Newsletter Main Menu
Letter from the Editors (estheR Cuesta, Lilian Feitosa, and Daniel
A Message from Our Chair (Bill Moebius)
In Close-Up: Linda and Alice (Nikolina Dobrev)
The Federation (Letha Deck)
Comp-Lit Student-Parents' Perspectives (Lilian Feitosa , with Jillian Brady and Yehudit Heller)
Here Even in the Summer It Rains (Yehudit Heller)
Beverly, Kai, Nikolina, and Enrique's Marxist Adventures (Enrique García)
How the Interviewee Became the Interviewer, or "a space in-between"-Conversando con Juan Ramos (estheR Cuesta)
Breakfast and Epiphanies (Frans Weiser)
Update on Rap Music (Letha Deck)
News and Updates
We are very excited to have edited the 2003 OGSCL Newsletter. We hope that you find in these pages a reflection of who we are, what our interests are, and what we do in between taking classes, teaching, working on dissertations, taking exams, etc, etc, etc.
When we emailed the call for submissions, we were happily surprised to get responses right away, volunteers to write pieces, people sending their profiles (although some waited for the last minute...but it's all cool!), and questions about the newsletter. You will be delighted with Frans' piece on his travels in rural Japan. The speed in which he involves the reader is fascinating. Nikolina's article in homage to Linda and Alice reveals how important they are in the success of our department and of every student in it. But most importantly, it allows us to know more about them. For those who still haven't had the opportunity to get to know them more closely, this is absolutely a good way to start! Letha's insightful article on the Federation is a must read. Our university and our department are going through many changes of which we need to be informed and involved.
We want to congratulate OGSCL's members who have achieved significant progress in their academic life in 2003. Our most recent graduate (September 2003) is Corinne Oster. She defended her dissertation entitled "The Quiet Revolution: Integration, Difference, and the New French Women Directors: 1990-2000" in May 2003. Congratulations, Corinne! Dale Hudson also defended his dissertation this October entitled "Border Crossings and Multicultural Whiteness: Nationalism in the Global Production and Reception of a 'Vampire-Film Subgenre,'" and since he's graduating in May, he'll be with us another semester. Lan Dong defended her prospectus this past fall and Enrique García is scheduled to do so next week (12/17). It is always encouraging to see the progress of our colleagues. Congratulations to those who graduated from the MA in Translation program this Spring: Peter Khan, Chris Michalski, and Roberto García Gracía. Last, but not least, Letha Deck, Enrique García, and Meriem Pages have successfully passed their exams-congratulations as well! In addition, Jennifer Rodgers, a recent graduate from our program (2002), received the NECLAS award for best dissertation!
This newsletter has been possible thanks to the cooperation of our Chair, Bill Moebius, Linda, Alice, and our fellow graduate students.
all, thank you!
estheR Cuesta, Lilian Feitosa, and Daniel Pope
When the legend "we see a master's in Comparative Literature" showed up as the writing on the wall in a full page ad for Microsoft in The New Yorker and the New York Times this past October, it seemed worthy of notice, especially since the probable candidate for that degree was a cheerful looking African American woman behind the counter of a diner. Have we come so far that Microsoft is on our side in the culture wars? I don't think so, but what strikes me most is that Comparative Literature and opportunities for cultural and literary enrichment are finding themselves side by side in the American imaginary, just as they did in the early segments of the TV series "Party of Five." This conjunction may go a long way towards dispelling the mischievous rumors about Comparative Literature as a refuge for the cultural élite.
