Category Archives: Noticias

French Louisiana, and the police

I really MUST study the Louisiana-Caribbean connection in greater detail — there’s a 19th century novel called Macandal, and Séjour has a short story, Le Mulâtre, about paternity as well as a play about Jewishness and limpieza de sangre.

In police news, consider the story of Fred Hampton, some damning evidence on the FBI, and a good analysis.


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Filed under Movement, Noticias, Primary texts, Race book, Resources


It is not what they do to you, it is what they can get you to do to yourself, is an important point for those of us who are dealing with misogyny or any kind of discrimination, really.

Another thing to remember is that although we are constantly told that most people can never admit they are in the wrong and that the sign of moral progress is to do so, even when you are in fact the wronged party, people lose respect for you when you apologize and you should consider not doing it. Do they? When they have in fact committed major crimes? They do not.

What I would like, though, for 2018 is to have more authority over the students, and therefore be in a position to be kinder to them or at least feel less wounded by them. In the old world, this authority existed in the structure of programs but now it does not. You have to be very, very solid in the bubble that is your courses, your world, and leave things at that.

I am on it.


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Filed under Noticias, Resources, Teaching, Theories, Working

Un aliado

To write you do not in fact have to “be passionate” or some such thing and in fact I prefer not to be — I greatly prefer calm. I think that the idea that “if you were interested enough, you would overcome anything” is a version of the artist-in-a-garret ideal. You have to feel well enough, you have to be comfortable enough physically, your mind must be clear enough. You are also far better off not being undermined, and having allies.

The kinds of needs I am talking about are the kinds of needs the time management gurus do not even imagine not having met. Their ideas of being “passionate” or “interested” enough to overcome obstacles do not cover the more extreme kinds of sacrifice others have made. This does not invalidate advice on time management, which I also endorse. It is just that, as I say, time management and “being serious” are only all you need if you have good circumstances otherwise.

(“Doing anything” just to remain an academic — but would you sell a kidney, for instance? I know someone who did and I would not, but according to some that might just mean I was not “serious” enough! How far is one to go?)

Things are nonetheless done in difficult circumstances.  Allies really help, I find. Allies and not mere exhorters.



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Filed under Noticias, What Is A Scholar?

L’été, encore

I was happy Monday, and not bored. I am just so used to going into a dissociative state to avoid pain or possible pain, and it is a hard habit to break. Today I seem to be happy again and it has to do with having an interesting collaboration at work.

How to escape all the painful associations I have with academic work? How to quell the longings for my other interests, which have, furthermore, no painful associations? They do not arise because of not having an interesting job or an interesting place to live, although I think one should not sacrifice both. The problem is working in painful atmospheres, laden with tedium and fraught with strife, stress over finances, and awareness that the usual ways to handle these kinds of things are insufficient.

I have decided that it is impossible to rise above all circumstances and that a complete, virtual atmosphere must be constructed each day. I am not actually tired of research or writing or even teaching, but I am tired of blatant obstruction and also of all exhortations to sacrifice and penitence.

I am quite interested in this comment, and will study it: I had a fear of engaging with MYSELF IN A DEPLETED STATE, because that is when I lose my sense of proportion and develop a tunnel vision and start to attack myself.



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Filed under Noticias, What Is A Scholar?

Some things learned and decided…

Some things learned and decided about teaching this semester, lower division:

1. We need minute essays in the language courses — lower division courses.

2. We need reading and music and film and culture in these courses, and not canned culture, either. Without these things the courses are not interesting and also, the students do not have enough examples of good uses of the language.

3. The kind of communicative language teaching that seems to be promoted by people in linguistics, and that seems to be designed for people who want to use the language for “practical” reasons, is wrongheaded. This approach claims to be as far from grammar and translation as one can get, but it is actually grammar and translation’s close sibling.

4. That last point is a research insight and if SLA were my field I could and would do research to test this hypothesis, publish about it, and cause a major scandal first and a paradigm shift next.




Filed under News, Noticias

I am taking a MOOC

That is the professor. Discuss.



Filed under Noticias, What Is A Scholar?

