Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Archive for the day “May 3, 2011”


>One of the things that made me especially happy when I discovered that I was only going to teach in Spanish this semester was the certainty that I would not have to hear about "affects" during the semester. I am so tired of reading essays titled "Affects of the Spanish Civil War on Spain" that this was going to be a welcome change indeed.

I really misjudged my students, however. Their love for the "affects" is so profound that they brought them to Spanish. Now I'm reading about "las afectas" (yes, feminine, although God only knows why) of the Spanish Civil War and feel like banging my head against the desk.

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Romantic or Not?

So here is a story for you. A man and a woman get married after a very long engagement. She can’t get pregnant for a while, and the husband gets distraught because he needs to have a child to prove his masculinity. Finally, the wife gets pregnant and the husband rejoices.

Over the years, they have 8 more kids. The wife adores them all, but the husband doesn’t even remember the birthdays of any of the kids (except the first one who proved his masculinity). Giving birth to all these kids and taking care of them changed the wife’s body. She is not as thin as she used to be, and there are now a few wrinkles on her face. So the husband loses interest and starts walking around all miserable because his wife is not 20 anymore. Obviously, the husband didn’t get any younger either over the years. None of that matters to the wife, however, who loves him as much as ever.

One day, the wife catches the husband kissing a picture and suspects that he is in love with another woman. It turns out, however, that he is kissing the portrait of her from 20 years ago, when she looked young and fresh. The wife is delighted, they kiss and make up.

This is the plot of a short story by Miguel de Unamuno. I have bored you with this because I’m trying to figure out what it says about my students that they unanimously categorized this as “the most romantic story ever” and loved it more than any other text we read in our course because of its “happy ending.”

>Quevedo versus JRJ

>A student analyzed poetry by Quevedo and Juan Ramon Jimenez and arrived at a conclusion that the main difference between these poets (oh, how I love essays that list differences between authors separated by centuries!) is that Quevedo's vocabulary is "simple and consists mostly of popular words anybody would recognize" while JRJ's vocabulary is complex and sophisticated.


Is there a parallel universe out there with a completely different version of Quevedo and JRJ?

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>Will Nationalism in Quebec Ever Succeed?


I just found this curious post attempting to explain why Quebec nationalism will never be successful:

Quebec nationalism, though providing important moments of revolutionary struggle (i.e. the Front de Libération du Québec), was by-and-large a false revolutionary nationalism.  While it is true that the francophone sovereigntist struggle emerged in response to anglo-chauvinism, it was still the product of a nation of losing colonizers.  The French arrived to settle, enslave, and genocide this hemisphere’s indigenous population––just like the English––they just happened to lose a colonial war and become a nation of subjugated colonizers.  Even when they were under the economic domination of the Anglophones, they remained a parasitic settler-colonial nation: they would send their police to smash indigenous resistance, their sovereigntism was most often a denial of anti-colonial struggle because the only national struggle it recognized was a struggle of settlers.  And this nationalism is, to paraphrase Fanon and Cesaire, ultimately nothing more than “a war amongst brothers.” . . . Hopefully the Bloc’s humiliating defeat in these recent federal elections will finally exorcise the ghost of that predatory nationalism that has lingered over the mass graves of indigenous peoples since its emergence.