Here in Amherst, we've countered that rumor for years, and find ourselves amidst students, including majors and graduate students, from all races, classes, and religions, most, if not all, of whom seem to see the need to identify with a space that does not privilege a single literature or language or culture, despite the enormous draw of the American scene. That space for me was rendered very concrete this Fall in a graduate seminar on "Word, Image, Book: Politics and Aesthetics," which included representatives from a dozen communities, from Kenya, India and Vietnam to Switzerland and Argentina, from China to North America, with seats reserved for Atlanta, Idaho, and parts closer by. Within this "rarefied and élite" intellectual community that met in on an upper floor of that ivory tower Herter Hall, the collective range of linguistic competence was, not surprisingly, broad, from Kiswahili, Chinese, Farsi and Vietnamese to German, Spanish, French and Dutch. The phrase "We could not help but be moved by what we saw and heard" sometimes reserved for weddings and funerals, often seemed appropriate for us on a weekly basis. This is, I believe, only one instance of the kind of cultural and literary enrichment students (and faculty) find in our little microenvironment.
While our government seems to be edging the United States into a kind of Bush League, our university is doing its best, under the outstanding leadership of Chancellor John Lombardi, to open up opportunities for studies in the Humanities, that is, in the domain within which students are empowered to write, read and argue about values in a secular environment, one which cherishes free speech and privileges diverse points of view, including that of the author of The Praise of Folly, who, friend of Thomas More, founded the University of Leuven in the 15th century. Our particular métier takes us to questions of value in the domain of literary and cinematic representation worldwide. We have always done this in partnership with language/literature programs and departments, and as of this semester, we are closing ranks with our partners in a new Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, becoming the largest faculty unit in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, without relinquishing in any way our programmatic integrity or energy. Fueling our mission is the authorization to proceed with a tenured appointment at the rank of Professor of our longstanding colleague Edwin Gentzler, the Director of the UMass Translation Center, who has devoted many hours of the past 12 years to creating new learning opportunities for students in the field of translation studies, always an important field in our Department since the days of Fred Will and Warren Anderson. After a long hiatus, we are also participating in searches for three new positions, each of which benefit Comparative Literature, and one of which, in Asian American literatures, will be located in our unit. Our base allotment of T.A.'s has grown this year from 12.5 to 18 T.A.'s, and our graduate students are enjoying this year the largest amount of fellowship support ever (five separate fellowships: Prateeti Ballal, estheR Cuesta, Ada McKenzie, Daniel Pope, and Juan Ramos). Our Graduate Program Director, Professor Portuges, has continued her unstinting devotion to the health of our Graduate Program, while also directing the Multicultural Film Festival and the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies.
This year we are also the Department out of which the first ever named Chair in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts has sprung. When the arrangements are made final, Professor Robert Rothstein will hold this chair in Polish Studies, thanks to a very generous gift from a Harvard alumnus. Bunkong Tuon and Alix Paschkowiak join Professor Maria Tymoczko as this year's nominees for the Distinguished Teaching Award. Those of us new to the Department may not know that last year Professor Lenson won the University Advising Award (in its second year) following Professor Petroff, who won it in its first year. Our annual Junior Year Writing Conference, organized by Alix Paschkowiak, included several stunning contributions. One of last year's presenters, Heather Lembert, presented a version of her Junior Year Writing paper at the MMLA (Midwest Modern Language Association) conference in Chicago this Fall, while her classmate Sasha Senderovich went off to do graduate work at Harvard, having won the Elie Wiesel Essay competition.
We have been very fortunate, and the promise of the next few years for our endeavor is greater than it has been for more than a decade. We may not welcome Microsoft's benediction, but we have to make the most of our increasing visibility by not losing sight of where we started and where we've been.
Best wishes for the
By Nikolina Dobreva
Administrative problems in the Department of Comparative Literature catch us, graduate students, by surprise every day. Whether we have forgotten to register for nine credits or pay the program fee, whether we have to add/drop a student from our class list or a professor from our dissertation committee, whether we need an exam urgently photocopied or are stopping to collect mail and want to chat, we inevitably knock on the same two doors. With this article, we pay homage to the two people in the department who take care of all our annoying non-academic troubles, and who do it with a smile. To Linda Papirio and Alice V. Bishko.
