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Clarissa's Blog

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

Archive for the day “May 4, 2011”

>Just One More (Sorry!)

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I thought we had reached the pinnacle of stupidity with Melibea prostituting herself to feed her father. But no, the real culmination to the course has been reached in another essay which informed me that Juan y Juana of Miguel de Unamuno’s short story “Al correr los años” are a typical North American family. 
This reminds me of this old joke where a professor asks the class, “Do you have any questions before we proceed to write the final exam?” “Yes,” a student says. “What is the name of this course?”
The name of our course was Survey of Spanish Literature. I have no idea what kind of a weird mental perversion could have led anybody to assume that Unamuno’s Juan and Juana were North American.
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>What Melibea and Lazarillo Have in Common

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I know that those of my readers who are not Hispanists must be sick and tired of this kind of posts, but I have only four final essays more to grade, and then I promise that no more posts like this one will appear. I simply need to share this with my colleagues because otherwise I will explode.
A student just informed me that Melibea and Lazarillo de Tormes have a lot in common. For example, they both have to make a living by prostituting themselves. When Melibea’s father discovers that his daughter has been selling her body to put food on their table (sic!), he becomes distraught. Lazarillo, in the meanwhile, sells sexual favors to a blind man AND to his mother’s new husband.
Of course, there are also some differences between these works of literature. For instance, La Celestina belongs to the Romanticism while Lazarillo de Tormes is a Realist PLAY. 
Now, a question for everybody. Is this student doing this just to bug me? This cannot possibly be written in earnest, right? Right?

>On Commenting on This Blog

>Several questions have come up recently as to the commenting policy on this blog, so I decided to address them all at once in a separate post.

1. The reason why I moderate comments is not because I want to censor people ideologically or anything like that. There is simply too much spam and I'm trying to weed it out. Before I enabled moderation, there were several threads that were practically hijacked by spammers. I'm afraid that if I don't prevent the spam from appearing, regular readers will be discouraged from posting comments. If there are seven comments peddling lawnmowers or mail-order brides in a row, a reader who has something valuable to contribute might not want to publish their comment after them. Just the fact that moderation exists prevents many spammers from attempting to post their rubbish.

2. A few people have complained that their comments failed to be published. The only reason for this that I can think of is that Blogger must have eaten them. Believe me, no matter how much I disagree with you, I will never delete your comment unless it contains some really egregious insults to me or my family (thank God, there hasn't been anything like that for a while) or some outlandishly racist or anti-Semitic slurs.
3. Since my blog is becoming so "massively popular" (and doesn't it feel good to write this!) it becomes difficult to answer every single comment. I still read every single one of them but sometimes it makes sense to let people who have more to say on the subject answer specific comments.

4. As to emails that people send to this blog's address, if I failed to answer your email, this means that Hotmail placed it in the Junk folder. It would be great if people wrote the word "Blog" in the subject line of their emails because this way it would be easier for me to spot them and rescue them from the junk. If I have seen your email, there is no way that I will not answer it. It takes a while to answer blog-related mail each day (once again, massively popular here), but I get such amazing emails from people that I never begrudge the time to respond. I especially love it when students from all over the world write to ask for advice or share their thoughts. I'm also very grateful to people who send in interesting links and blogging suggestions.

Thank you, everybody, for reading, commenting, and writing in!

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>Google Reader Is Just Weird

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I tried getting used to the Google Reader, but it’s just weird, people. It keeps recommending blogs of Russian-speaking immigrant from all over the world to me. I only follow 2 Russian-language blogs out of 235, and I really don’t enjoy being put into a box with Russian-speaking immigrants as if I had nothing else to offer to humanity. 
I wonder if Google Reader only recommends my blog to other Russian-speaking immigrants. If so, then I shouldn’t expect any regular readers from that source. This is obviously not my audience. V. and el are my only readers who belong in that group, and both of them are quite exceptional. I also have 2 readers from Russia and zero from Ukraine. Which just goes to show how relevant my people find me. 

>Teaching Regrets

>As I read the final exams and essays in my literature course, I come to realize that there are things I should have said but failed to do so because it simply never occurred to me that this needed to be pointed out explicitly. For instance, I should have stated clearly (and made the students write it down) that if today somebody writes a novel or makes a movie about, say, the Renaissance, that novel and that movie will not be Renaissance works of art.

