as signs and symptoms of a mestizo or post-racial nation to come?

María, Cecilia Valdés, and O Mulato are all “foundational” texts in their national canons. Like several other novels of the period they tell stories intertwining incest and miscegenation. Read through the lens of the national projects based on cultural mixture embraced in the 1930s, the literature of this earlier period can be seen to form a corpus in which newly independent nations trace a common origin and project future cohesion. The texts examined here, however, chronicle rupture and and loss, not union or suture; they might more accurately be considered novels of originary violence than of national conciliation.

At stake in these writings is not only the formation of a national culture but also that of the racial state that lies behind it. The reader may be witnessing a shift within the modernizing state, but not a challenge to the patriarchy and its racial hierarchies. Goldberg and da Silva, both comparative scholars working beyond the frame of the nation, may help elucidate some of the complexities around the articulation of race and state in these texts, and shed light on some of ambiguities and impasses present-day discourse on race inherits from this era.

The paper draws on research on race and the state in the Hispanic world by Jens Andermann, Joshua Goode, Joshua Lund, Deborah Poole, and Javier Sanjinés, as well as and recent work on race and social policy by Gonzalo Portocarrero, Sérgio Paulo Guimarães, and Robert Cottrell. It considers Villaverde’s New Orleans sources, parallels and intertexts including George Washington Cable’s Les Grandissimes and Charles Gayarré’s Fernando de Lemos, and the fact that Cuba’s national novel was written over thirty years’ residence in the United States.

Axé.

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Tracking work, again

So far today I have done the following:

8:45 e-mail
9:00-10:45 prepare one class (efficiency high, but this was not quite enough time, as it turned out)
11:00-12:15 teach said class
12:15-1:00 office hours, during which I met with a colleague and a student to create a new outreach program and also worked on an IT problem (efficiency high)
1:00-1:30 lunch
1:30-1:45 attempt to update websites, fail, call IT, write this post.

Now I will:

1:45 regroup for class
2:00 teach
3:15 prepare class
4:30 teach
5:45 update websites

By 6 PM I will have worked for 8.5 total hours. I am hoping to knock it off right there and do 30 minutes of research this evening, period. And work out and sleep so as to be less exhausted. But, I will have to also do work on these websites, so I am coming up with a 9.5 hour minimum for today.

Commentary: all of these courses could have used just a little more preparation time than they got. Y eso que trabajé algo en ellos en el fin de semana. It really does take time to teach right, especially out of field (this is a fact). I have always been told it should not if one wants to survive (fiction), and also that it should be, probably is, must be what I really want (fiction).

This is the triple bind I am in due to the excess of academic advice terrorizing I have suffered.  Did I not have to negotiate this triple bind with myself, I would be more efficient, but this shadow that hangs over me about teaching.

There is something so odd about this. I see the others as free people, allowed to do as they wish, but I have apparently received a special directive according to which I do not have the same latitude or capabilities.

Axé.

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More girlfriends of César Vallejo

Clinically speaking, I think Vallejo may have suffered from an anxiety disorder. The conditions of his life exacerbated this. He put a great deal of effort into riding it out and calming down, and strove toward breakthrough moments of feeling happy and well. In the era of living with Henriette the menu was boiled potatoes with salt and red wine. He seems to have taken all sorts of drugs, including ether and pasta básica de cocaína. He talks about heroin and other drugs and medicines in his poems.

The stormy relationships with the girlfriends also bespeak some sort of attachment disorder and his friends appear to have felt it too. Neither Georgette nor Larrea could let him go and they fought over him long after his death. Also, if one is to be interested in the circumstances of his life, I would like to know the logistics of spending whole nights with these underage and correctly brought up girls, in Trujillo and Lima in the 1910s. How was this arranged?