Now is the perfect time to find out more about Linda, since this month marks her 20th year working for the department. She still remembers getting a phone call asking her to take the newly opened full-time position. Before she joined Comp Lit, Linda was working at the School of Education, and taking care of her growing sons
When asked what the best thing about her job is, Linda replies "variety," and explains that she is never bored with all the different tasks that she has to perform every day. The worst thing are undoubtedly "last-minute rush re-quests." Regardless of what Linda writes, says, or hints at, there is always someone who needs something done by... yesterday, if possible. As for the hardest thing about the job, she does not even hesitate: "Paying foreign people." The INS comes up with new requirements practically every semester, which means new regulations to be learned and complied with, new paperwork to be done.
The two issues that have lately been of major concern to OGSCL, and to many humanities grad students, are the budget cuts and the Foreign Languages and Comp Lit department merger. I ask Linda what she thinks of them. "We are still a very strong department," she says. The proof? We are hiring a new tenure-track professor for the first time in many years, and another professor, Jim Hicks, has been hired as lecturer for four years. The budget cuts are, of course, a great problem but penny-pinching has saved Comp Lit so far and will probably hold it together in the future too. "We are a popular department," Linda adds. She thinks the merger should not be seen as a drawback, since it does not change much in terms of how the department operates. We are keeping the same Chair, the same location, even the same header on our letters, so why should we be concerned with losing our identity? As for Spire? "I could live without that. It's frustrating!" She does manage to underline the word as she speaks.
ever wondered whether Linda remembers any of the former grad students in particular,
she does - the ones who did not graduate. There were a few wild
party animals, or as Linda puts it "the life of the party around here," but
none of them finished their degree. In fact, no, she does remember Cath Schoen
who volunteered to look after the kids, so that Linda and her husband could
celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary with a trip to California. That is
why not only
Linda, but also her children still remember Cath.
The children are not children anymore. They are both college graduates. The elder son, Tony, works for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals. He is married and lives with his wife in Northampton. The younger, Michael, is safely back after three months of military service in Iraq. He is going to get married in California next June.
So what does Linda do when she is not working? She likes gardening in summer and reading in winter. Her ideal vacation would be to go to Disneyworld in Florida again. To Alice's scornful exclamations, she replies: "I know it's a fantasy world, but it's great!" Being there in January is the best; it's nice and warm, and Amherst is under three feet of snow. Speaking of snow, Linda is planning a cozy family dinner at home for Christmas, even though her younger son will be away. What would she ask from Santa this year? Get the US troops out of Iraq ASAP!
" I don't know where the 20 years went," Linda says in conclusion. "20 years coming into the same building every day." The work, however, has always been varied, and thus exciting. She states with confidence: "I've never regretted working here. I've never been bored."
We all know that Alice splits her time between Comp Lit and Film Studies. So how does she manage? In fact, she has been working out of her job description in the past ten years, but it has gotten better since 1997. That is when the Slavic Department closed, so Alice didn't have to juggle tasks from three programs anymore. She still remembers her schedule (it was so complex that I couldn't even note it down). "I'm a stenographer too," she adds. "One of the very few left on campus," Linda explains.
Like all jobs, Alice's has its good and bad sides. The best is "leaving it to go to the Mullins Center;" the worst are requests after 4pm. "Spell that out in capital letters," Alice insists, "A-F-T-E-R 4pm."
Both Alice and Linda are living memory banks, holding all sorts of information about the department. Have they ever considered writing a memoir, maybe when they retire? "I don't plan to retire," says Alice with a big smile, "I retire every night." Linda bursts out laughing, and points at Alice: "You know what I like best about Comp Lit-her. She brought humor to the department." On a serious note, it seems that neither of them is interested in the memoir. They both hope to be busy doing other things when they get some time on their hands. Now that we are serious, I ask about Spire, expecting an indignant outburst. Instead, Alice smiles again: "I love Spire! It's a challenge."
