10-Year Reunion

All of a sudden, everybody is doing reunions. I’m also going to my ten-year high school  college grad school second grad school reunion. I will be back in No-Heaven, meeting with the only two people I liked in my PhD program.

It will be so weird to be back. I promise to post many photos and memories from back before I was a blogger.

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Memorial Day Reading 

Folks, if you have some reading time over the holiday, I highly recommend these two articles from the New York Times Magazine:

1. “Empire of Dust” by Molly Young, and please make sure you get to the last page because it makes the whole article worth it. 

2. “Kushnerville” on Kushner’s activities as a slumlord. If you think your opinion of this little weasel can’t be any lower, think again and read the article. 

This is really good journalism, folks. 

Teaching Woes

Next semester I’m teaching:

1. my signature Hispanic Civilization course (in English), which is always fun

2. Intermediate Spanish II, which will be great because I only have 9 students (the course is offered off sequence) and I can REALLY teach them to speak fluently in such a cozy group

3. And the course that I dread teaching. It’s the second part of Advanced Spanish called “Introduction to Reading Literature.” I taught it once, and it was a complete and utter failure. 

What we are supposed to do in the course is spend the first month reviewing grammar rules (again! for the 6th semester in a row!) and dedicate the rest of the semester to reading entirely unconnected literary texts from the textbook. A short story by Borges, a poem by Quevedo, a short story by Clarin, a play by a Mexican playwright from the 1990s, a poem by Vallejo, a short novel by Unamuno. 

My problem is that I don’t know how to teach literature out of context. Of course, I’ll ditch the stupid grammar overview, that’s the easy part. But I can’t talk about works of literature when they are ripped completely out of the historical, regional, chronological, and cultural context. Call me old-fashioned, but I think context matters. And I don’t know how to teach St John of the Cross without talking about the Spain he knew, the culture that nourished him, the terror and the ecstasy of his religion. I don’t get how one can skip from Lorca to the realists to medieval moralists and then all the way to the Mexican revolution. 

So I’m stumped. This is, incidentally, the reason I was having trouble in grad school. I don’t see a work of literature as a closed world that is fully self-sufficient and detached from surrounding reality. I’m simply a very different kind of literary critic. I hate the idea of anybody being “a universal writer.” 

RNC and the First Amendment 

So you know how one always has to explain to idiots that freedom of speech guarantees you the right to speak but doesn’t provide you with a captive audience? The RNC doesn’t get the distinction:

In a comment filed with the FCC on Friday, the RNC said it felt the telecom agency should clear the way for organizations — including, apparently, itself — to auto-dial directly to voicemail inboxes with prerecorded pitches. Failing to permit the practice, the RNC warned, could threaten the First Amendment rights of political groups.

Like dumb trolls who insist that their right to be heard on the blog that belongs to somebody else is protected by First Amendment, the RNC believes it should have the right to inundate the mailbox you pay for with its messages.