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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 “December 16, 2012”

Quotes from Paul Johnson’s Book

I have not repented of my decision to read Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People. Here are some quotes from the text that I find very enlightening:

“The Puritans did not exactly insist that poverty was a sign of wickedness. But there was a general assumption that the godly flourished and that if a man persistently failed to prosper—or if financial catastrophe suddenly struck him—it was because he did not, for some reason, enjoy God’s favor. This idea was very potent and passed into the mainstream of American social consciousness.”

I have no idea how correct this is, but it is the best explanation I have found this far to the mystery of Jesus as Regan’s sidekick.

And the following quote, while not unexpected, reminds us of the deep roots of the trade in mail-order brides (this outdated term should be changed to online-purchase brides):

“The year 1619 was significant for three reasons. In order to make the Virginia colony more attractive to settlers, the company sent out a ship carrying ninety young, unmarried women. Any of the bachelor colonists could purchase one as a wife simply by paying her cost of transportation, set at 125 pounds of tobacco.”

Jokes aside, the following is a very interesting insight:

“The financing, however, was right: this was a speculative company investment, in which individuals put their cash into a joint stock to furnish and equip the expedition, and reinforce it. The crown had nothing to do with the money side to begin with. Over the years, this method of financing plantations turned out to be the best one and is one reason why the English colonies in America proved eventually so successful and created such a numerous and solidly based community: capitalism, financed by private individuals and the competitive money-market, was there from the start.”

Of course, no other field of knowledge is as heavy on ideology as history. Every history textbook I have ever seen forces the reader to dig for hours to find a few scraps of actual information under the mountains of the author’s ideological pronouncements. This is precisely why I will be reading both a deeply Conservative and a heavily Liberal accounts. Paul Johnson, at least, recognizes from the start that he speaks from a certain political platform and doesn’t try to conceal that fact.

This is fun already, folks!

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Answers to the Contest, Part I

OK, folks, I have finally managed to get some sleep and I’m back to blogging. Here are the answers to the most recent questions in our “How well do you know Clarissa” contest.

1. Career choice. Many of you said correctly that my father suggested that I learn Spanish. However, he didn’t suggest I choose Hispanic Studies as a career because he – like everybody in my country – had no idea such a career existed.

I got the idea of choosing Hispanic Studies as a career because I really loved one of these endless Colombian soap operas that had become so popular in the FSU countries during the early nineties. I was always very successful academically but I knew it wasn’t really my achievement. My father had made great sacrifices to ensure that I spoke good English. This was what fed me back in Ukraine and what made me feel successful.

Still, I kept wondering whether I would have amounted to anything on my own, whether I would be as successful without my father’s help. This is why I decided to find a career where I would start from scratch and even be at a disadvantage compared to my competitors.

The Colombian soap opera showed to me that there was an entire world, a culture, a language that I knew absolutely nothing about. I was so ignorant of Hispanic culture that I hadn’t read a single line of Spanish literature. I had read extensively of British, German, French, American, hell, even Australian literature. My knoweldge of the Hispanic world, however, was absolutely and completely non-existent. This would ensure that the experiment I wanted to conduct was done right. I needed a field which was entirely new to me but which I would be able to love.

When I tell people this story and mention that emigrating to Canada and taking my entire family with me was the first stage of this experiment, they think I’m a raving lunatic. The experiment was quite successful, though, as you can see.

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