Apollinaire

I

It took me all afternoon to make a handout for a class. I have more to do than I can handle, and this handout is one of the things I could have not done, and those who say you must “cut corners on teaching” would surely say I put too much into it, but the students really need it and I had promised it. I learned amazing new things about Apollinaire, and Paris, and more, because of making it.

I decided I would do it and not read e-mail or do Service, and I have not read e-mail all day. I understand the book I am teaching better than I did before, and everything was so meditative and beautiful. I did like academic work before the academic advisers started telling us all that we had to rush through it, skim articles to cite them, skim student work to put grades on it, and always go faster, faster, faster.

(And, as I have pointed out before, I was never slow and did not actually need to speed up.)

II

Something I cannot describe even telegraphically now, but that I would like to develop to use as part of one of my articles on higher education in the neoliberal era, is the terrible struggle that is freshman textbook selection now. The nugget of my insight is this: we are besieged by sales representatives, and must weigh options, struggle, strain, suffer and fight, because there are no more language laboratories.

In the past the textbook could remain the same forever, because there were language laboratories that were equipped and staffed. Now budget cuts have eliminated those. Instead, students must buy an expensive computer and an expensive textbook, and work on an expensive website. And as these go to planned obsolescence, we must again strive to choose the most viable one.

III

On the question of #realacademicbios, I don’t think they are about “whining” or “feeling special.” I, too, have always noticed how a certain genre of book preface seems designed to project a certain kind of bourgeois life and certain kinds of powerful connections, that many who also write good books do not lead or have, and I have always wanted to write about it this strange genre. And I have long been a person who felt the real conditions of production in academia needed much more open discussion.

I will also say that despite having been very observant and active as an undergraduate and graduate student, and having seen a great deal before that as a member of an academic family, I had no idea how things were until I became a professor myself. I learned that it is not just that there are politics and not everything is fair — I learned that many of those in charge had absolute power and impunity, and no academic values whatsoever (or at least, not that they would ever put first). I think that what shocks many is not that professors have real lives but that academic workplaces (outside the public R1s, of course, that I grew up in and also worked at later in good conditions) are as … well, unacademic as they often are.

And that may be the point of view of an innocent, but I still say that #realacademicbios is not about romanticizing one’s individual, personal inferno but that they are about work, and that they are political.

Axé.

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Walter Benjamin

On Marianna Scheffer’s art blog we have a quotation from Benjamin and then a brief commentary from Marianna.

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a certain public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an “ideal” receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art, in the same way, posits man’s physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its works is it concerned with his response. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.

“What [Benjamin] means, I think, is that the raw act of creation comes out of a place that is in some sense impersonal and  universal.  This raw creativity needs to be brought down to earth, of course, and that is the job of editing, cleaning up, refining and so on, and it’s necessary but not the creative part. If the creative part is missing, no refinements or modifying  for the audience will make a piece a work of art.

“Response is fair. . . . But in the moment of insight, the response of the future observer is irrelevant.”

For the introduction to literature, I stopped using a textbook anthology even though there are good ones, annotated for historical references and vocabulary, that are very helpful to students. I stopped because they all kept emphasizing that literature was communication and expression.

I think of it as an instance of language and I wonder whether this is a difference, or the difference, between people who study literature in their native language or in the one foreign language — usually understood, furthermore, as a national language and thus, even this far away from Montesquieu and Hegel, still a language often considered a vehicle of expression for a “people” — and people from Comparative Literature with a serious interest in language as such, like me.

I keep telling the students to look at what is in the text, not behind it, and talking about grammar. Students trained in English departments tend to say I do not discuss “feelings” enough although I disagree — I would only say “feelings” are not all I discuss.

This, I suppose, is the mathematical mind, but it also — and more importantly — has to do with the “impersonal and universal” locus of creation (as Marianna and Walter would say).

 

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It’s Carnival time!

It is this weblog’s eleventh Mardi Gras, and the first one was right after Katrina. It was beautiful and we saw Indians, New Orleans Indians and Lafayette Indians in box hats, bonnets carrés. This year again, I will be looking for Indians.

The weblog was, effectively, born at midwinter, so this is its tenth anniversary.
Ten years es una etapa, yes.

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Aquí se trabaja

Today I did not really start work until 10 AM, but when I did start I went straight through.

8-8:30 prepare essay topic
10: prepare class
11: teach
12: prepare class
1-4: teach
4-5: meeting
5-6: office hour
6-7:30: write up the minutes I paste in below
7:30-8: blog

That means I have so far worked for 10 hours. I will work for about another hour, by answering e-mail and updating course websites, and that will make 11. Teaching days are not working out to be research days for me this semester, much though I would like to get an hour of research in before all the teaching starts, and although I may actually begin to accomplish this soon.

The purpose of my post, however, is to share the meeting notes and let you know how much administration and outreach is also done, and how much of it falls to Z. The meeting was of the committee that oversees, and does its best to develop, the undergraduate major. Notice how we have to think through every detail.

Minutes of meeting of Major Committee

3 February 2016

Attending: W, Z
Absent: Y (medical appointment)

Agenda by: W
Minutes by: Z

1. Meetings.

The Major Committee meets Wednesdays, 3:45-4:50, in the conference room of the department. The next meeting is Wednesday, February 17.

2. Accomplishments this semester, and planned followup.

Scheduling and program stability:

– All courses made, meaning that our course scheduling worked.

– W will meet with X to ascertain: (a) the possibility of allowing slightly smaller 300 level courses to make in the fall and (b) the need to add a zero-maxed section of SPAN 462G, “Translation Studies,” team taught by W and Z, for the fall (so that, among other reasons, students and faculty can know what time this course would be given).

