Monthly Archives: October 2018

Mais c’est nouveau

I have my own domain name, because I am tired of having ads on this site. I want it to be a new spell … I should perhaps have gotten a new identity, but I got a domain name.


This, of course, is why I am fixated on the question of curriculum. What I learned in school, both college and graduate school, was to keep coming up with jewel-like papers in fields and on topics unfamiliar to me. A huge collection on a broad spectrum. Then you write a dissertation in yet another largely new field. Then start working as a professor in another field again, and in a place where the ideal specialty would have been something other than what you’d settled on. The general lesson, the practice taught, was not to specialize but to flit about, and to have the object upon which you are concentrating yanked away again and again. “No, you must do this now.” “No, you must be that now.” “Be grateful that you are at least allowed to be, and do THIS now.”

Still, it is fun to explore and I am cross-disciplinary. I would just like to have more time to spend on MY combination of interests instead of the university’s idea of my combination of interests. Our guest this weekend works really hard because in his job, at an R1, he gets to use his judgment; I remember someone saying long ago, “we have to get you out of all this drudgery.”


Yet I am changed, which is why I have the new URL, and I am trying to imitate our guest by doing as I see fit.


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Working at a university that is cannibalizing itself, in department that is, and a state that is, is disheartening and it is hard not to feel downhearted, not to feel joy. I used to be energized by work and inspired by what happened on campus — it was why I liked school — but here I only feel sad and ashamed.

Earlier on my poststructuralist education was disconcerting to me, being who I was. The messages I received were: you must not trust yourself, but decenter yourself; you should not trust your thoughts; and your words cannot mean what you believe them to mean. I was arguing against these ideas in my beautifully written, yet malformed dissertation and it was very visceral.

These topics are still hard to write near. To write, you must trust yourself and your words to some degree, and you must place your voice in your work. It is not enough just not to yell at yourself. You also have to trust yourself. You have to believe you are real. You also have to believe you do not deserve destruction. You have to believe you have value of at least some kind.

I would like to believe I had some sort of value. Once I did not question my own value. Questioning of the value of people was not part of the world then.


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Filed under Banes, What Is A Scholar?, Working

Another film course

Jerónimo Arellano has an article in RHM (2016) called “The screenplay in the archive: screenwriting, new cinemas, and the Latin American boom.” The boom novelists also wrote screenplays, not all of which were published. This raises a number of interesting questions I am interested in the article primarily for purposes of course creation. Could one not read boom novels and screenplays together, and watch boom films?

It seems that the Cineteca Nacional and Escuela de Cine Universidad Mayor in Chile have published a series of ten key Chilean screenplays. One could get these, and any films that have been made with them, and there would be a course. Similar projects have been undertaken by the Asociación de Guionistas Colombianos and the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, in collaboration with the Editorial El Milagro.

(Note how this post would be a perfect item for a file for me in Evernote, about courses, and it would be connected to the stable URL of the article, and everything.)

The corpus in question includes screenplays, teleplays, and film treatments written by García Márquez, Vargs Llosa, Cortázar, Donoso and Cabrera Infante during the 1960s and 70s. There is some work on the connection between the Boom and a/v, and between literature and cinema (see the article, p. 116), and Fuentes’ adaptation of “¿No oyes ladrar a los perros?” and Antonioni’s of “Las babas del diablo” are well known. Vargas Llosa wrote one in 1972 for Os sertões. García M.’s Tiempo de morir (1965) is an allegorical Western. Indeed, the Boom writers appear to form a screenwriting collective of sorts (see further examples, p. 117 and beyond; Rimbaud and Juan Goytisolo are involved, as well as connections Idelber and Brett have made between all of this and “Latin Americanism”).

A keyword here would be transmedia studies, transmedia poetics. Consider the concept “nuevo guión hispanoamericano” (p. 119). Fuentes had 32 film projects that were not made into films, but whose existence makes a difference to the understanding of what the boom was. (And note: there is my languishing article on nueva canción; this is all of a piece somehow.) The screenplay of the boom is “born literary,” says Arellano. NOTE: this means that the Boom writers did not always insist on the primacy of the author (pace Beverley)?


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Zotero and Endnote, and this pesky paper

I have them both, and keep forgetting passwords and forgetting how to really use them, and I have Evernote, too. I keep using this blog and my other one to take notes, but now I want to use these other sites more.

I am going to give a seminar called Global Lorca, or something close to this. García Lorca and modernism. Algo así.