Here is a 1999 biography and commentary. Clearly I did not pay enough attention to Espejo Asturrizaga when I read him, or I was looking for other things in his book, but this book uses him and he apparently answers a lot of the questions I have thought of since deciding to play by creating the character César Vallejo, the rake. I had just been thinking wickedly, Vallejo’s women problems must have to do with Catholicism. Evidently I am far from the first to think so.

In any case Vallejo, says Raúl Torres Martínez, is a cholo and a migrant and in this way he is primordially Peruvian. This book, while not at all earth shaking looks fairly good, as it starts by pointing out that both Vallejo’s writing and his life are hard to read and have thus lent themselves to highly speculative readings not necessarily well anchored in reality. I saw an article a few years ago which postulated that Vallejo tried to project himself as a kind of optical illusion.

This book also says he had “ancestral” sentiments, which indicates you can in fact have these (it is a belief in Peru, as we know from that film by Claudia Llosa, but I think it is possible generally). As a child he was like the Ernesto character in Los ríos profundos, subject to variable emotions, and throughout life he was always capable of joking and bonhomie even though as an adult, he lived under the sign of sadness. He could dance huaynos and more. He is “the Van Gogh of poets,” it has been said. (13)

Continuing on, I see this book is quite worth reading for a review of information and for good sense; although not ground breaking, it is well researched. I am skipping ahead to the section on women. As we know, he ended up with Georgette and the reason for it was gender roles and sex. (122) Torres Martínez next talks about amour-passion and its relationship to sadomasochism. Espejo said Vallejo suffered and caused suffering. He had these submissive young girlfriends and he was demanding, jealous and cruel.

According to Espejo he was emotionally unstable because he had been raised in this strict Catholic environment and was also spoiled by his mother and sisters (he was the youngest of 11). When Zoila Rosa broke up with him he, high on ether, put a revolver to his head, pulling the trigger. There was only one bullet in it and it was not in the right chamber, and he did not try again. And now I am foiled since this is a Google book and the selection ends on page 126, when there are actually 300 pages.

Axé.

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Light reading for while students take finals

An interesting review of developmentalism and dependency theory.

Students do not get enough research training and what I now do in these hybrid senior/graduate courses is precisely at the level of what I did in Comparative Literature 1A, 1B, and 40, the freshman and sophomore courses I taught as a graduate student.

Marc Bosquet is outraged that the Ph.D now signifies the end of an academic career but that was what I was repeatedly told it would mean decades ago.

Jessica Valenti on not being liked, worth rereading.

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Students of iron

1. Moved out at 16, worked full time the last two years of high school, living in an apartment with roommates. Does not feel $30,000 per annum for a hard job is bad pay.

2. Working as a stocker at Office Depot, which he calls “a place of blood, sweat and cigarettes.” Invents and executes intricate research project on the use of derealizing techniques to represent the soul at moments of change in my course on avant-garde on avant-garde cinema which is not even in his major; is going to graduate school in clinical psychology.

3. One of our campus’ most admired drag queens, works full time at Applebee’s. On Pell Grant and this supports self, contributes to college costs of younger sister who is at a first tier SLAC, and contributes to expenses of underemployed mother. “Things are just so much easier when you are happy,” says he, considering whether or not to take an internship which will be well paid but not necessarily happy.

You do not find people this interesting at all colleges and universities.

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Et plus encore

I go into these crises of fear — “fear of extreme violence,” said a diagnostician — if I do not serve everyone perfectly, or if I thwart someone else’s wishes for the sake of my own survival. Many of those who have seen me in person do not imagine these things because I am so resourceful, practical and relaxed that what I now describe sounds and seems so out of character. Yet it is real.

Lately I have been learning from these crises, not just surviving them. I am recovering from one now, so I am resting up. Mayhew has written two posts on the “what did I give up?” theme. I have also written two, but I am not satisfied with either, so I am going to write a third.

I am not satisfied with the first because it followed Dame Eleanor’s prompts too closely. The things one might have given up for academia in that list are things I might not have chosen, or not counted on having at all, so I am not sure it is meaningful to say I did or did not give them up for the sake of an academic career.