Alice refuses to talk about her "private life after 4pm," but gets animated as soon as sports are mentioned. Which one is her favorite? "All UMass sports are my favorite, because UMass keeps me upright," she explains, and adds: "The games played by the Jacksonville Jaguars are number two [don't ask - this is something related to the mysterious 'after 4pm']." It was at UMass that Alice got hooked on sports. In high school all she ever saw was a single basketball game. However, when UMass staff were offered season tickets for UMass football games at a special rate, Alice became a permanent audience member. She has been watching UMass football from times when the football field was located where the Whitmore building now stands. "Games keep the lungs in good shape," Linda says, and Alice laughs in approval.
The only sport in which Alice ever participates is baseball in the backyard. Well, and gardening - that is also her favorite pastime. Alice paints the house and takes care of the vegetable garden. She is particularly proud of the summer squash that she grows, even though she does not get to cook too often now.
As for pastimes, can Alice recommend a movie or TV show? "Keeping Up Appearances" on PBS seems to be a favorite. So is the comedy "9 to 5," in which three women take revenge on the boss whom they hate. Both Linda and Alice assure me that the movie is hilarious, so I make a note to see it over the holidays.
What is Alice's ideal vacation? She would prefer to stay "off the highway," home, "where I can live longer." And Christmas she is going to spend at home too, "quietly, enjoying the day off."
In conclusion I ask Alice what she wants from Santa this year. "Another year of health and happiness," she replies. "Then I'll be able to work; and if I work, I can buy as I please, do as I please."
By Letha Deck
"Briefly defined, comparative literature can be considered the study of any literary phenomenon from the perspective of more than one national literature or in conjunction with another intellectual discipline or even several" A. Owen Aldridge, 1969
The Federation sounds like a Star Trek narrative device, doesn't it? I doubt very much that Gene Roddenberry's ideas of federation apply in this situation because this is not science fiction or some futuristic strategy. Here at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst it is a political term. It is such a surprise to see such a political term in academia, yet, the parallels between what is happening between the U.S. and the world and the Administration and our Department are undeniable. We have been invaded and taken over. A hierarchy has been imposed that will ultimately dilute the direction of comparativists.
Our institutional government before now has been transparent to me. Now I see that it has been departmental, like that of France. Perhaps something is revealed in the choice of terms and the placements that result. Perhaps there is something that can clarify the goals that determined the need for the administration the move to unite the Foreign Languages Departments with the Comparative Literature Department. Does that mean that "federations" are a new level of management in academia? Why is federation necessary? In Star Trek the Federation was made of Klingons, Ferenghi, Vulcans and others who didn't even know the federation was protecting them from the evil Romulins. They patrolled the boundaries of the federation. What enemies are forcing us to federate? Who can threaten boundaries that are not there?
No papers have been published that I know of, stating the long-term goals of federation. No benefits to Comparative Literature have been noted. Such a document prepared before any talk of federations began, could have helped us to feel good and advanced in what should have been our decision on how to shape the university. By "our decision" I mean that they should have at least marketed the idea before they sold it. I don't for a minute think that we would have made such a decision, but they should have dispersed some propaganda to make us feel OK that English is department-worthy, while Comparative Literature should be amalgamated. We may have fallen for it, if they could have thought of an angle. Instead, we are in the endgame of a takeover and merger, just like on Wall Street.
It is an outrage!
What angers me most about the forced federation, is how it attempts to devalue the reputations of and to disenfranchise our professors. Our professors spend their free time reading our papers, talking to us on the phone, writing our recommendations, having meals with us, and working. They spend their working time seeing undergraduates, preparing and delivering lectures, keeping up on new advances in their fields, familiarizing themselves with our research interests so that they can speak with knowledge, managing the office, resolving interdepartmental personnel disputes, working on their own research and publication credits, and smiling through it all. And now, they have had to try to argue for freedom in addition to it all! Our professors have been forced to fight an administration with personnel dedicated to structuring change, despite our opposition. They have succeed in imposing new boundaries for us, a weak opponent. It is gangsterism.