Insufficient mestizaje

Joshua Goode says Spain attributed its 1898 defeat to the racial inferiority of its soldiers — they were not mixed enough. Mixing the blood of Spaniards would also help dissolve regional divisions in the country.

They reasoned that when you choose the most robust youths for soldiers, you then remove their genes from the general pool. Thus do military adventures weaken the Spanish stock; soldiers must be selected differently.

There is more to this but I must find out when Spain, or anyplace outside Latin America, started valuing mestizaje. Goode is studying the 1870-1930 period but the answer to my question may be in his book or in one of the many others I have on this matter. Where did Bolívar get his ideas?

Well, he got them in part from Bello, who theorized a mestizo grammar and lexicon; what else did Bello say about mestizaje and statesmanship? I talk so far about mestizaje and culture from the point of view of language and Nebrija, but Bolívar spoke at Angostura at a time when the modern idea of national consciousness was quite new.

I have to follow up on this — does he have a single source for this idea? Will Maduro give me a grant to go to Venezuela and learn about these things?

One might also read Susan Martin-Márquez on Spanish identity in relation to its colonial adventures in Africa, and then that other book, The Return of the Moor.



Filed under Bibliography, Noticias

C’est tout fini

I cannot tolerate further work on this abstract so, despite my dissatisfaction with it I am sending it in. This is the literary version; the Spanish version will be more sociological. Its title is El lado oscuro del mestizaje: raza y estado en tres textos decimonónicos, and I like that better.

This was hard to write because I thought it would be easy. I would sit down to knock it out and get mesmerized for hours, not necessarily making headway. Now that it is finished I will lead a more rational life. I will write on a schedule, not just when I can.

The Darker Side of Mestizaje: Three Tropical Texts

This paper rereads three nineteenth century novels from the Americas: Jorge Isaacs’ María (Colombia), Cirilo Villaverde’s Cecilia Valdés (Cuba/U.S.A.), and Aluízio de Azevedo’s O Mulato (Brazil), in light of David Theo Goldberg and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s theoretical work on race, modernity and the state. If race is constitutive of the modern state, as Goldberg demonstrates (2002), or of modernity itself, as da Silva argues (2007), the liberal assumption that inequality can be addressed within the framework of the nation does not hold. How might this perception change our readings of the nineteenth century texts commonly read as signs and symptoms of a mestizo or post-racial nation to come?

María, Cecilia Valdés, and O Mulato are all “foundational” texts in their national canons. Like several other novels of the period they tell stories intertwining incest and miscegenation. Read through the lens of the national projects based on cultural mixture embraced in the 1930s, the literature of this earlier period can be seen to form a corpus in which newly independent nations trace a common origin and project future cohesion. The texts examined here, however, chronicle rupture and and loss, not union or suture; they might more accurately be considered novels of originary violence than of national conciliation.

At stake in these writings is not only the formation of a national culture but also that of the racial state that lies behind it. The reader may be witnessing a shift within the modernizing state, but not a challenge to the patriarchy and its racial hierarchies. Goldberg and da Silva, both comparative scholars working beyond the frame of the nation, may help elucidate some of the complexities around the articulation of race and state in these texts, and shed light on some of ambiguities and impasses present-day discourse on race inherits from this era.

The paper draws on research on race and the state in the Hispanic world by Jens Andermann, Joshua Goode, Joshua Lund, Deborah Poole, and Javier Sanjinés, as well as and recent work on race and social policy by Gonzalo Portocarrero, Sérgio Paulo Guimarães, and Robert Cottrell. It considers Villaverde’s New Orleans sources, parallels and intertexts including George Washington Cable’s Les Grandissimes and Charles Gayarré’s Fernando de Lemos, and the fact that Cuba’s national novel was written over thirty years’ residence in the United States.



Filed under Noticias, What Is A Scholar?

Tracking work, again

So far today I have done the following:

8:45 e-mail
9:00-10:45 prepare one class (efficiency high, but this was not quite enough time, as it turned out)
11:00-12:15 teach said class
12:15-1:00 office hours, during which I met with a colleague and a student to create a new outreach program and also worked on an IT problem (efficiency high)
1:00-1:30 lunch
1:30-1:45 attempt to update websites, fail, call IT, write this post.

