Category Archives: Theories

María: yes, it is the patriarchy

A friend says that the reason people in Louisiana so fear sex, despite having quite a lot of it (despite having it compulsively, I would say), is that they still regret losing the Civil War and slavery. So they are nostalgic for an earlier time, like the more reactionary Muslims of the Middle East, he says.

In this (Victorian) time you would have the cloying upper-class white women, certain vixen types, and then a lot of slaves and working-class women you could rape and exploit. So it is slavery, which requires an extreme form of patriarchy, that has created the sexual habits and attitudes of the Louisianians, he posits.

This, of course, would explain why my first reaction to Jorge Isaacs’ María was, “This novel is about the fear of sex.”

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Filed under Race book, Theories

Cecilia Valdés — yes it is the patriarchy

Someone said,

If this question was asked in my class, I would ask them to think about how patriarchy creates mechanisms of punishment and reward in order to keep itself in power. Patriarchy believes it gets to have 24/7 access to the bodies of social subordinates – most often women – but also men who are in positions of subordination. Sexual power over others is one of the most important tools of patriarchy.”


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Filed under Da Whiteman, Theories

Cornejo II

Es evidente que categorías como mestizaje e hibridez toman pie en disciplinas ajenas al análisis cultural y literario, básicamente en la biología, con el agravante —en el caso del mestizaje— que se trata de un concepto ideologizado en extremo. En lo que toca a hibridez la asociación casi espontánea tiene que ver con la esterilidad de los productos híbridos, objeción tantas veces repetida que hoy día García Canclini tiene una impresionante lista de productos híbridos y fecundos … De cualquier manera esa asociación no es fácil de destruir. De hecho, en el diccionario Velázquez inglés-español la palabra híbrido suscita de inmediato una acepción algo brutal: “mula”. Por supuesto que reconozco que el empleo de estos préstamos semánticos tiene riesgos inevitables; al mismo tiempo considero que detrás de ellos como que se desplaza una densa capa de significación que engloba y justifica cada concepción de las cosas. Incluso estaría tentando de afirmar que una lectura de ese sustrato de significado es más productiva que la simple declaración de amenidad e impertinencia de las categorías empleadas para esclarecer un punto concreto.

Here is Cornejo I.


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Filed under Movement, News, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

Do you understand the election?

I do not, that is to say, I do not understand the attitudes of the voters.

Most younger people I know do not vote. This includes people even up into their forties, except those who have a Ph.D., and M.D. or a J.D. (yes, that much education). They say it is because “the government is bad,” or the government does not affect their lives. If pressed, they say that it is because they do not understand how things work. Someone, a minority por más señas, even told me he knew himself well enough not to vote, because he knew that as a voter he would betray the interests of his race and class because he was too poorly informed and too easily swayed by right-wing rhetoric.

In the meantime, there appear to be Sanders voters who will not vote for Clinton in the general election. I would understand if there were a serious third party campaign (I am not one of those who say third parties make the Republicans win). But so far there will be none, and there is a great difference between business as usual (Clinton) and the Republican candidates we have now.

I do not think the minority voters who support Clinton over Sanders are magically better informed about the inner virtues and faults of each. I think some of them are uninformed voters (voters of any race, color, creed, or national origin can be uninformed). I think many others are really, really concerned about how right-wing the Republicans are, and have gone for Clinton early on as the safest bet to win against them.

I do not understand the Clinton voters who say it is anti-feminist to vote against her. What about Sarah Palin, then? Or, is it “racist” not to vote for Ben Carson … or Marco Rubio?

Mostly, though, I do not understand the Clinton voters who think she is a liberal candidate, and that Sanders is unrealistically left-wing. He’s just like a white liberal Democrat from back in the day, from what I can tell, and I cannot understand why it is so far out to vote for him.

The most intriguing comments on Clinton I have heard are that one has to elect masses of women, any women, for women’s rights to get on the agenda, and that we are not likely to get a first woman president who is also a progressive. These things are surely true.

I, however, cannot make someone this hawkish my first choice, or even anything but a lesser-of-evils choice, so I guess that defines how I make my choices. I don’t think peace is unsupportive of women, though — to the contrary, if one thinks of women in the countries where wars are actually waged.



Filed under Movement, News, Theories


My colleague said we had to assign writing because writing brings students to an act of intellectual discovery unavailable otherwise. I said yes, of course.

I realized then that I never considered writing an act of intellectual discovery but a show of virtuosity. I never allowed myself the kind of risk I allow the students because I thought the objective was to be brilliant, yet also very conventional, so as to abe acceptable and pass.

I was always more daring writing about things Portuguese than things Spanish, and about prose rather than poetry, because officially I was in Spanish and in poetry and there, I thought it was most important to be very careful. I always thought writing was only an act of intellectual discovery for those who could afford for it to be.

That is why I like all my political writing, and writing on policy matters, and bureaucratic writing, even: I allow myself to think as I work, and to write in my own voice. If I am writing about Spanish language literature or poetry, I am only crafting something intended to be generally acceptable and therefore, to pass or to sell.

This perception is very important.


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Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working

The scourge of “relatability”

What are the qualities that make a work “relatable,” and why have these qualities come to be so highly valued? To seek to see oneself in a work of art is nothing new, nor is it new to enjoy the sensation. Since Freud theorized the process of identification—as a means whereby an individual develops his or her personality through idealizing and imitating a parent or other figure—the concept has fruitfully been applied to the appreciation of the arts. Identification with a character is one of the pleasures of reading, or of watching movies, or of seeing plays, though if it is where one’s engagement with the work begins, it should not be where critical thought ends. The concept of identification implies that the reader or viewer is, to some degree at least, actively engaged with the work in question: she is thinking herself into the experience of the characters on the page or screen or stage.

But to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.

Read the whole thing, then assign it.


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Filed under Teaching, Theories, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Sandemose — eller Jantelov, igen

“Jante Law is just as normal as the law of gravity,” newspaper editor and anthropologist Anne Knudsen assured me. “You find it everywhere, especially in peasant societies, and back [in Sandemose’s day] there were peasants peasants peasants all over the place in Denmark. This kind of ideology became the State ideology when democracy was established in the country [in 1849] and it got a second life with Social Democracy, and all of this was transmitted from generation to generation by propaganda and by a unified school system.” She added, “But, you know, the envy part is not the important part. The important part is the inclusiveness: we want to include you, but that is only possible if you are equal. It’s what peasants do.”

The entire piece is really interesting.


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Filed under Resources, Theories, Working