Along with our professors we graduate students offer the most diverse and inclusive courses in the humanities. We cover Africa, China, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, India, the Caribbean, Japan, and Australia, just off the top of my head. The true list is much longer. To force a federation on our department is like disempowering our faculty because they won the academic challenge of the future. Our professors went global before the word became jargon.
I don't see how uniting with the foreign languages can benefit Comparative Literature. We imagine that our discipline attempts to function at a meta level to national language departments. We read across cultures like waves, dipping in deeper when the water looks right. Forced hierarchical structures that federating imposes compromises our ability to imagine that we are finding things beyond race, creed, nationality, culture, time, alternate realities, and the anchor that language barriers impose. We are already there. It seems that now we are being asked to federate so that our paradigms can be shared with the language departments. Can't they just read the books?
Our department leader is Bill Moebius. He is a "leader" rather than a "chairman" because "federation" is a political term as is "leader." New times demand new language-adaptations. We are his tribes. Bill has poured his heart and soul into making this department a vitally alive cultural mixture of graduate students from all over the world. I remember in 1995, when I first came on, he spoke to me many times of his dream, and I've seen it come true. He should be heralded by the academic community for producing such socially advanced degree candidates. Look at Roger Strittmayer. He was written up in The New York Times for his groundbreaking and original scholarship on William Shakespeare. Look at Jennifer Rogers. She won a national prize [name of prize] for her dissertation on magical realism among other things. Jana Braziel and Anita Mannur were almost published before they even finished the program! Jana won a national prize for a paper she wrote before her dissertation. Finally, look at our class. I have no idea of how many cultures our scholarship covers. Yet, like pioneers, we surge forward to learn of literature in all its dimensions, often working in neglected and emerging areas. Our faculty supports us one hundred percent with encouragement, reading suggestions, intellectual interchange, and patience despite the range and depth that our varied areas entail. From all over the planet, with dramatic personal histories, we are here. We are here because the faculty chose us to come and took care of us so we could stay.
We are a mini-United Nations. Is that why our best interests are being overlooked? Dare I draw postcolonial conclusions? Are we, the Comparative Literature Department, facing extinction at the imperialist hands of the University of Massachusetts Administration? I leave you to draw your own analogies.
So many questions are unanswered: at what levels is the federation linked? To what extent is sharing economic? Will the language departments have sway over our research directions? Will they participate in our admissions decisions? Will we run a greater risk of canonization? Where we were once the world, will we be little more than the bastard children of the foreign languages? Considering that the administration has given our identity as a department precursory treatment, I doubt these questions have been fairly considered. If the most unique voices are silenced, as our faculty protest to this merger has been silenced, then how can we even hope to have our interests respected in the future?
There is a bitter irony in all this.
December 6, 2003
© Copyright 2003, Letha Deck. Used with permission.
By Lilian Feitosa , with Jillian Brady and Yehudit Heller
Since I had my son last year in March (barely a week after finishing my comps) I have been faced with juggling teaching, trying to work on my dissertation, and being a mother. Of course I haven't listed these in the right order! Mothering takes most of my time, followed by the teaching, and then, who says I have any time left for my research? But I'm trying. While going through this experience I thought it would be great to be able to learn more about other students in the department who have children (either young or grown up). I'm glad that Jillian and Yehudit were able to share their experiences with us, and maybe in the future we can also hear from other student-parents such as Letha, Iris, Shu-Chen, and Shawn (I hope I didn't leave anyone out!). The first question I had was whether having children interfered with one's studies (which something very strong in my life right now). The second, perhaps much more interesting, goes: Does the fact that you study literature interfere in the way you relate to your children, do you/ did you read to/with them, or talk about literature with them? Did you ever try to "shape their literary tastes" in any way or try to make them like/ enjoy literature?
