I will write this

I have been thinking hard about what to do with all my prison material and knowledge and realized, I am not really in a position to increase activism in a truly meaningful way, and/but I should write a series of Atlantic-type (perhaps) articles on what I know. I never feel I know a great deal but it has been pointed out to me more than once how much I do know, and someone did say recently I should write it down — although that suggestion is not how I came to this conclusion tonight.

All my novels freeze in their tracks as life changes, but this would be a piece of creative or journalistic writing I could sustain. I was born to write. This story begins, like all stories, with a chance encounter. “Debo a la conjunción de un espejo y de una enciclopedia el descubrimiento de Uqbar. El espejo inquietaba el fondo de un corredor en una quinta de la calle Gaona, en Ramos Mejía; la enciclopedia falazmente se llama. . . .”


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No es fácil

I want to say that for 25 years I have been visiting a death row prisoner in Louisiana. This started as an offshoot of some activism — it was never my intention to become sole emotional support for a condemned man — but it has happened.

It has been pointed out to me that my position in this is unusual in a number of ways I am at this moment too tired to write out. One of the points I raised, in the call I made on the matter, was that when all of this began there was a community of support for persons in similar positions and that community has since evaporated. One of the ways in which my position is new is that, in the current climate this person, who is now 60 and has been on death row as long as I have been a professor, is more likely to die on death row than to be executed.

Being on death row is not the same as being in a punishment cell but it does mean 23 hour cell restriction. This is not good for the mental health of anyone, and specially not over decades.

If I had someone in town to talk to about this relationship, this activity, this experience, it would be easier. By “someone” I mean someone also doing what I am doing. There is so much to say about all of this.


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Quiere y no quiere su color

Quiere y no quiere su color mi pecho,
por cuyas bruscas vías voy, lloro con palo,
trato de ser feliz, lloro en mi mano,
recuerdo, escribo
y remacho una lágrima en mi pómulo.

Quiere su rojo el mal, el bien su rojo enrojecido
por el hacha suspensa,
por el trote del ala a pie volando,
y no quiere y sensiblemente
no quiere aquesto el hombre;
no quiere estar en su alma
acostado, en la sien latidos de asta,
el bimano, el muy bruto, el muy filósofo.

Así, casi no soy, me vengo abajo
desde el arado en que socorro a mi alma
y casi, en proporción, casi enaltézcome.
Que saber por qué tiene la vida este perrazo,
por qué lloro, por qué,
cejón, inhábil, veleidoso, hube nacido
saberlo, comprenderlo
al son de un alfabeto competente,
sería padecer por un ingrato.

¡Y no! ¡No! ¡No! ¡Qué ardid, ni paramento!
Congoja, sí, con sí firme y frenético,
coriáceo, rapaz, quiere y no quiere, cielo y pájaro;
congoja, sí, con toda la bragueta.
Contienda entre dos llantos, robo de una sola ventura,
vía indolora en que padezco en chanclos
de la velocidad de andar a ciegas.

–C.V. 22.IX.1937


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The week, the week

Syllabus revisions, website revisions, e-gradebook grading, grading in general, course planning, and maintenance of gradebooks are now constant. Tuesday write on site is a constant.

Two bureaucratic documents are left to be done, and more regular writing on That Article needs to be done. There is now also a bureaucratic question to be asked, and another. And if I am to apply to that Utrecht event, I must do it soon.

Old strategy: 10 minutes a day on the scary projects. These are one of the bureaucratic documents and the vita (still), and oddly, now, That Article.

What I learned: do it with health and love and without pressure, and do not take on any new service or recreation out of duty.


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Dread Scott

This is the artist. This is the work. Here is an excerpt:


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On speaking up

Someone said: I am glad you spoke up; I hope you get support; I wish I were forthright like you.

It felt right. I had been feeling nervous about having spoken up and was trying to talk myself into learning never to speak up again. But that sentence: I am glad you spoke up, I hope you get support, seemed so much like the right sentence, and so quickly stopped the energy drain.


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Si j’avais l’argent

Although it is a question of time, as well. If I am going to LASA in Lima, then another event in Tampa and another in Washington, and if I am to go to California and Minnesota as well, do I have time to do this in a way that would actually benefit me? I already know what my paper would say, which is what makes this so tempting, but — one more abstract and one more long trip, just for purposes of feeling real for a few days?

ACLA 2017: Race Theory and Literature

Call for Papers

American Comparative Literature Association// Utrecht University, Netherlands// July 6-9 2017

Emerging out of the practices of colonialism, imperialism, and slavery/slave trade, race theory has seen renewed and reinvigorated interest in the last sixteen years. Recent scholarship has started to examine the relationship between these varying theories on race from philosophical, philological, theological, historical, biological, and other disciplines and literature (particularly prose fiction) from as early as the 16th century, but flourishing prominently in the Enlightenment and later 19th century at first in European university and later in U.S. universities, developing concurrently and after these theories were developed and circulated in multiple discourses.

This seminar proposes to look at the relationship between literature and the theorization of race in academic disciplines, primarily in the 18th and 19th centuries but also extending into the 20th century. Questions we wish to explore include, but are not necessarily limited to the following:

– How and why do prominent and marginal authors adopt, reject, criticize, and/or apply theories of race to ethnic others within their works?
– Is there a theory or are there theories of race within works of literature or in larger literary traditions and movements?
– Theorists this seminar would like to examine include, but are not limited to, Buffon, Bernier, Voltaire, Meiners, Kant, Herder, Blumenbach, Hegel, Herder, de Gobineau, Darwin, Galton, Boas, Locke, Montagu, Du Bois, Appiah, Senghor, Alcoff, Hanchard, Ferreira de Silva, Omi and Winant. We will also consider theories of race from literary authors such as Céline and Tagore, for instance.

This seminar seeks research comparing race theories alongside literary works from all over the world, as well as literary works that respond either directly or indirectly to race theories. We also welcome comparisons between race theory and visual culture, music, and other forms of artistic media.

Please submit a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute presentation on the ACLA website (http://www.acla.org/race-theory-and-literature) until September 23, 2016.

Contact the seminar co-organizers Pauline Moret-Jankus at pauline.moret-jankus@uni-jena.de and Adam J. Toth at adamjtoth@gmail.com with any questions.



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