The Moodle gradebook: to move items, you should check the box far to the right side.

About this paper: point 1 is 1518; point 2 is the middle ages; point 3 is the present: we, nowadays, evoke and elide the question of race in the same way as Latin Americans did in the 19th century and beyond, when we claim to be anti-racist or post-racial in polite company, but then have the mistreatment of migrants, the openly racist politicians, and grossly racist policies.


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Literary bondage

I have to check out and reread this book.


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An unscientific survey of students revealed these as their favorite films in Spanish. I haven’t seen them all, and some of those I have, I have not seen in a long time. But it is a rather good list.

21 gramos
Azul y no tan rosa
Hable con ella
María llena de gracia
Nueve reinas
Relatos salvajes
Vivir es fácil con los ojos cerrados
Y tu mamá también


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Race, the floating signifier (1996) — the beginning of a handout for class

It is by Stuart Hall and it is a key text. I find myself caring about structuralism and poststructuralism as never before. But this is a q/d handout for the students.

Floating signifier in Oxford Reference:

A signifier without a specific signified (see sign). Also known as an ‘empty signifier’, it is a signifier that absorbs rather than emits meaning. For example, Fredric Jameson suggests that the shark in the Jaws series of films is an empty signifier because it is susceptible to multiple and even contradictory interpretations, suggesting that it does not have a specific meaning itself, but functions primarily as a vehicle for absorbing meanings that viewers want to impose upon it.

Question by Leslie: is the American flag a floating signifier? Comment by Leslie: signifiers, and floating ones, are working at the level of language. Race is not a thing, it is a relation. Question by Leslie: race can also be (and has been) treated like a keyword (Williams) — a complex/contested concept. Question by Leslie: What is the difference between floating signifiers (Lévi-Strauss ff.) and Williams’ keywords? Possible answer: a keyword has a complex and contested meaning, as may a floating signifier, but Williams is emphasizing history of words and the contexts in which they are used, whereas struturalist and poststructuralist theory emphasizes the working of language itself, the way words lead to other words, not to things).

…[R]ace works like a language. And signifiers refer to systems and concepts of the classification of a culture that structure its practices of making meaning. And terms like race gain their meaning not because of what they contain in their essence, but in shifting relations of difference, which they establish with other concepts and ideas in a signifying field. Their meaning, because it is relational, and not essential, can never be finally fixed, but is subject to the constant processof redefinition and  appropriation. Their meaning is subject to the losing of old meanings, and the appropriation and collection and contracting of new ones, to the endless process of being constantly re-signified, made to mean something different in different cultures, in different historical formations, at different moments of time. The meaning of a signifier can never be finally or trans-historically fixed. That is, it is always, or there is always, a certain sliding of meaning, always a margin not yet encapsulated in language and meaning, always something about race left unsaid, always someone on a constitutive outside, whose very existence the identity of race depends on, and which is absolutely destined to return from its expelled and objected position outside the signifying field to trouble the dreams of those who are comfortable inside.

Classification is necessary to create meaning. It also creates order. But when you combine classification and systems of power you get racism.

Visibility of race: the body as text: visible marker of difference: makes race seem like an essence — but it isn’t, even though racial thinking has concrete results and effects.

Race is not an essence, and cannot be traced to anything concrete. It is more like a language; it is relational and constantly shifting.

How does race, as a principle of classification, operate, how does it produce meaning? For all of society is shaped by that classification . . . race is just one of our ways of classifying.

Race is a cultural system. And race is a signifier because it is a visual marker of difference; it means in relation to other signifiers (this is why it keeps shifting).

Race as discourse: there ARE differences among people, different looks, etc., but it is in language that we ascribe meaning to these differences

The Enlightenment is big on classification … and an example of giving meaning is, you distinguish among groups and you decide which is more “civilized,” more “backward,” and so on. We have tried to locate race via religious, scientific, and anthropological discourse … all of these are efforts to make the differences we’ve marked out seem stable, inevitable, natural

We want visible markers of difference, markers we can see: is this person a slave? or what? We want the body to be readable. Because race is a cultural system we want to operate, operate in; we want visible indicators and want to believe they aren’t arbitrary, but are attached to something “real” … but race is not real in that sense.

So when we oppose racism, we’re opposing something that is contingent, not fixed, not guaranteed to remain stable or even to be a thing. Race is a changing concept, whose existence as such has effects.

