Category Archives: Theories

On death in Vallejo. On Pyncheon.

Is it something like this? Something in an apocalyptic landscape? My piece, which is “killing” me, begins and ends with Nelson Osorio and the avant-garde as a “reajuste cultural a nivel global.”

The choice is a clear one. We can continue acting as if tomorrow will be just like yesterday, growing less and less prepared for each new disaster as it comes, and more and more desperately invested in a life we can’t sustain. Or we can learn to see each day as the death of what came before, freeing ourselves to deal with whatever problems the present offers without attachment or fear.

The linked article is really worth reading. This is another piece about modernity and the subject that one should really consider. Vallejo is about being in modernities, and so much work on him that does not reduce to biography still reduces to individual experience and a few clichéd problems or philosophical ideas. I exaggerate, of course, as there is other and better work.

Still I think there is something yet larger afoot in this writer than has yet been articulated — and at the same time as I say this so grandly, I know I have not mastered either his texts or the bibliography on them. Some of the bibliography, it must be said, is highly illuminating and other parts of it are so stultifying as to make one want to give up the field. The patience for sifting is what I need, and the time — and the courage, because I lack necessary intellectual background to grasp all of these things, and that is not my usual situation, even with unfamiliar material. A good scholar told me in October that that is how it is with this poet.


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“y siempre en el sepulcro estaré ardiendo”

This is a mestizo post because it starts with some famous jarana criolla with my old professor Pepe Durand! After that, it offers an article by Charles Hale on the future of Latin American Studies. Then, it just keeps on mixing. ¡Adentro!

My Vallejo problem is and always has been a research problem and not a writing problem. I can expand on this if asked but I will not write the reasoning out because I understand it perfectly. I have had this problem with other projects as well, always under pressure, and my entire series of “What Is A Scholar?” posts, together with all of my ranting and raving against academic advice, are in essence a long defense of research.

If I had a student of the right kind I would suggest a dissertation topic: Quevedo and Vallejo. I have found this book on Quevedo that I would like to read. We know Vallejo studied Quevedo’s use of language very closely but I wonder to what extent his themes are also Quevedian themes. This would, or could at least, mean that still more of his work than we realize is literary and not autobiographical (although it is also that).

Anger, chaos, mirrors, tombs, dust, shadows, distortions, faith, non faith …

I am reminded here, once again, of this piece on Robert Johnson where it is revealed that he got much of his material not from direct experience but from books.


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Notes for next time

When I have to give that pesky Spanish class again, I will have grades recorded all the time in a gradebook they can see electronically, with comments. Grade structure will be very easy to average at the end, because everything will be worth 10%.

Four quizzes or tests taken online outside class time, that include “objective” questions and an essay graded on one grammar point only, 10% each. The essays will be the ones from the workbook that we did not assign.

Two in-class essays, where they have to read something ahead of time and then come in ready to do reading comprehension exercises on it (vocabulary, short answer, essay), 10% each.

Recitation in class, i.e. quality of spoken Spanish as noted through class participation, 10%

Workbook, 10%. If it is done electronically, the essays will not be assigned, but the videos will.

Reading together in class, week of Thanksgiving.

Oral presentation, 10%, last week of class, on reading.

Final exam, on the format of the in-class essays, on reading just done or a related reading, 10%.



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Cold vista

La méditation de la semaine: trauma. You must not teach, you should not be research oriented; your choice of research field indicates that you are not qualified to be in any research field; you are unemployable and I am qualified to say that; you must do this project and only this project, our way and not yours; if you do not commit to this now you never will commit to anything, I know that is how you are; you are lazy; you do not know what you are doing; you must have worked too hard if you accomplished that; this should be too hard for you; any problem you have is nothing but a discipline or organization problem. In other words: you should not do this and are not qualified to do it, but if you do, you must do it as ordered and not as your professional training would indicate. If this conflict, or these conflicts are difficult wrangle with, handle them with discipline and time management, those are the only things you could be missing, and they are all you need.

Realizing now that that actually was traumatic: the combination of being told I was not someone who should be able to do a project like that, and that I must do it and do it in a certain way, and that any problem I might have would be a problem of inefficiency and poor discipline. It was like having, or was having everything taken away at once, without being allowed to see the situation as such or call it that. Realizing it now, seeing the devastation now, seeing that it was devastation, is a shock all on its own: a cold vista.

Had I had a savings account I would have simply left and that really was the only thing to do: the devastation was too great. I need one even now; I think everyone should get one, start it early shave money into it from financial aid checks, even. In the past we were not supposed to have one, as it was not genteel. Only materialistic people wanted money; romantic and intellectual people, and virtuous people, were one step from the street even though the bohemian life was scary. So we did not have savings accounts but that was always the problem, not having one meant having nothing to move on.

I woke up this morning in sunshine thinking of the period in which I felt safe and free and it was partly because the times were less apocalyptic than now and more creative, but more than that I realize it was that I had a savings account that was mine alone. I think everyone should start building one, even if it is not genteel or if it will hurt others if they find out you have something of your own.



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How to write books

You should use section headings, I am told. Your entire manuscript is a set of five-page essays, divided into chapters that are subdivided into sections. Thinking from the ground up, that is a set of five-page essays.

At one per week for 50 weeks that is five chapters of ten sections each, for example. This is a very interesting way to think about it. I tend to find section headings awkward, but I may change my mind.



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On Latin America, (cosmopolitan) vanguard of the nineteenth century

It really was. And I have just ordered Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas and it discusses the Americas — both of them — and Haiti; Frederick Douglass apparently said he was more Haitian than North American, and Afro-Latin Americans were dis-identifying from Blackness so as to join the nation — or not.

The vanguardias came out of this; their writers grew up in this, and Europe was more secondary than we have been taught so far.

In class, we said Villaverde was trying to teach his readers how to read or interpret the character, Cecilia. The characters in the novel cannot discern her race unless they have historical and geneaological information about her, but the narrator is very much invested in the possibility of our discerning it visually, and continuing to discern it.


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Encore une méditation

Destruction came from the combination of: recriminations for being research oriented, multiple “boundary” violations, the internalization of these recriminations, the rage at the boundary violations which I turned against myself, and ultimately, the conversion of what had always been positive spaces into scenes of torture. That was the combination of elements.

Condensing: boundary violations, authorities in terrible pain who must be satisfied, the conversion of positive spaces into scenes of torture. All of my problems are problems of abuse victims and this is what I cannot find a practitioner who understands — which is why I have readings and this weblog.

But I find that abandoning self and abandoning my research project — things I did as a result of Reeducation — meant that I had nothing with which to defend against those “boundary” violations, those recriminations.

They always say you have to feel better first but I think the path to that is to take self and project back. Those things, not “discipline” and “boundaries” — which are form but not content.

I mean: it is because I had abandoned myself that I let crows eat the carcass. It is not, as they say, that I “need better boundaries” or “need to stand up for myself.” It is that I renounced the things I wanted to do, and committed to things I no longer did. When I had also renounced the person who could do those things.

Condensing: it really is the person who must come back. In the meantime it is the friendliness of my research projects, and my knowledge that they are mine, which can protect me from invasive people. Again, all of this is about recovery of self.


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