Jillian's response to the second question was wonderful:
Notes on literature and parenthood
" For years before I became a parent I collected children's books. Partly, this was a natural response to items that I found aesthetically pleasing. My love of words and pictures all made tangible and sold in affordable little bundles. Partially, this was a nostalgia for the very recent loss of an already irretrievable childhood. The loss of my childhood seemed to be symbolized by one important event: my mother's clandestine boxing of my shelves of children's books and sale of said box at the Notre Dame High School tag sale for $10, an event which I (of course!) did not attend. Needless to say, we both suffered greatly for this perceived betrayal of my youth. After that I became vehement about collecting children's books. In the last years of high school this meant sometimes more than a book a week. I was often driven to desperate means to gain these books, such as swiping them from friends' dusty shelves, or worse, seeking afterschool employment. I became a telemarketer. My sister noted my obsession and encouraged it, as she encouraged most peculiar behavior. She sought out rare editions of Edward Lear and left them next to my bed while I was sleeping. Soon the pile of thin books had reached an extraordinary height, so much more than could fill one cardboard box. Of course, for added security I remembered to berate my mother somewhat continuously. When I decided, years later, to have my own child, I was pregnant with delight. Here now would be born to me the perfect audience! My sister quickly mailed Oscar Wilde's Stories for Children from Hawaii the moment she heard the news. We all waited breathlessly for the lucky listener to emerge. When she arrived I began reading immediately. At first she just stared blankly. For months, just that infant stare. Then she began pointing, grasping, and mouthing books. Of course, I had to shelve the sophisticated stuff and go for the board books. But still, even Beatrix Potter was available abridged and tough as wood. I kept reading enormous amounts through the toddler and preschool years, and she was a very good listener after all. Once, on a plane trip/ waiting trip to Puerto Rico, I read her Just so Stories, the whole goshdarn thing, it's part of the canon after all. She stared at my mouth. Two years later she saw it on her bookshelf, "What's that about?" "Oh that, I read it to you on the way to Puerto Rico, remember...it has all those animals?" "No." Worse then the forgetting (and she doesn't, by the way, remember the 147 hours that I read her her favorite alphabet book over a two and a half year period) were the preferences. Although she entirely rejected the beautifully illustrated version of "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening," she was drawn to mass-produced, poorly written, never-before edited versions of Mickey's life. These are Book of the Week Club books, things you find at the end of the grocery aisle. Now, when I saw a box of them at a tag sale, I quickly swiped them all up. Later at home, I was subjected to tedious hours of repetitive readings. I read them so many times that I began anticipating their inconsistencies, seeking out some internal logic. Now why would Pluto and the cat be communicating through barks, mews, and knowing looks up until page 9, and then use spoken language? Or, how could the bird have gotten out of the cage in the first place, and why isn't that part of the narrative? Finally, as the world of chapter books begins creeping in, I eye those crowded bookshelves. They sit there guilty of tired storylines and dirty covers. Sometimes, I imagine packing them all up, like so many tedious hours of my young adulthood, in a brown cardboard box, and selling them off to the first bidder."
Yehudit's experience (based on a phone interview) goes like this:
" When we came to the US from Israel, I dropped my academic work to adapt to the new country and also to take care of my children. I felt I could not juggle everything; I had to learn the language not just to 'go to the supermarket' but also to read and write.
