Monthly Archives: September 2017

Los pasos perdidos

I really need to start cracking on work but it turns out that there is a major celebration here in Morelia, Michoacán. And I suppose the beginning of all voyages to Latin America are like the second chapter of Los pasos perdidos: first you arrive to a country that is clearly 3d world and mysterious, no matter how familiar. Then you sleep, and then…

This morning I woke up feeling the mountain air and looking at the stone streets that have been here since the 16th century I felt I was in Old Castile about 50 years ago–where I was then, in fact. Then I saw soldiers and armed police and realized many streets were blocked off, and discovered it was for a parade celebrating the 252d birthday of the prócer José Ma. Morelos. After much circuitous walking, and fortunate purchase of newspapers, I secured a place in a café with a view of the parade, and saw it, composed of regiments from every ideological state apparatus, excepting the Church but including schools and universities, all dignitaries and many, many military. The countryside is at war, as we know, and the military were applauded.

I walked and saw very many other things but the most interesting was a man with people getting their pictures taken next to him. Someone standing next to me asked who it was and I said I did not know, but a third person explained that it was an important figure in the autodefensas of Michoacán (although he did not really look like or have the aspecto of Hipólito Mora, a famous leader in this).

There is a great deal else to recount but even sufficient contextualization of what I have noted down here would take a lot of writing. I visted Morelos’ birdthplace which was a casa de salud in his time (born 1765), and learned that Morelia’s streets were paved during the presidency of Miguel Alemán.

Axé.

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My first enemy

All these years I have felt sorry for my colleague because he was depressed and not as well educated and hadn’t had as much fun in life as I have had and wasn’t as inspired, so I made allowances for his vagaries, but now I realize his waif act has always been just a cover story for his enormous passive-aggressive plan. Everyone has always encouraged me to feel sorry for people who behave badly instead of be angry at them, but I declare this is actually very bad training. Very bad because now that I see who this person is, I am his enemy — whereas had I never gone into denial, I would just have been cold-neutral.

I have had people who were my enemies and realized it, but this is the first time I have decided to become someone’s enemy.

Axé.

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It is a normal day and I am begging my colleagues to do their jobs

A favor for T: could you get the language evaluation for the Fulbright in sooner, rather than later? Here’s why: there is a possibility B won’t get to his letter. Any encouragement you can offer B, or help editing, would be great but B is going abroad for 10 days on Friday. He has fallen down on letters before and I would say there is about a 50-50 chance of his doing this. I’ve hinted at him as much as I can, and T is at this moment making a final plea.

If B cannot manage to write, T will need to get a new recommender and perhaps a short extension from Fulbright. It will help if the rest of the application is complete. Your language evaluation and B’s letter are all that are missing, and it will look a lot better for T if there is only one piece missing and not two.

T has strong letters from me, S (a prominent professor in another department), and R (the university Fulbright advisor). From Fulbright Country he has beautiful affiliation letters from the President of the Academy of Letters (also a professor at the Catholic University), a full professor in field at the national university, and the director of a poetry foundation who has published extensively and on modern texts. T’s statement of purpose is well done and R thought it was fundable even before meeting T for the Fulbright interview.

It would be such a shame for this application to be incomplete/late because of a missing letter from our department. I’m asking you to get your language evaluation done so the packet is complete minus one, not minus two. As I say, T is making a final plea to B. Then if B disappears there will still be a few days to make an emergency request to someone else and perhaps an emergency request for extension from Fulbright, so that that person has time to write their letter.

Axé.

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Le voyage à Washington

The entire trip will be reimbursed, so I have to keep every record, which I am not used to. And I insured the flight, which I do not usually do, since that will be reimbursed (or should be).

FLIGHT: $361.39
INSURANCE: $21.62

That is so far.

Also, I am recycling something, a photocopy of part of the book reviewed here, Ballón Aguirre’s Vallejo edition in Ayacucho. It was exciting when it came out because it was an alternative, something was happening, things were moving, but the actual book is available in several libraries in my very state now (although not in Maringouin). I am getting rid of a xerox of this book, too, because our library has acquired it! (In its margins I had written: Vallejo as “emo boy,” pimp, and “man-whore” (interested in very young women).

Axé.

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ACLA possibility

Who is speaking? Sense and self in Vallejo

César Vallejo is considered one of the most important Latin American writers of the twentieth century. Yet with the complexity of his texts, his doubled, branching voices, and the controversies over his editions and manuscript traditions, he became both myth and interpretive battleground before most of his work was available to read. Vallejo’s transformation into a cultural artifact began in the 1920s, when critic José Carlos Mariátegui sought a prototypical Peruvianness in his work. The marketing of Vallejo after his death presents a mysterious, but also unchanging figure: the shadowy voice of a body speaking of orphanhood, poverty and the pain of being. The early critics’ attachment to this dark image promoted reductive readings. The postmodernist corrective, to see Vallejo as a writer of fractured subjectivity, has value but more useful are the ideas of cultural layering and a subjectivity that is neither unitary nor “fragmented,” but plural, distributed, mobile. This presentation would consider Vallejo in light of Foucault’s “What is an author?” Angamben’s “The author as gesture,” and some contemporary Vallejo criticism (Clayton, Granados, Hart, González Viaña). Key texts are the prose poem “Las ventanas se han estremecido” [The windows have shuddered, 1924], the novella “Fabla salvaje” [Savage Fable/Wild Speech, 1923], the novel El tungsteno [Tungsten, 1931] and the post-epic poetry of España, aparta de mí este cáliz [Spain, take this cup from me, 1938].

Axé.

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Cut from an e-mail

The time to plan courses for Spring, 2018 was Spring, 2017 and we did it, quite carefully. We can adjust things now but I do not want to reinvent the entire plan. I just don’t have time. I have a great deal of administrative work, and I simply have to be efficient.

Axé.

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Encore qq. ch. que j’ai dit

Well, I think we should put the research opportunities and the community involvement into the specific plan. They won’t work if added as band-aids / for window-dressing: they have to be real. So, things like writing across the curriculum, research opportunities in every course, hiring a person part of whose job would be community engagement, etc., would actually speak to these problems in a realistic way.

In terms of events, we could already have faculty-student symposia, a Sigma Delta Pi event every month highlighting someone — I wish we would. Specifically, this could be something we could undertake as major committee.

Do you see? These things matter because since this is an official document, we can cite it and use it to justify various improvements. Re grammar, their grammar needs addressing but what they need is to read more. One can have them do exercises all day but without exposure to the language, and ideally educated versions of it to start with (Benjamin did *not* understand why the Spanish he learned in the kitchen of Chuy’s was not enough to qualify him as a professional translator), they won’t have a head for grammar. They also have to produce it, speaking and writing, not just do exercises in it or have it explained to them. In other words, things have to happen in context and there is ample research on this.

So what I mean is, we can use this to create really forward-looking course goals and strategic plan, and NOT as an excuse for dumbing-down (which is surely what some would like to do)?

Axé.

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