We are used to nationalism being glorified by Conservatives of every ilk. Jingoism is one of the favorite Conservative pastimes, as we all know. You want to get people to die enthusiastically and for free? Nothing achieves that goal better than waving around a piece of painted fabric.
Here, however, we see a leftist blogger provide an extremely romanticized vision of nationalism. The right to nationalism, according to this blogger, has to be deserved. There are “pure” nationalisms based on the “legitimate” possession of the lands the nation claims as its own. Such nations have to be able to lay claim to struggles, persecutions and exploitations because without them they will never be pure enough to merit their own nationalism. These nationalisms that have cleansed themselves in the purifying ritual of true persecution can be applauded and supported in their nationalists struggles. This pure ideal, however, can be sullied easily by illegitimate nationalisms who take the sacred name of the nation in vain. Their claim to the lands and to the history attached to these lands is illegitimate. Their record of suffering is not nearly strong enough to put them on the same level with the kinds of nationalism that have proven their worth.
Of course, this is all bunk. There is no dichotomy of “legitimate” versus “illegitimate” nationalisms. A nation is always an “invented community,” a myth. No amount of research will be able to prove definitively who was where first and whose possession of which lands is “rightful.” A nationalism will either win or lose not on the basis of whether its claims are “righteous”, but, rather, based on whether it will be able to make its myth attractive enough to a significant number of people. How much truth goes into the myth of a nation is completely immaterial.
It is curious how people of seemingly different political persuasions use the same rhetoric to decry the evils of “false” nationalisms and exalt the redeeming features of the “true” ones. In the above-mentioned quote, the author attempts to disqualify Quebecois nationalism by mentioning the mass graves left by the French colonizers on the territories that the Francophones of today see as their homeland. It is self-evident, of course, that nowhere in the world will you be able to find a nationalism without its own share of mass graves and genocides. As Zygmunt Bauman pointed out in Liquid Modernity, a community cannot be constituted without an act of violence that would lie in its origins.
It might seem very progressive and even revolutionary to range nationalisms by the order of their presumed legitimacy. However, all such efforts achieve is a reaffirmation of nationalism as a pure and romantic ideal. A critique of nationalism as an ideological construct would be a truly subversive act. However, it would knock one of the most useful tools of manipulation out of the hands of both Conservatives and Liberals.

>Why Students Went Nuts Over Osama’s Death


My blogroll is filled with posts analyzing why students in particular engaged in very tasteless displays of glee over Osama bin Laden being killed. Most of the explanations, as you can see from this post, are an exercise in inanity.  The authors of these weird explanations prefer to blabber about OJ Simpson’s trial instead of looking at today’s unemployment rate among young people. These kids are graduating from high schools and colleges only to realize how grim their prospects are. Unemployment, underemployment, crappy part-time jobs and living in your parents’ basement for years to come – these are their main prospects. Students who are graduating from my university either can find no jobs at all or are offered ridiculous salaries of 10-12K per year. We keep hearing that the post-recession reality we are living today is “the new normal,” and we should just get used to it.
So is there any wonder that these kids chose to release these tensions that must be bothering them every day in this way?

>Happy Birthday, My Love!


>Conservatives Win in Canada

>Here is what the election results look at this point:

Even though the outcome is obvious, you can still consult the updated numbers here.

Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the Canadian Liberals, is so unappealing as a politician that he managed to drag his party down to the third place. The second place is now firmly occupied by the NDP. For those of you who do not follow Canadian politics, if Ralph Nader could organize a viable political party in the US, it would be the American version of the Canadian NDP. 
What the results of this election tell us is that Canadian progressives are an overwhelming majority in the country. At this point, their vote is split between the old and corrupt Liberals and the new and hopeful NDP. Today’s victory of the Conservatives is not a victory at all, in my opinion. This is the very last chance they get to grab for power. Soon, the progressives will get their shit together and take our country back. And if you want to tell me otherwise, do it on some other day. Today, I’ve got to believe this.

>Liberal Sexism


This is the kind of nasty, extremely sexist post that gives all Liberals a bad name. Right now, I’m completely ashamed to be on the same side of the political fence as somebody who wrote this atrocity:

Boy this last 24 to 48 hours have not been very kind to poor Sarah Palin. . . Then you send out a bitter, and clearly insincere tweet (and follow upFacebook post), in which you thank the troops for killing Osama Bin Laden while denying any credit to the Commander in Chief, which once again identifies you as a hateful, immature attention whore, and which receives richly deserved  condemnation from all over the blogosphereAnd just when you believed that things could NOT get any worse, somebody posts a picture of you on the Internet with food stains (At least we hope they’re food stains!) ALL over your expensive outfit. Okay I don’t want to start any unnecessary rumors, but exactly what was on the menu at that Vanity Fair after party? 

This just makes me want to vomit all over that inexpensive blog. People who have been around my site for a while know that I have been consistently critical of Sarah Palin and have expressed my criticism in very harsh terms. However, calling a person a whore and making ridiculously stupid suggestions about stains on her outfit is simply not right. This is sexism, and I don’t give a rat’s behind where it comes from. It’s just so sad that wherever you turn, you find some sexist shit like this. 
I am very disgusted right now.

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