Now I will:

1:45 regroup for class
2:00 teach
3:15 prepare class
4:30 teach
5:45 update websites

By 6 PM I will have worked for 8.5 total hours. I am hoping to knock it off right there and do 30 minutes of research this evening, period. And work out and sleep so as to be less exhausted. But, I will have to also do work on these websites, so I am coming up with a 9.5 hour minimum for today.

Commentary: all of these courses could have used just a little more preparation time than they got. Y eso que trabajé algo en ellos en el fin de semana. It really does take time to teach right, especially out of field (this is a fact). I have always been told it should not if one wants to survive (fiction), and also that it should be, probably is, must be what I really want (fiction).

This is the triple bind I am in due to the excess of academic advice terrorizing I have suffered.  Did I not have to negotiate this triple bind with myself, I would be more efficient, but this shadow that hangs over me about teaching.

There is something so odd about this. I see the others as free people, allowed to do as they wish, but I have apparently received a special directive according to which I do not have the same latitude or capabilities.



Filed under Noticias, What Is A Scholar?

More girlfriends of César Vallejo

Clinically speaking, I think Vallejo may have suffered from an anxiety disorder. The conditions of his life exacerbated this. He put a great deal of effort into riding it out and calming down, and strove toward breakthrough moments of feeling happy and well. In the era of living with Henriette the menu was boiled potatoes with salt and red wine. He seems to have taken all sorts of drugs, including ether and pasta básica de cocaína. He talks about heroin and other drugs and medicines in his poems.

The stormy relationships with the girlfriends also bespeak some sort of attachment disorder and his friends appear to have felt it too. Neither Georgette nor Larrea could let him go and they fought over him long after his death. Also, if one is to be interested in the circumstances of his life, I would like to know the logistics of spending whole nights with these underage and correctly brought up girls, in Trujillo and Lima in the 1910s. How was this arranged?

Here is a 1999 biography and commentary. Clearly I did not pay enough attention to Espejo Asturrizaga when I read him, or I was looking for other things in his book, but this book uses him and he apparently answers a lot of the questions I have thought of since deciding to play by creating the character César Vallejo, the rake. I had just been thinking wickedly, Vallejo’s women problems must have to do with Catholicism. Evidently I am far from the first to think so.

In any case Vallejo, says Raúl Torres Martínez, is a cholo and a migrant and in this way he is primordially Peruvian. This book, while not at all earth shaking looks fairly good, as it starts by pointing out that both Vallejo’s writing and his life are hard to read and have thus lent themselves to highly speculative readings not necessarily well anchored in reality. I saw an article a few years ago which postulated that Vallejo tried to project himself as a kind of optical illusion.

This book also says he had “ancestral” sentiments, which indicates you can in fact have these (it is a belief in Peru, as we know from that film by Claudia Llosa, but I think it is possible generally). As a child he was like the Ernesto character in Los ríos profundos, subject to variable emotions, and throughout life he was always capable of joking and bonhomie even though as an adult, he lived under the sign of sadness. He could dance huaynos and more. He is “the Van Gogh of poets,” it has been said. (13)

Continuing on, I see this book is quite worth reading for a review of information and for good sense; although not ground breaking, it is well researched. I am skipping ahead to the section on women. As we know, he ended up with Georgette and the reason for it was gender roles and sex. (122) Torres Martínez next talks about amour-passion and its relationship to sadomasochism. Espejo said Vallejo suffered and caused suffering. He had these submissive young girlfriends and he was demanding, jealous and cruel.

According to Espejo he was emotionally unstable because he had been raised in this strict Catholic environment and was also spoiled by his mother and sisters (he was the youngest of 11). When Zoila Rosa broke up with him he, high on ether, put a revolver to his head, pulling the trigger. There was only one bullet in it and it was not in the right chamber, and he did not try again. And now I am foiled since this is a Google book and the selection ends on page 126, when there are actually 300 pages.



Filed under Noticias, Poetry