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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 9, 2011”

>XIXth-Century Female Literature in Spain

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As I’m disinterring XIXth-century novels by authors like Patrocinio Biedma, Faustina Sáez de Melgar, Ana García del Espinar, Blanca de los Ríos de Lampérez, Adela Sánchez Cantos de Escobar, Pilar Sinués del Marco and Ángela Grassi, I realize, first of all, that we have no idea just how much women writers produced in the XIX century and how incredibly popular their novels were. The canon hasn’t treated them kindly or, in my opinion, at all fairly. Another thing that I’m realizing is that our vision of what women were like in that era is quite simplistic and limited. Even the vilified (and rightfully so) concept of the Angel in the House is more complex than what we often believe. 
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>Yet Another Instance of Hatred Towards Women by Ultra-Ortodox Jews

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We keep being told that Israel needs to be supported over Palestine because if Palestinians are ever granted independence, their treatment of women will be barbaric. That is undoubtedly true. Israel’s attitude to women, however, is just as hateful and demeaning. The gall of the Haredim woman-haters is such as to allow them to erase female leaders from press release photos. 
This is how the photo initially looked
And this is the sanitized version
with the images of Hillary Clinton and Audrey Thomason
photoshopped out
I don’t want to hear anybody come here to screech about the so-called religious sensibilities of the nasty freakazoids who insulted women in this way. If they find the photo hurtful to their fanatical feelings, they could have avoided publishing it altogether. However, in our Western Civilization women now play an important role in all areas of existence. It is extremely insulting to have our reality that we worked hard to create being manipulated in this way to satisfy a bunch of miserable woman-haters.
Today, on the anniversary of the USSR’s victory over the Nazi Germany, I want to remind my Jewish brothers and sisters that a very short time ago somebody also found their very existence insulting and attempted to erase them all from existence. 

>Blogs of Note

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So I have finally figured out how Blogger selects blogs to promote under the heading of “Blogs of Note” (which makes one’s number of hits go through the roof.) It isn’t about popularity, or having many followers and/or comments. Some of the “Blogs of Note” don’t seem to have any readers whatsoever before they get promoted by Blogger. The quality of the text doesn’t matter either because many of them have no text.
Turns out it’s all about pictures, people. The blogs that get promoted are the ones that have a crazy number of photos in each post. If there is nothing but photos (usually of quite low quality), then better yet. Which means that my blog has no chance of being promoted by Blogger because I have filled it with text and not with photos of my old slippers and dirty makeup brushes. 
I kind of feel resentful about this.

>Eduardo Mendoza’s Riña de gatos. Madrid 1936: A Review

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There has been a veritable flurry of very long novels about the Civil War published by the leading Spanish writers in the past couple of years. Almudena Grandes is even planning an entire series of such novels. She has already published two, El corazón helado (very good) and Inés y la alegría (a review will appear on this blog shortly). Also of note is Antonio Muñoz Molina’s La noche de los tiempos, which is as long as it is enjoyable. 

The reason why so many authors in Spain still write about the Civil War at great length is that the trauma of the war was never fully healed. Decades of a fascist dictatorship followed the defeat of the Republicans in the war. After Franco’s death, one of the characteristics of Spain’s transition to democracy was (as usually happens with countries that emerge from long and repressive authoritarian regimes) to try to forget the war. No persecution and punishment of war criminals took place. People who fought against each other, the victims and the executioners were expected to start living peacefully side by side pretending that no Civil War and no dictatorship had ever taken place. This approach was obviously doomed to failure. Spanish writers today are trying to heal the trauma of the Civil War by talking about all of its aspects at length. This is something that Spanish society definitely needs. Great novels come out as a result, which is an added bonus.

Eduardo Mendoza decided to participate in this trend with his recent novel Riña de gatos. Madrid 1936. Mendoza’s approach to exorcising the ghosts of the Civil War is different from that of many other writers. Riña de gatos turns the tragic months preceding the beginning of the war in the summer of 1936 into a burlesque. Laughter has the power to heal trauma and bridge even the most profound differences. Mendoza brings to the pages of his new novel José Antonio Primo de Rivera (the leader of the Spanish fascists), generals Francisco Franco and Queipo de Llano  (who are plotting a  military uprising against the Republic, an uprising we all know will be successful and cause untold horrors to the country), Niceto Alcalá Zamora (the first president of the Second Spanish Republic) and Manuel Azaña (who will become the last president of the Republic.) All of these historic figures are placed in situations that make them look homey, non-threatening and slightly ridiculous.

The plot of the novel revolves around Anthony Whitelands, a British art critic, who comes to Spain to authenticate a painting that was supposedly created by Velázquez. As the hapless Brit boozes and whores his way through the Madrid of the spring of 1936, his activities attract the attention of competing political factions that would like to get their hands on the painting. A genuine Velázquez could pay for a lot of weapons and help the group that manages to lay its hands on the painting win the approaching war. Soon, Anthony Whitelands finds himself being torn between offers of friendship from the charming fascist José Antonio Primo de Rivera, sexual advances of sex-crazed countesses, demands of an underage prostitute, manipulations of British and German spies and threats from a Soviet conspirator named Kolia.

When I first started reading the novel, I opened it in a suitably somber mood that I believed was appropriate when reading about events as painful as those of the pre-war months in Spain. By the end of the novel, however, I was beating my head against the desk in laughter. I’ve read several reviews of Riña de gatos. Madrid 1936 and realized that many of the readers didn’t manage to escape from the weight of gravitas that usually accompanies the discussions of the Spanish Civil War. If one were to let go completely of the doom and gloom attitude to the war, one would realize that Mendoza’s novel is extremely funny. This writer is known for subverting the readers’ expectations and this is exactly what he does in his new novel.

>Disclosing Asperger’s at Work

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A reader sent in the following questions:

 If you’ve ever been in a work situation where your Aspie qualities affected your performance, did you disclose? Do people treat you differently when they know? What are the pros/cons of disclosing?

To be honest, the question of disclosing is a little moot for me. Initially, I wasn’t planning to share it with anybody except, maybe, a very close friend at work. However, now it turns out that everybody knows about my supposedly anonymous blog and reads it. Which must mean that everybody knows about the Asperger’s. On the positive side, the very fact of being an Aspie makes it impossible for me to perceive whether people treat me differently because of it or not. An inability to gauge people’s non-verbal reactions is one of the characteristics of Asperger’s. Unless somebody comes up to me and says, “Since I read in your blog that you have Asperger’s, I treat you differently,” I’m not going to have a clue. 
Of course, Asperger’s affects my performance at work. It does so in both negative and positive ways. To give an example, service to the academic community that includes socializing with people I don’t know and don’t care about tires me a lot more than any other activity under the sun. Maybe I could use Asperger’s to have my service requirement pared down to something more manageable. However, Asperger’s also makes it much easier for me to do research, prepare classes, and grade. Obviously, I don’t want everybody’s grading to be dumped on me. This is why I don’t do anything specific to bring Asperger’s into the work context. 
I don’t think there can be one hard and fast rule on whether to disclose or not. Work environments, bosses and colleagues differ greatly. I don’t think that anybody has an obligation to mention it unless they really feel like it. If there are certain things we don’t do very well because of Asperger’s, there are many others that we do a lot better than anybody else. This, I believe, is an important thing to remember in the context of Asperger’s, whether we are talking about the work environment or personal relationships.

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