Identity politics, students as customers, and academic freedom

If adjuncts and tenure-track professors are disempowered in relation to their students, the solution isn’t to attack students. . . . sneering at undergraduates with too many feelings or an unsuspecting woman who had the misfortune of tweeting about the biases of scientific research and discourse.

Rather, it’s to focus on a university system that treats students as customers and faculty as the interchangeable means of production. If you care about academic freedom, care about that.

Read the whole thing.


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Libraries and electronic copies exist

I wanted to see this film here in Barcelona but I don’t think I am going to get to it. (There is so much else I have not done.) I will leave here the fantastic 1999 edition of the DK Eyewitness Barcelona Travel Guide because there is a 2014 one that can be had.

I will also leave PMLA 109:2 (March 1994). I have been carrying it around so I would finally read it, and I have not done so yet. It has articles of general interest, like one “Sorceresses, Love Magic, and the Inquisition of Linguistic Sorcery in Celestina” and then the article I have always meant to absorb, David Spurr’s “Myths of Anthropology: Eliot, Joyce, Lévy-Bruhl” which I really need to study.

But the piece is in JSTOR and if you look at it on line, you see who has cited it and what their pieces were about. Spurr says Joyce “sees in anthropology as a discipline the tyrrany of the rational, colonizing mind intent on objectivizing or romanticizing the lives of subject peoples. Joyce has little patience for nostalgic myths of the primitive like those purveyed by W.B. Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory.”

Foucault makes a distinction between anthropology, a totalizing discourse, and ethnology, which is situates itself within historicity. Ethnology uncovers the relations between representation and the material conditions of existence (these are Spurr’s words); in this critical analysis of representation, ethnology is allied with literature that is “fascinated with the being of language” (I believe that is from L’ordre des choses).

Spurr: “Whereas Eliot mythologizes history, Joyce appears … to historicize mythology…. Joyce collapses both myth and history into a radical materiality of language….

This all has to do with Oswald de Andrade and Vallejo, you see.

It is more difficult but I am also leaving Latin American Research Review 50:2 (2015). It has all these marvelous things in it and I so prefer to read on paper, but it is also so accessible online.

There is a piece by one Mark Daniel Anderson, “Modernism, crisis, and the ethics of democratic representation in Fernando del Paso’s total novels” that I need to seriously read for several reasons. One, for its main points, which I think are true (see the abstract, against the now traditional opposition of novela total and testimonio).

My reasons for being interested in it has to do with questions of the production of meaning, the critique of the transcendental subject, the latter as the subject of nationalism as well as universalistic humanism, the limits of avant-garde techniques, the relationship of art to civil society, the appropriation of avant-garde esthetics for institutional purposes (which happened by the 1930s), conciliatory mestizaje (mestizaje as mark of shared citizenship) and more. Benito Juárez is the indio oficial … who has the blond Maximilian shot … and so on, and the mestizo classes rise (peacefully and naturally, by consensus according to the PRI mythology, but look at the facts) … and I must read Fernando del Paso, Noticias del imperio and more.

Anderson also says (44-45) that the collage technique creates a collective identity not formed via the “machined seamlessness of nationalistic essentialism.” Rancière says art creates dissensus (not consensus, which Doris Sommer and others claimed it did for 19th century Latin America and which one can see that it tried to do) — creates dissensus via the strategic use of impropriety and misplacement. Bürger associates this technique with the avant-garde but Rancière extends it to any symbolic representation (because representation always maintains a supplementary, decentering, critical relationship to discourse and reality itself).

QUESTION, THEN: If that is true, then is Julio Ortega’s current “deconstructive” reading of Vallejo fuzzy, and what about “critiques of representation” — ? I have to relearn, or learn for the first time perhaps, the meaning of a certain body of theory.

Anyway, there is a great deal in that article. In the journal, there is another piece on why Latin American scholars do not participate in Latin American Studies (because they identify as agents of change, not experts in field merely contributing to knowledge) … and this is one of the articles on the bifurcation of scholarship, so is important; and there is important work on indigenous literary heritage, and a review article on several books, Indigenous and Black Intellectuals in the Lettered City. But the paper version of this journal is staying here, and now that I am a serious scholar again I should be posting all of these notes in Evernote and Zotero, not here; yet somehow I think the most clearly here.

The Anderson piece causes in me Vallejo lucidity, however. As I have always said, Vallejo is hard to read because there is no transcendental subject to guide us and no plot in a traditional sense, nor are the apparent themes really the themes — although there are recurring words and techniques, work on or against grammar and vocabulary. Ortega says, as I said at one time and many have suggested, that he is “undoing” the transcendental subject and also representation, forging a new language so as to forge a new subject.