In class, we discussed at length a literary movement called tremendismo that was popular in the post-Civil War Spain. Now, whenever students see a film or read a work of literature that came out very recently and that have anything to do with the post-war Spain, they immediately classify it as tremendista and engage in very earnest searches for evidence proving that these recent works belong to a movement that has been dead for decades.

I guess it's too late to send out an email to all the students explaining things I somehow didn't manage to bring across in class.

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>Choosing a Topic for a Doctoral Dissertation

>A friend is choosing a topic for his doctoral dissertation and asked for advice.

"You should base both the topic and the texts you decide to analyze on passion. Whatever it is that you feel really passionate about will make a great topic," I said. "Remember that you will have to live and breathe this dissertation for at least two years. Unless you choose a topic that makes you light up, you run the risk of getting sick and tired of it long before you are finished."

"The main problem I have," the friend shared, "is that the texts I choose either have too much written about them or too little, so I keep eliminating them."

I always believed that choosing texts you will spend the next few years poring over dozens of times on the basis of what other people did or didn't do with them was a mistake. It's pretty much the same as being guided in your choice of a romantic partner by how many people expressed an interest in this person in the past. "She had many boyfriends, so she probably has no love left in her" and "nobody wanted this guy before, so why should I?" are sentiments that we attribute to very immature people.

It works exactly the same with analyzing works of art, in my opinion. This summer I'm planning to write an article on Leopoldo Alas's novel La Regenta. This is one of the most famous works of Spanish literature. Volumes of criticism have been written about it. However, that doesn't scare me at all. I don't believe that even a thousand years from now humanity will be able to exhaust everything that this great work of literature has to offer. Literature is so great precisely because it changes whenever it comes into contact with yet another thinking, critical reader.

If you really love a work of literature and spend enough time articulating your own reading of it, you will always be able to come up with something new and interesting to say about it. The meaning of a true work of art can never be exhausted. Only our own critical capacities can.

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>Blogger Is Messing With My Routine

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As I mentioned before, it always takes me a very long time to become fully functional after I wake up. This is why, for example, I always get up at 6 am (in spite of being the opposite of a morning person) whenever I have to teach at 9:30. I have a routine all worked out that helps me get into a fully awake mode. I get up, have a cup of coffee, scroll down my blogroll to see what people have been blogging about. When I find a post title that sounds interesting, I follow the link, read it and often comment. (This is why people who don’t give titles to their posts don’t get many visits from me.)
For the last two days, though, Blogger has been acting up. I think that some changes are being introduced to it, and this always messes with Blogger’s functionality. As a result, it’s been informing me that my blogroll is empty and suggesting that I add some blogs that I’d like to follow. So now I have to use Google Reader to access the 235 blogs I follow. I don’t like Google Reader much because many people place their entire (often extremely lengthy) posts in there instead of hiding everything but the first paragraph under the break. I’m sure they don’t mean to be annoying and just simply don’t know that this is something that needs to be done. 
I just hope that Blogger goes back to normal soon. If you use Blogger, are you experiencing the same issues with the blogs you follow?

>What Is Communism?

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The following dialogue took place in both sections of my literature course.
Me: This philosopher says that the masses are stupid. In his opinion, the masses are incapable of governing themselves, which is why every society needs a strong governing minority that will direct and guide the stupid masses. How would you characterize the political stance of this philosopher?
Students (in unison): He is a Communist!
Me (baffled): No, actually such views belong on the opposite end of the political spectrum. If we have Communism on the far left, then which political system belongs on the far right?
Students (in unison): Socialism!
Those pesky Communists and Socialists seem to have colonized the entire political spectrum in my students’ opinion.

>A Change to Post Reactions

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In case you haven’t noticed, I have changed the options for reactions to the post. You can now choose between “funny,” “interesting,” “boring,” “appalling,” and “stupid.” It seemed unfair to me that there were no negative reactions available. It looked as if I were fishing for compliments or something.
If you think that my posts could use another reaction, feel free to leave a suggestion. I can’t think of anything at the moment, but would be willing to introduce changes if enough people want them.

>A Dreamy Toilet

>I first saw this amazing toilet at the Womanist Musings blog and I just had to share it with my readers. Isn’t it the craziest thing ever? I hear it costs $6,400.

Yes, it’s insanely frivolous, but isn’t it just dreamy? I’ve graded all but 5 of my final essays, so I deserve to be frivolous for a change.

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