Only several years ago I returned to do the Master in Education and then I started the Ph. D. in comparative literature. Having a family, doing creative work and academic work is a fun but very challenging and sometimes confusing task. When we have a family 'we don't belong to the normal crowd [of graduate students].' As for literature, since we speak more than one language, literature was way to introduce the country [Israel, and the language - Hebrew] to our children. Music [my husband's passion] and literature were 'part of the air and food' within our house. For the kids, I guess it was a fun ride: the house was always full of writers and poets. We never talked about it [literature per se], and we never really tried to shape the children in any way, but their environment at home was full of literature, etc, so they went for the most familiar thing for them: my daughter majored in English, going more into the communications aspect of it, my son is also majoring in English, but he went straight into the creative writing and education aspects [just like me]. It is interesting to note that my daughter actually wanted to be a pre-med student, and my son, a political science major, but within a year or two, both of them, in their own time went into English. That was their strength, both literature and language (my daughter is fluent in 3 languages), but they ended up in English - of all things!"
Well, what about my experience? Kelvin (21 months) is still too young for me to be able to reach any conclusions, and Jillian's experience actually sobered me up quite a bit! But, so far so good! Obviously, me and my husband have been reading picture books to him and telling him stories since he was born (in the beginning is just like how Jillian describes it, just stars), and now that he can talk (in Portuguese) and communicate with us, he shows an enormous love for books. He keeps on asking us to read him books. He has a few clear favorites, and, interestingly enough, they are some of the few books we read to him in English: Goodnight Moon; No, David; Brown Bear, Brown Bear. He also loves Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Very Busy Spider, Majorie Flack's Angus and the Cat (these we read in Portuguese - we translate as we go) and books with Bible stories. I'm glad that he likes the one book by my favorite Brazilian children's author - Ziraldo - that we have read him so far. Well, you can ask me in a few years how it's going, but I hope his love for literature keeps growing!!
Yehudit Heller has published a book of poetry entitled Kan Gam Bakayitz Hageshem Yored (Here Even in the Summer It Rains). One of her poems from the book, "In a Foreign Country," is excerpted below, in Hebrew with an English translation.
In A Foreign CountryDawn after dawn my mother - -
a fanatic to Let the air in Let the air in - -
let my day begin by opening all my childhood windows
and spread the linen on the sills for the sun to kiss.
At Hayarkon Springs, like the eucalyptus grove planted there a
century ago, I found my adolescence
clearly mapped: These were its boundaries:
the widening fields - - their smell of midnight bonfires, in their
furrows the dampness
left by the dawn and sprinklers;
the train ties - - veins that pulsed with our walking
between the rails - - the Hifa-Jerusalem line with a stop
in the Opening of Hope;*
and the broken walls of a Roman fortress with embrasures
whereby mystery became safety: we could see without being seen.
And Snow White getting lost? That was strange to me.
Just as puzzling: Red Riding Hood swallowed by the wolf.
Who heard of the eucalyptus shading wolves,
and could anyone be lost in a grove?
But here windows are kept closed in winter.
And here in the summer the rain
Here the sun does not soften the sheets and the laundry
does not dry in the wind.
Here the forest trees are shadows of men, here
the forest wonders - - these are not my trees,
for here the evening descends early on my house,
and as if possessed, in sudden fear,
I draw curtains thickly over my windows.for Maayan and Adi
*"Opening of Hope" is the name of my hometown (in Hebrew: Petakh-Tikva).
By Enrique García
The Rethinking Marxism's 5th International Gala Conference, Marxism and the World Stage, took place at UMASS Amherst during November 6 to 8, 2003. Many Marxist thinkers from around the world had the opportunity to meet and share ideas; this included the participation of important thinkers like Michael Hardt, Gayatri Spivak, Slavoj Zizek, and Enrique García. In this article I will try to summarize briefly the importance and futility of this interesting conference.
One of the strange things that happened was that the registration table was very disorganized. I went to pick up my "grab bag" with Nikolina but they said to us that we had to pay the 20 dollar fee. Beverly had paid for it already when she submitted the panel proposal, but they had created a mess and were confused. Nikolina went first; we were attended by a guy who looked like a cartoon of a Marxist intellectual. He did not know what he was doing and charged her only 20 cents in the credit card. Later he took 18.80 from it and when he asked for mine I said: "No way, take cash." Then I though: "If Socialist countries were run like this. . ."
