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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 11, 2011”

>I Don’t Like Reading Spanish Literature

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It is a very paradoxical state of affairs where I like reading Spanish literature so much that it gets to the point where I don’t like reading it. Most of the other literature in the world (including Latin American), I can at least try simply to enjoy. However, the moment I open a book from Spain, my brain immediately goes into overdrive.
How does this work of literature inscribe itself into my critical understanding of the time period? Do I need to modify my perception of era, of the writer, of the genre? What will be my own reading of this book? How can I connect it to the entire oeuvre of this author? What type of narrator do I see in this work? What does this tell me? Have I seen this writer move towards this type of narrator in a previous novel? What was it that critic A said about the XYZ subject and can it be related to this work of literature? Who is this politician / writer / painter that is mentioned on page 17? How come I don’t know them? When will I order books about them? Where have I seen this metaphor already? What does it mean that I’m encountering it in this text? Why are the chapters named this way (not named, numbered, etc.)?
And it goes on and on forever. Of course, after reading a single 300-page novel, I feel like I’ve been lugging sacks of flour around. 
Just as I cannot turn off the feminist in me, I cannot turn off the literary critic. How do people turn off their professional identities and just relax?
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>Mike Was Right!

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This is why I love blogging, people. As soon as I published my plans for the summer vacations, readers started writing in with useful advice. I’m still very unfamiliar with the US geography and am likely to become completely lost. Mike, a fellow blogger and a resident of Florida, suggested that travelling to Tampa will turn out to be much cheaper than going to Daytona Beach instead. 
So I did some research, and, of course, it turns out that Mike was completely right. I found a much higher quality hotel in Tampa for $350 less. So, of course, that’s where we are going. I’m very happy.
Thank you, Mike! I owe you a huge drink.

>Transformations of Patriarchal Families

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Just like societies at large, families also have to go through the painful process of liberating themselves from the shackles of the patriarchy. In a patriarchal family, each family member belongs, first an foremost, to the group, the clan, the community. In the countries and epochs where resources are so scarce that an individual cannot survive on his or her own, there is no choice but to abandon any claim to individual preferences, desires, or goals. The family will offer you the security of knowing that you will never be abandoned to fend for yourself, that your clan will always be there to rescue you and offer assistance whenever you need it. In return, however, you will renounce your individuality, your personal space, your difference.
However, when resources become less scarce, the protection that the patriarchal family offers loses its value. People start wondering why they need to castrate their individuality for the sake of the family if that family isn’t offering anything all that useful in return. The greatest family tragedies occur when some family members are trying to loosen the ties and assert their individuality, while those who remain shackled to their patriarchal model are hurt and bewildered by this development. 

>More on XIXth Century Female Characters

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One of the most common responses that female characters of the XIXth century novels of growth and development have to being abandoned by their beloved, humiliated by acquaintances and rejected by family members is to seek employment. Even Fernan Caballero’s goody-two-shoes character Gracia Vargas says, “I have hands, I can work” and rejects a former fiance who comes back to her in favor of independence and security (these are the actual words she uses) that work provides for her. Fernan Caballero was one of the most rabid conservatives of her times. She reminds me of Ann Coulter whenever I read her novels. Even she, however, created female characters who see work outside the home as a panacea for all women’s problems.
There is nothing even remotely resembling this attitude among female characters of Bildungsromane published in the last three decades. What happens is the exact opposite. In Espido Freire’s Irlanda, the main character murders her cousin who tells her that a woman can acquire power by becoming an executive or a banker. Freire is a young, quite progressive writer. She is no Fernan Caballero, and I’m sure that she is no fan of Ann Coulter either. And still, the very idea of having a life outside the home drives her character into a murderous rage.
I only discussed these two writers here but there are many more who do the same thing both in the XIXth and the XXth century. (And not only in Spain, of course.)

>The Place I’m Considering for the Summer Vacation

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It’s in Daytona Beach. Cool, huh?
Of course, I’d much rather go to the Dominican Republic. But this looks very beautiful, too.
The best way to rest for me is to lie stupidly on the beach while staring at the sky and possibly even drooling. I also tend to read a lot of Žižek on the beach, so expect a lot of reviews. 

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