– W, Z and Y should meet soon to discuss course offerings for Spring 2017.

ە Basic language program:

– A highly informative training session with the technical and pedagogy specialist associated with our basic textbook was held the day before classes started.

– Good communication with textbook personnel has continued since.

– A section meeting to discuss renewal or not of the current basic textbook has been set for February 18.

ە Recruiting/internships/study abroad:

– A successful recruiting meeting for the Language and Culture Assistants program in Spain was held January 27.

– Z and minor student O are developing methods, contacts, and protocols for a new internship in community translation.

ە Program visibility and work with other departments:

– January 27 Z, along with L (History and LAS) and C (Geography and LAS), gave a well attended and well run panel discussion on US Latinos, as part of an LEH program. Contacts and the community network were strengthened.

– 3 students from English took reading examinations in Spanish; 1 is scheduled for April so far.

ە Outreach and publicity:

– Z is soon to appear on E, the local radio program, and we all have an open invitation from the director to participate and promote our programs.

– Z is now a departmental web ambassador and as a result, Spanish and Latin American Studies will have a greater presence on the new website than had been planned. We will be able to move most of the LAS material to our new site, and all of the Spanish material that had been housed at LAS.

ە Student activities:

– Spanish Club is meeting regularly, and is working to expand membership and activities (e.g. film series, other cultural events)

– Recruiting for the Sigma Delta Pi Honor Society is underway, and an initiation will be scheduled well before the end of the semester.

ە Academic events:

– Plans are underway for the visit of R., who will tentatively speak April 18 at 3 PM. Z will propose that the Spanish faculty dedicate some of the textbook royalty money to this, and would like to do so at the February 18 meeting. Z also needs to meet with X and with P on funding.

ەResearch:

– The writing group is meeting regularly, and it is doing us good.

ەEquipment:

– We are approved to buy webcam microphones, so we can (among other things) operate all functions of our current language textbook.

– W should get together with A and X, so the purchase can actually be made.

ە Strategic Plan:

– Z and W are revising the draft mission and vision statement. Both have promised at least some further progress on this revision before the February 17 meeting.

3. Additional plans and to-do for this semester.

ە Advising and recruiting:

– Plan and hold a meeting of majors and minors (a new tradition to be continued every semester). Set the date and place for this at our February 17 meeting, so that this meeting can be held before spring advising if at all possible.

– Begin work on a handbook for the major (details were discussed at the meeting, and can be explained).

ە Academic programs:

– We should examine and update some policies related to our programs. What internships should count toward the major, and which should be supporting electives? Development of internships and service learning opportunities is needed, as is development of protocol governing these.

– Related to the projects of creating a handbook and renovating the website, we should articulate our vision of what the Spanish or Hispanic Studies major is. We may want to think about course goals at all levels.

– For AY 2016-2017, we might write a faculty development grant to bring in speakers on different aspects of curriculum and program development.

– We would really like to enrich Spanish 111 and 211, as French does.

– W is to discuss all these matters with X as soon as possible after Mardi Gras. He should also raise the question of freshman seminars, which it might be advantageous for us to give.

ە Outreach, networking, and expanding the reach of our programs:

– We should all attend the next LEH US Latinos film and panel discussion event (date/place in March, TBA) to strengthen community connections and connections with agency.

– We should investigate and seriously consider offering an LEH institute for high school teachers (on teaching language / teaching culture).

ە Study abroad:

– Z will contact the Colombian Embassy/Consulate to see whether they can provide a presentation on the language assistant internship in Colombia the way Spain does on theirs. This will serve as well to initiate contact with this organization for purposes of creating other kinds of academic exchanges and cooperative agreements.

– Y should follow up on his plan to contact UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) about cooperative agreements and exchanges, and he (perhaps with W) should initiate contact with the Ecuadorean Embassy with a view to investigating study abroad and other exchange programs there (we can explain why Ecuador).

ە Strategic Plan:

– We are working on it and will finish a draft by the end of spring.

Axé.

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Punctum Books

…[W]hy is everyone so afraid to write what they want to write, to publish what they want to publish? Why, we ruminated together, whether we are seeking tenure-track jobs or have tenure already or simply want to get inside the covers of a book, are we besieged by so many anxieties and fears regarding what we think we are allowed to say, allowed to write, allowed to express? Might it be possible, we wondered out loud, to found a press that would specifically answer to the specific desires of singular individuals who might almost be dying (inside) to write something that they have convinced themselves in advance is unpublishable and for which no existing publisher would take the “risk”? And might a publisher then perform the (loving) function of a form of self-care that attends to these singular desires, that allows them to flourish and find their way into the world that would be sustaining of the spirit and dignity that gave birth to them?

It is the connection of desire to reality that possesses revolutionary force.

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“Rhet/comp” and the entrepreneurial university

Passing more of the cost of college on to students (who incur additional debt in the process) means that more of the revenue used to finance higher education is “unsecured.” In California, which is leading the trend towards privatization, more than half of the financing for public colleges now comes from tuition dollars, not state funding. That means administrators are free to use student fees to finance development projects such as luxury stadiums. As a result, public universities in that state are already paying $1 billion each year in interest alone to Wall Street. This neoliberal restructuring is not a withdrawal of state support so much as it is an active program of turning higher education over to financiers and manager-elites. More than twenty years ago, in The University in Ruins, Bill Readings wrote that, as universities lost their status as bastions of national culture, they would become “bureaucratic corporations.”

Tout lire.

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Revista Hispánica Moderna

Clearly what I should read today: 68:1 (June 2015).

It has Nicholson on Moro, of course, but it is the issue as a whole that looks nice to me.

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