I am not satisfied with the second post because what it really addresses are the things I gave up to stay in academia after I had decided I wanted to leave. That is not really the question originally asked — that was, what people gave up because they wanted to be academics.

My current academic job does not share many characteristics with the kind of academic jobs I knew of when I was in graduate school. It frustrates me because it is so stunting — especially relative to what I am interested in doing academically, and also since I am not one of those academics who could not imagine doing anything else.

But, I would like to address some points in Squadromatico’s original post; you can tell me whether my expectations in life are too low or too high. There are two possible points for each item; 22 points means everything is perfect and 0 points means it is time to hang it up and pack it in. I have 15 points.

1. Nine years of graduate school, ages 21-30, is supposed to be a sacrifice since one was not accumulating property, retirement savings, and so on. I say it was a great job to have out of college; I got two degrees, a lot of skills and work experience, amazing travel, and a pleasant life generally; it was also therapeutic for reasons too complex to go into here; great choice and no sacrifice at all. (2)

2. Adjuncting and angsting on the job market: I never did that, was always a full time VAP when not on the tenure track. I will say that not having a real job is very bad for work; I am never able to concentrate as a VAP or when the governor of Louisiana is threatening to make a 35% cut and shut us all down. (2)

3. Overjoyed to get a job: I should have been and this is a problem with me. I was excited about both of my VAP jobs because they were at universities I liked, and about another VAP offer at a place I liked that I turned down, regrettably. I should have been more realistic and been more glad about all the jobs, it would have served me well. (1)

4. Broke: I wasn’t originally, although I am now. We used to have conference funding, library books, raises, and so on, so I was not broke. I am now because we have lost those things, and also because of my trajectory: I did not make tenure the first time, so I had to start over in terms of salary as well and at lower paid schools, without research funding, and there has been inflation. Unless they adjust salaries statewide I will never be really solvent. (0)

5. Working: I thought that was what we came for. I may be overworked, and I may be a hard worker, but I am not a workaholic and I will tell you, all professions take 60-90 hours a week. You can work white collar for 40 hours at good pay, as a landman the oilfield for instance, but that is not a career path, it is a job. (2)

6. Renunciation of hobbies, interests, social life: I have not done it or had to, and I do not understand why people feel guilty about time spent not working. (2)

7. Scrutiny: I understand, but other people go through a lot of reviews, as well. (2)

8. Living in weird places: Yes. Oddly I have finally gotten used to Maringouin, but I do not know that I would leave my home state for any reason if I had it all to do over again. I am good at moving and at getting to know places and people, I am probably stellar at it in fact, but it is hard to live without a research library or a bookstore. (1)

9. Living away from your loved ones: mine include the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Crest Trail, some rocks in the ocean, Mt. Lassen, the Hollywood Freeway, the Rincón, Anacapa, and the views from Crissy Field. I did not think it was a good idea to renounce them for this particular job. I wish I had not done so. If they ever take me back, I won’t leave them no’ mo’. (1)

10. Family planning decisions: I am old enough that the decision to have any kind of career was a decision not to have a family, or so I was taught at the time. So I never seriously considered it, nor would I have if I had chosen a career other than an academic one. (1)

11. The big one: academia! I gave up academia for academia, and that is my really big issue. My challenge now is, can I turn this alleged academic job into something that looks more like an academic job? I have been trying for many years, but my attempts up until now have failed; now I have a new approach, and perhaps it will work. (1)

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Noticias del Imperio

I hope this exposition is still on when I get to México, D.F. The Museo del Estanquillo is one I have never been to, in any case; I have also never been to the Casa de Francia and its reading room. There are now many expositions from the private collection of Carlos Monsiváis, who died while I was last in Mexico. I missed the funeral, which has to have been interesting. I liked him very much.

Axé.

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