Why does this matter for the interpretation of Sab? To answer this question, let’s go back to the Branche piece and see, once again, how he used the floating signifier concept, and then ahead to our 2017 articles on Sab.


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Remember our football players, saying rude things about a political candidate in the locker room when they did not know they could be heard? That is what I would call free speech in the first place, and youthful high jinks at worst. Yet they did not get away with it, and it is possible some could have been 17. The new Supreme Court Justice, however, is not destined for a pleasant afterlife.

And here is the slightly overwrought, yet convincing article on how capitalism necessarily implodes into fascism AND causes eco-disaster, which in turn becomes a final solution and is thus welcomed and encouraged, even though that seems illogical and even suicidal on its face.


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On the corporatization

…and adjunctification.

Part-time faculty and academic values.
Patrick O’Donnell’s bibliography (very comprehensive, with many important-sounding titles I did not know of or am not familiar enough with).

KEY is that the institutions are not OK (note how the Wall Street Journal has endorsed torture supporter and Amazon Basin destroyer Bolsonaro for President of Brazil, for instance, calling him a “swamp drainer“).

Then, there is this piece on climate change and fascism, which has basically convinced me one must be a committed socialist. What interests me in particular is what it says about the workings of ideology. Emphasis is added here, and I believe I have seen another version of the piece. The author, in that version, goes on to say that eco-disaster is courted and desired because it is a “final solution” — the world is rid of those climate disasters drove to migrate.

Noam Chomsky has said that the Republican “party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand,” with modern fascism directly correlated to the increasing chaos of climate change itself. Roy Scranton in We’re Doomed. Now What? writes that as the “gap between the future we’re entering and the future we once imagined grows ever wider, nihilism takes root in the shadow of our fear…. [Y]ou can see it in the pull to nationalism, sectarianism, war, and racial hatred. We see it in the election of Donald Trump.”

What must be reckoned with is how this situation was directly engendered by industrial capitalism, and in particular by the partisans of its most extreme ideological manifestations of libertarianism and neoliberalism who have provided cover for policies that have enflamed the crisis. Past centuries were circumscribed by their worldviews . . . but while our adherence to the market is as all-encompassing as a Babylonian’s loyalty to Marduk, it is only our dark religion which actually threatens Armageddon.

Unfettered, unregulated, capricious, vampiric capitalism has brought us to the brink, and the mass inability to comprehend this fact evidences how ingrained said ideology is. Our blinders are such that human tragedy that is attributable directly to our economic system is often naturalized as simply being “The way that things are,” thus precluding even the possibility of different ways of arranging our world. Deathdue to differing ideologies is always interpreted as conscious and preventable, but capitalist tragedy is simply understood as how life operates.

While admitting that capitalism provided for unprecedented class mobility and technological innovation, an honest consideration of its death toll in any hypothetical Black Book of Capitalism would have to include not just the obvious fatalities of those who died in industrial accidents . . . but indeed the victims of colonialism, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and of fascismo corporativo, which is simply capitalism driven to its horrifying end.

Invisibility of such atrocities through normalization is a species of what the philosopher Louis Althusser termed “interpellation,” that is to say that we’re all molded subjects of the ideology that governs our world so that we mostly hold uncritical assumptions about capitalism’s normativity. Writer William T. Vollmann addresses future generations in his new tome on climate change Carbon Ideologies, explaining that “We all lived for money, and that is what we died for.” As 2040 approaches our ignorance is a form of collective suicide.


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“Opportunity cost?”

So I have a truly major speaker coming, a project I did not think would be a good use of my time but that others wanted done, and they have now quit their roles in making the event truly happen well. On the other hand, I am being told I am doing a wonderful job leading the relevant organization and unit.

I am conflicted about this because it cuts into research time. Irritated. But where time is really wasted is in negotiating with the people who want to waste my time, and in non-pleasurable, but also non-work time I spend when I feel used and humiliated by those who are trying to waste my time for me.

Then I think: I am foolish to have accepted this general project. This causes me to feel unworthy to do my own work. But I should have accepted it, I can do it and my own work. What I should do is stop giving power to people who are wasting my time and energy.

Also, for others, the classic model works: research first, teaching next, and no service. But I am an activist, and know it is wrong. I am ashamed of it and want to go away, to where this characteristic is not a sign of inferiority. But mostly I feel ashamed when people tell me my time is not as valuable as theirs.


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