Monthly Archives: September 2015

Vicente Rafael

When I teach the modern Latin Amercan survey again, I will include even more than usual on nations, nationalism, and revolutions — including politics in Spain and the Philippines.


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Kareem Abdul Jabbar

For many Americans, education is about feeding students certain factual information, then testing them to make sure they retain it. The higher they climb on the educational ladder, the more specialized that information becomes as we train them for their eventual professions. That makes sense. When you’ve got surgeons hovering over you, ready to mess with your internal organs, you want them to remember where everything goes when they’re done, not thumb through Wikipedia on an iPhone.

The attack on education isn’t on training our youth for whatever careers they choose, it’s on teaching them to think logically in order to form opinions based on facts rather than on familial and social influences. This part of one’s education is about finding out who you are. It’s about becoming a happier person. It’s about being a responsible citizen. If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options, not because you were too lazy or scared to question them. But you—all of us—need the process. Otherwise, you’re basically a zombie who wants to eat brains because you don’t want anyone else to think either.

That means this is a war on reason.

Read the whole thing.


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Filed under ALFS presentation, Resources

Grace Jones

“I was female, and they decided that I was rock ’n’ roll insane. Had I been a man, they would have considered that I was merely retaining control, or professionally fretting about the details. Once they start treating you as though you are losing your grip, it becomes kind of true – in reacting to accusations that you are paranoid and incapable of acting responsibly, you end up seeming to confirm that you are paranoid and reckless. They wore me down. They sabotaged me.”

Read the whole thing.


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Dear colleague

You cannot say we have a language program because we have a common textbook and departmental tests, and then say that you will teach how and what you teach in a multi-section course regardless of book, and at the same time refuse to articulating departmental goals and benchmarks for student progress except to say the goal is “to cover the book.”


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Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Words of wisdom for today

Tenured faculty are the only thing that can stand up to an increasingly cynical administrative team. (Strangely, A seems to be the exception to this, but she is fighting years of organizational culture and the entire machine that B carefully crafted, e.g., the dean of C.)

Someone said that, and I want to find out more about what they mean.

We are considered a teaching institution but college-level teaching that is not based on an active and busy research agenda is not serious teaching. It’s a scam.

Clarissa said that.


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Filed under Da Whiteman, What Is A Scholar?


Do you think blogs are over? Some of the ones that existed when I started in 2006, are still going, but many of those I used to read are gone — and so many have become so quasi-professional, so official. I have thought of stopping sometimes, but really what I would like is to get back to posting every day.

This was a poetry blog that became a therapeutic and political blog, and then an academic one. Mostly, though, it is therapeutic. I started seeking therapy for what I later learned was a form of child abuse when I was 17. I had thought about it before, obviously, but not been in a position to seek.

About ten years after that I had a psychoanalyst in Brazil — that is to say, I interviewed one, tried her out, before deciding that cultural differences and extreme Freudianism meant she was not the one for me. I did tell her, though, that I had worked hard as a child, knowing I was liable to pick up traits from each parent, to discern which traits of each I wanted to emulate and which I must avoid absorbing if I wished to survive.

She said, what about thinking less about other people you might want to resemble, and more about resembling yourself? I said I was doing that in daily life, but also wanted to understand who and what I was also imitating, so as to cast off some patterns that were inhibiting my doing what she recommended.

I was thinking about this now. More and more I can see what I imitated, it is endless. But it does not really deeper analysis than it has had, and now is the time to take up the Brazilian analyst’s advice. That is the reason I am nostalgic for northern California now, the place where I was doing that earlier in life, before I had even met that analyst.

One of my students says that the typical Louisiana woman is entangled in an extended family and with a boyfriend or husband who also limits her, and does not know what she wants to do. I realized: that was the person Reeducation wanted me to be, or to become.



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On my glorious past

I was asked to name my most inspiring professors ever, and here is the list that came to me offhand. It does not even include many very good ones, or really famous ones who were differently inspiring, like Julio Cortázar and José Emilio Pacheco (people I would include on a list if I thought about it). Just offhand, I said I had had some very erudite professors:

Leo Bersani
Peter Brown
Phil Damon
Natalie Zemon Davis
Denis Hollier
Leon Litwack
Luis Monguió
José Miguel Wisnik

The reason these come to mind is that I took their classes without knowing ahead of time who they were — they just happened to be the person teaching the class I was required to take, or had decided I should opt for. I therefore walked in without expecting to meet such singular people. Wisnik, for example, in professor mode starts talking here at minute 30, but is also a rather well known composer and musician.

The meaning of it all is that I should realize that these are my ancestors, so to speak, this is the tradition I come from — and that I should not let Maringouin separate from me.



Filed under What Is A Scholar?

El humo se disipa

Tu aliento es como la mejor mañana fresca de olor de aves y de mar un velamen cruza veloz la foresta interdicta de tu aliento donde los pájaros se columpian picoteando estrellas mientras un galope tendido de gacelas transtorna las flores y las convierte en piedras de luna y el silencio recorre la escala de tu aliento de fuente y de montaña nevada

Frente a frente tu aliento el soplo aterrador de la primavera en los bosques de nieve eterna iniciando el desfile de los témpanos coronados de osos polares flameantes

Tu aliento certero en medio del corazón una piedra que cae en el estanque dormido y levanta géiseres de estrellas enloquecidas que buscan su origen en tu boca

Tu aliento es un despeñadero en el que caen árboles enteros y el ruido se tapiza y las frutas maduran y todo se volatiliza en una caída sin término

La mañana perfila los cendales de tu aliento y la tormenta tiene olor de tu saliva y tu saliva es el cráter de donde vuelan los peñascos enfurecidos portadores de mensajes ilegibles

Tu aliento de meteorito disparado desde el cielo cayendo en un bosque ardiente chamuscando leopardos y provocando el alarido de los elementos

Tu aliento es humareda de ignición de poemas obscenos tu aliento precipitándose a mansalva sobre campos inmensos bajo la luna

Tu aliento en la mañana la nostalgia de la noche fulgurante de rayos que bordan en el cielo las cataratas de tu aliento

–C. Moro


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I have been working on strategic plan for recruiting students and majors for one of my departments, in a very complex situation. My information on what is happening is incomplete and inconsistent, and I really wish I had the answer to certain questions.

a/ What were the four reports the chair filed in defence of the department during spring 2015? What type of review was it under? Why were faculty not consulted? Why, if certain decisions were made in June, were we not told until August?

b/ Why does the dean say we just have enrolment management problems, but on the other hand suggest we could soon be turned into a service department? Why does the chair express such hopelessness? Is he just not engaged … or does he know more about what has been planned than he is revealing … or is he also in the dark?

c/ Can we have access to the reports already filed? Can we know what time-lines we have? Can we speak to someone who will clarify certain things the chair is vague about, or must we continue to play the present game of Chinese whispers? Can the recommendations of research faculty in field be heard?

Mostly, all of this is frustrating because the answer is so simple: let the professorial faculty in each field and subfield make the decisions about course offerings in it. When these decisions are made by administrators in other fields, instructors and secretaries, they are made poorly. This, of course, is what we cannot say directly. Or, perhaps we should.

I appear to be quite close to doing so, since I am writing here about the kind of thing most people consider “unbloggable.”


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C’est une Berkeley Poetry Controversy

The “state-sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death,” as Gilmore defines racism, has often intensified alongside the institutionalization of past social movements.

I would like to get to the bottom of this.


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