Clarissa's Blog

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

Archive for the day “May 17, 2011”

>Literary Characters Versus Real People

For years, my thesis adviser kept telling me, “Clarissa, these are not real people you are discussing. These are characters. You are not analyzing historical accounts or ideological manifestos but works of art.” I had no idea what she was trying to tell me and kept getting annoyed.

And then I started reading criticism on female novel of development and realized that the following argument keeps being offered by the critics who write on the subject: “Novels reflect reality. The reality of women in the 19th century was that they were miserable, stunted, and oppressed. After the women’s liberation movements achieved important successes in the 1970ies, women became liberated, happy and a lot less oppressed. Ergo, novels about women written in the 19th century will be populated by oppressed, miserable female characters who are incapable of developing. After the 1970ies, novels will show crowds of happy, fulfilled female protagonists.”
When you start reading actual female Bildungsromane, you discover that both novels and reality are a lot more complex than such facile definitions allow us to imagine. These works of fiction do not conform to the critical expectations in the least. Often, they present the exact opposite of what the above-mentioned argument leads us to expect.
This is probably the rule of literary criticism that it took me the longest to learn: characters are not real people.

>A Helpful Insight From a Fellow Blogger


It is uncanny how helpful reading blogs can be to a person. I’ve been putting off the moment when I will stop looking for more and more and ever more sources for a new chapter I want to add to my book and will finally start writing. The search for sources took so long that I have now completely forgotten what I read in the sources that I had found at the beginning of this protracted search. When the summer holidays began, I decided to inaugurate them with yet another search for sources. In the meanwhile, I kept congratulating myself on how hard-working and productive I was being.
And then, as I was browsing through some older entries on one of my favorite blogs, I saw a very short post that seemed to be directed at me personally. It said something like this, “Stop reading already. You have read everything you need on your topic. Now just start writing.” 
“Hmm,” I thought. “This kind of makes sense.” So this morning I woke up early and finally started writing. And I already have 491 words in my new chapter. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s more than I had written during all that time I was searching for sources.
I’m thinking of ordering a poster with this beautiful insight and sticking it in front of my desk. These three short sentences probably encompass the best piece of advice one can give to any academic.

The Demise of the Soap Opera

The genre of the soap opera is facing an inevitable death. Soap operas that have run for decades are being cancelled. ABC recently announced the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. Guiding Light, my favorite soap opera, was slashed in 2009. (Notice the date, it’s important.) As the World Turns was killed by CBS last Fall. There are rumors that even General Hospital is about to be replaced with a Katie Couric show.

If you look at the time-frame of these massive cancellations of soap operas, you will see that they are very obviously linked to the economic crisis that hit this country in 2008. The crisis hit industries that have traditionally been dominated by men the hardest. As a result, men who can afford a full-time housewife have become few and far between. I blogged before about the fact that, paradoxically, this crisis might end up being a positive development in terms of women’s rights. Historically, the greatest pushes towards women’s liberation came during moments of crisis. World War I brought women into the workplace and led them to demand the right to vote even more insistently than before. The turbulent sixties in the US inspired the women’s liberation movement to fight against the patriarchy and finally defeat it an many important aspects. The collapse of the Soviet Union made Soviet women discover the word feminism and generate an interest towards it.

As the demise of the soap genre demonstrates, women who can be sure of always being at home in the afternoon with little enough to do but watch soaps are disappearing. More and more women are finally getting outside of their kitchens and into the workforce. While one might want to dismiss the cancellation of the soaps as a trivial event, it is evidence of profound transformations that are taking place in our society. Žižek loves quoting Mao Zedong’s words: “There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent.” As traumatic as this crisis have been, it has done a lot to push women towards freedom.

Google Books on Kindle

In case you have also been taken in by Google’s stories about how you can’t read Google Books on Kindle, I have great news for you: it’s simply not true. For some weird reason, I kept believing Google’s claims and never checked it out for myself. Now, I finally decided to look into it and discovered that Google lies like a college administrator. Converting Google Books that come in e-pub format to Kindle’s MOBI format is extremely easy and completely free.

All you need to do is download Calibre (for free) from here, install it, and it will convert all your e-pub Google Books to the Kindle format in the matter of minutes. Then, you can either have the program send the converted books to your Kindle by e-mail, or just download them to the Kindle yourself via your USB cord. It’s beyond simple, people.
I just downloaded three XIXth century Spanish novels that my library couldn’t get for me for love or money. Did I mention how I adore my Kindle?

Funny 2

Another hilarious comment from my husband.

We are walking around the neighborhood and, once again, a nasty little dog runs up to me and starts barking its head off.

“And that’s a nasty, horrible part of the American dream,” my supportive spouse says.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


After reading on my Twitter what President Obama’s wealth amounts to, I decided to share this knowledge with my husband.

“Can you guess how much money Obama has?” I asked him.



“Well, that depends on whether he has a huge mortgage on his house,” he responded completely seriously.

P.S. The number I saw in the tweet in question was $3.8 million.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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