But avant-garde “dehumanization,” as Anderson points out, did not directly foment ethical self-awareness or engagement with others, and this is what Vallejo does work on (from early on, one might add, not just in España which may be not be his most magisterial work but his most facile).


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Rosemond Tuve

There is an article we should all read and discuss, as it is about the present. It is part of a symposium on the teaching of literature, where other luminaries presented as well.

Tuve, Rosemond. “More Battle than Books.” Sewanee Review 55:4 (Oct.-Dec. 1947): 571-585.

Stable URL:

This post is for all, but is especially for Dame Eleanor Hull.



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Sobre los sentimientos

In Reeducation, it was considered “inappropriate” or evidence of “denial” not to feel fearful or not to be so. You were to “learn to actually feel your feelings” which meant to give any fears you did have free rein. I had a book contract that according to Reeducation it was inappropriate that a person like me should have been able to get, and a Fulbright grant Reeducation thought I should be afraid to take since it meant crossing the sea. I gave them up because to me, the worst thing is to be accused of having no feelings or not having the right feelings, and I will do anything, mutilate myself in just about any way that is required, to counter or evade such accusations.

I had not been afraid of traveling, but I had been of the book. Now one of the press’ readers for this book has written one on the same topic, that makes arguments similar to mine. He says it is an imperfect book because it is beyond him to do as good a job on the topic as should be done, but that he did it anyway. If Reeducation had not been destructive, it would have reminded me that this was the right attitude, and not kept on insisting I could not be worthy.

Reeducation misunderstood it, but there is something to the idea of being allowed, or allowing yourself, to feel your own feelings. When we were children, there were certain perceptions we were not to have, and feelings we were not to have or at the very least not to mention or show. Instead, then, any time it is appropriate that we should assert ourselves against a majority, or express pain, we feel instead a blinding rage we cannot identify, a sense of shame so heavy we can barely stand under it, and a desire for death or disappearance that makes it impossible to speak. We have similar reactions if we have to turn anyone down for anything, and are stuck speechless. I become slightly dissociative, as though my head were elsewhere, and hold my breath.

There are three or four people I need to face and say things to, and that I am avoiding because I am afraid. An editor, because I am missing a deadline, because I cannot work on Vallejo fast, because I feel so insane/am so incapacitated on days I am supposed to work on him that I can only get a lucid hour or so and I lose the rest of the day to self-hatred … such that I cannot often afford to take that hour, given what goes on in the rest of the 23 and thus, all that does not get done in that time.

My father and his mover, because something got broken that opened a vein of grief in me so wide that I just had to say something. I should have said it was all right or not mentioned it because then I could have avoided conflict or avoided the similarly painful possibility that people might not care, or might just isolate me until I got over it or learned not to mention it. I am terrified of their reactions or non reactions and very upset with myself for having said anything. I am hiding in Barcelona in another identity, the one who feels well and does research in a rational state, but I am going to have to face all of these things soon.

What will the method be? I suppose I will just have to remind myself that it is all right to be human, even if in my original upbringing some others only wanted me to be human insofar as it serveed them.

Then there is my department head because I require a more rational workplace than we have had. I don’t know that anyone else cares, or that anyone else things we deserve this, or that anyone else knows what a more rational workplace might look like. But other departments in our same university are far more rational.

What will the method be here? I am not sure, as I am not sure to what attitude I may be talking to, or what agenda. But something must be said, and then done.


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Biblioteca de Catalunya

I spent five days there. The first two, I did not bring the laptop because I did not realize you could plug them in and mine had short battery life. Then I realized this was because I needed a new battery, so I took the computer to the shop and was without it for two days. (In fact you can plug them in, I just did not expect that since I am so used to Latin America where they would not be able to afford to give you that much electricity, or build so many outlets.)

I took notes on paper and it was blissful. On the fifth and last day I thought I would be in ultra-bliss because of the possibility of downloading things right to my machine. But now I was to take notes on it as well, and I could not concentrate. It is much harder to hold the book open and read and type on a screen than it is to read and write, and I think noticeably better when I am writing by hand.

This has been a very interesting experiment, and this post, while it is for all, is especially for Undine.


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Some notes on Barcelona today

Solving the SNCF mystery.

The sun in the cathedral, with its palm trees.

The Archive of Aragon, with Columbus’ original capitulations.

Getting a library card.

The port.

The theatre listings, the Café de la Opera.

The tourists, the trendy shops.

Buying green shoes. The rain.

Lost and there were no locals to ask for directions, nobody knew and many shopkeepers did not really speak Spanish or Catalan, they were mysterious immigrants.

Those guys on my doorstep when I finally got home, talking about the Atacama desert.

Mercès. Adeu. Bona nit.



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B.B. King and Joan Baez at Sing Sing

It has commercials, but here you get to see how it was to go up the Hudson, and visit prisoners in 1974.


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