Counter-Intuitive

For six years I have lived with N. and I still haven’t figured his logic when it comes to placing dishes in cabinets after he washes them. I just spent 15 minutes hunting for my juice pitcher only to discover that he believes it should be kept in the same place where glasses are. OK, maybe that makes sense but it was literally the last place I looked. I even looked in the freezer before opening that cabinet.

I’m making apple and dragon fruit juice. It isn’t that I think they go together well. I simply have to get rid of everything that can spoil before we leave on Thursday.

Hard-Core Literature Course

I can’t wait for students to start registering for the next semester because I have developed this really hardcore literature course and I’m worried that not enough people will want to take it. We have this departmental culture that is based on the idea that students don’t like literature, that literature is too hard for them, and that they don’t want to take anything but language courses. A course in the XVIIIth-century Spanish Drama sounds hard, and it will be hard. I made no effort to make it sound sexy. There are no hobbits, goblins, sci-fi elements, or anything of the kind.

The course will be even harder than it sounds. A ton of reading, a lot of writing, and I want them to produce a real research paper at the end. This is not even a 400-level course but I was writing research papers in my 300-level courses, so I don’t see why our students can’t. And I know that I can get them there if I’m given half a chance. I’m uniquely qualified to teach XVIIIth century, I really am. I’ve done XVIIIth century Spain until it was coming out of my ears, and this is very rare because almost no departments in North America offer anything worthwhile on it.

Of course, there is the issue of language. The language of these readings is hard but, look, people are teaching Shakespeare everywhere and students deal. And Shakespeare’s language is murderously hard even for English-speakers. I have incorporated many strategies into the course┬áto help students get the language, so it’s all doable. I just need enough people to register so that the course doesn’t get cancelled.

As somebody who mastered two foreign languages to the point where I write research articles in them and nobody ever corrects my language any longer, I know for a fact that as important it is to have a solid base of grammar, a point comes where you need to stop doing grammar exercises and start to apply your language skills to actual reading, speaking, and writing. The best way to figure out grammar is by observing usage and interiorizing it.

In my own learning of Spanish, I took a single language course and went straight to hard-core graduate-level literature courses from it. It was incredibly hard but it worked. When I tell people this story, they tend to dismiss it as a fluke but I don’t think it is. I was very lucky to begin my career in Hispanic Studies at a department that did not believe in offering endless language courses and tweaking language mistakes for years and years. Nobody doubted that we were ready to do literature courses after Intermediate Spanish, and as a result we were ready.

There will be no peace for me until I see how many people register.

A Canadian Child

My niece Klubnikis will turn 4 in November. She loves to listen to stories about everybody’s childhood: her mother’s, her grandmother’s, mine, etc. So her grandmother was telling her about her mother’s childhood last weekend.

“I would take your mother to kindergarten every morning. We would walk very slowly, looking at the trees, the houses. . .”

“Why no car?” Klubnikis suddenly interrupted.

“What?” grandma asked.

“Why walk?” Klubnikis insisted. “Why not car?”

Talks With My Mother

My mother is hilarious. We were talking on the phone yesterday and she said, “I bought a painting by Renoir. It’s the one with a woman and a girl in the woods.”

After a short pause, she added, “It’s a copy.” I guess she didn’t want me to think she had bought an original Renoir.