Category Archives: What Is A Scholar?


I see something now. For Reeducation, work was bad — it was just to be gotten through, I see darkly. Meanwhile, things one does to feel well were not considered positive but were put on a par with drugs and alcohol. By treating yourself well to feel well, you were dampening pain that needed to be felt and hiding from reality. These were two fundamental errors in its theory. Notice how both create suffering as a first value.

Now, we have already discussed at length the ways in which this vision of the world is morosely religious. It is also very nihilistic and there seems to be some form of late capitalist despair in it as well, although I cannot explain that intuition. Alienation, I suppose. (Speaking of which, I should probably teach Children of Men and see what the students think of it.)

Stanley Aranowitz has the last good job in America, and all I want to do is research.

I see though that much of what I am tied in knots over has to do with graduate school, where writing came before speech and also before research. You entered a seminar on an unknown subject in one of your four languages, and were to have a rather publishable article on it ready within ten weeks. That meant you must have your topic by week 2, so that you could order your interlibrary loan materials by week 3 and receive them, perhaps, in weeks 5 and 6. You committed to a topic before you knew anything about its subject.

I remember driving on the Santa Ana freeway one day shortly after I had filed my dissertation, feeling free. I remember thinking that now, my autonomy achieved, I would never again commit to an approach or a hypothesis before doing a certain amount of research. I did not get to do this for long, that is to say, I got cornered again a few years later, but it was a good idea … and that, once again, is why I am for scholarship and against academic advice.


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More on Osorio and life

I want to buy an external hard disk for all my files, from all the devices, all the jump drives, as an archive: the one Ring to rule them all, as it were. I was going to have that all in the Cloud but this is too unstable.

I want to say, as I have said before, that you have to allow yourself patience and time to think. I was always rushed along and I try to rush myself and it really is pointless.

So all this self torment on my part, I am not sure what it is except that most fundamentally I have learned to have an abusive relationship with myself and do not entirely know how to stop. Another theory is that I am simultaneously trying to repress and express pain, that is to say, express it (rather than deny it), but repress awareness of its source, displace my own view of its cause. Discipline (“I won’t do this any more, it is impractical” seems not to help). Discipline seems to look outward whereas care seems to be what I want, and to deserve that, it seems, I must make myself quite sick. It really is a cycle of violence and it looks like domestic abuse with the same person as abuser and victim.

One thing I do not recognize enough is how heartbreaking the situation of the students and the classes is. I think I should take it in stride but it is heartbreaking, and upon consideration I think it is useful to recognize this. And now we are going to close the second campus in our system and dismiss tenured faculty, and there will be no public four year institution left in New Orleans then. And the governor has managed to liquidate the state, and there is so much that is sad. I keep a good humor as people say you should but the fact is that when I do not recognize how sad these things are or how draining, I then do not understand why I cannot think.

Then I am sad if I study the avant-garde because I think of all the things I went through doing this and all the things I tried to force myself to do doing this and all the things I wanted and loved and renounced to force myself to do this. But that has nothing to do with the material, of course, which I like. Yet still I find I do not work well on this topic, I am always trying to work the way the academic advisers want one to work, which is wrong; I also do not allow myself to be a full person while working on this but am rather a dog in a cage perhaps, trying to do it without the means to do it and feeling very sad and ashamed, rather than being a person with a desk as I am when I work on other things. I wonder whether all of this is not about wanting another profession but about wanting to work on projects of my own choice.

If I were a full person, I would say that the difficulties with this paper were problems, intellectual and practical, that come with this territory, and that it is my role to decide what I want to do about them. But I have great difficulty because I do not accord myself these powers, but only the very limited ones of the dog in that cage. “Bitch. You think you are so smart. Bitch. You are wasting money.”

So that is that and I am so tired of it, but I do not know how to control this entirely. I do not understand myself. I keep saying all of this is because I either do not know how to work or I refuse to work  but it seems to be much more a direct result of precisely that kind of berating.

In any case, that reajuste: proceso global de reajuste ideológico-cultural is the term, and it appears on page 234. I have this article in PDF but it is much more interesting to read as a bound journal. The vanguardia is international, says Osorio; it starts with the first world war, which destabilized the hegemony of Europe in international affairs and of the bourgeoisie in the maintenance of stability in (countries). It is capitalist internationalization of economic life, and more. And art in this period questions the old values and structures. This is the “reajuste.” Avant-garde art is just one of the signs of overhaul and renovation.

There is great social transformation from this moment through the 1920s and it ends about 1930 with the Depression and the consolidation of a political alliance among the economic interests of imperialism, the local bourgeoisies and the oligarchies, which, defending the system affected by the crash of 1929, take recourse in military coups and repression to consolidate their power. There is a second half of the article that talks about the second etapa vanguardista, and it has things to say about newness and Americanness that I want to look at again.




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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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A dispatch from the neoliberal university

“You need not feel commanded to evaluate the course right now. Indeed, the faculty would much rather encourage you to reflect on the nature of this course, carefully considering things like: its design and execution, as well as the extent of your commitment to making the course and your education a success. Don’t forget too to reflect on the material commitments that the university made to the course. Since the university values rigorous critical analysis above all else, please feel free to take your time in crafting your evaluation, and get back to us when you’ve had a chance to think rigorously about what you would like to say.”

This is part of an interesting discussion of student evaluations and more, in the context of the privatizing university. The university is not actually interested in teaching (and you can tell because it does not invest in this) is one of the takeaway points.



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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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Sur la paresse

Another myth that you’ve identified in a recent piece of yours is the myth of the so-called “lazy mob.” We’ve heard numerous media refer to the Southern European peoples in particular as lazy, as unproductive and people who simply don’t work hard. What’s your response to these accusations?

Well, first of all, what is this notion of being lazy? It’s based on even racist kinds of stereotypes, the stereotype that people who live in cold countries work harder and people who live in warm countries like Greece and Italy don’t work very hard. But if you actually look at the real statistics, you will find that on average, a Greek worker works for 2,040 hours, this is from 2011, and this is 40 percent more than the Germans and 50 percent more than the Dutch. So who’s the lazy one? Italians work over 1,700 hours per year and that is 25 percent more than the Germans. So it’s based on this completely mistaken idea that they are lazy, but that’s not why countries like Greece and Italy have problems.

The problem in those countries is that they have lower productivity than Germany or the Netherlands; their workers produce less income even though the hours they work might be much longer. This problem of low productivity is not really the fault of the workers. It’s the fault of their capitalists and the government, because unless your capitalists and your government invest in productive machines, invest in research and development to develop new technologies, invest in infrastructure like roads and ports and so on, national productivity isn’t going to rise. So if it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the fault of Greek capitalists and the Greek government, not Greek workers. So I think that this story of lazy Greeks and Italians is just an excuse invented by people who don’t want to do anything fundamental about the problems with those countries in the context of the European Monetary Union, and it’s very unfortunate that this kind of groundless theory circulates and is so widely accepted. We have to really rectify this kind of misconception.

You can read the whole thing. It is this which is wrong with the “do more with less” cant and also with that academic advice that says you should be able to do anything, anywhere, under any conditions, if you are “serious.”



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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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