I participated in a panel, named "Constructing Jews, Gypsies, and Germans: Socialism and its Others in Communist Films," organized by Beverly Weber. I shared presentations with Bulgarian Nikolina Dobreva and German Kai Herlotz. After having a wonderful introduction by Ms. Weber (she really read the papers and gave us wonderful suggestions), we gave landmark presentations regarding the representations of otherness through the constructions of "comrades" of foreign nations or local ethnic minorities (Germans in Cuba, Jews in East Germany, Gypsies in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia...). This dialogue took place on Saturday 8, 2003 from 3:30 to 5:30 and had a spectacular attendance of some hot young scholars whom I have never encountered (like Comp Lit's Mariela Méndez and Iris Bonaldo, Spanish-Portuguese's Carolina Castellanos, and German's Maria Stehle), a woman who was there for the Jewish paper, and the distinguished professor Anne Ciecko from Communications. This does not include several people who thought that we were the panel on organizing unions at Yale nor the person who wanted some water, all of whom were quite confused when they walked in to the sight of film clips from The Murderers are Among Us.
After finishing our historic presentations that will be landmarks in the annals of Marxist history, we patted each other on the back and said how wonderful we are. We decided to attend the Hardt and Zizek talk which was packed with intellectuals, hippies, and wannabes. One of the first things I realized was that I was not a cool Marxist because I was all decadent and well dressed (though not in black jeans and turtleneck), while fellow proletariat Hardt had just a raggy t-shirt. Still, it is difficult to get away from my red bourgeois origins so I think I must be absolved for the moment. Both speeches were very good, although I think the audience liked Zizek's better because it was funnier and more appropriate for oral tradition. Hardt's fragments of articles were very well written, but were too much like an essay - you know how people get lost after the second minute of hearing something (this one lasted like forty). To conclude, this was a great experience because I learned a lot, but also because I did not have to pay airfare. Not to mention the stimulating discussions with my fellow panelists and panel chair which continued long into the night at a local pub. Unfortunately we couldn't smoke like real lefties, since there's a law prohibiting that in Amherst, but hey: Long live the Revolution!
I wanted to interview Juan Ramos, a first year M.A./Ph. D. student, who was born and raised in Guayaquil (Ecuador), my hometown, but he ended up interviewing me as well. (That was not planned.)
estheR Cuesta: Juan, you're the last person I was expecting to meet at UMass. It's so cool you're here!
Juan Ramos: It's pretty cool to find you here too, estheR. The first couple of days I was here, I felt pretty lost. I had never come to Amherst until the day I had to move into the dorm. From day one I had to find my way around. Meet people, take care of paperwork. A very, very different experience from the beginning.
e: Different from what?
J: Different from what I had in mind. I thought Amherst would be an even smaller town. I pictured a small town like some of the ones I've seen in Jersey.
e: Where did you live in New Jersey?
J: I lived in Jersey City, close to Bayonne...but let me ask you something, how did you feel when you moved from New York City to Amherst?
e: Umhh! [estheR laughs hysterically!] Do you want the truth?
J: I suppose. [This is Juan's favorite phrase.]
e: I guess it was cool because I could pay much less to see a performance or a movie than what I would spend in New York. I often go back there, anyway.
J: So, what things make you feel homesick?
e: The thing is that I consider Amherst a kind of home too, the way New York and Guayaquil are in their own way. How about you? You seem to miss home, right?
J: In a way, I feel like you because I miss Jersey City. But I miss Guayaquil more because a lot of good friends and relatives live there. To some extent, Amherst is becoming my third home since I've been lucky enough to make friends with whom I can talk and hang out, like you.
e: Thank you! You're also fun to hang out with. So, what do you miss the most about Guayaquil?
J: Everything! Well...to start off, my mother and siblings are there. I think in a way Guayaquil has a culture of its own, very different from any other part of the country in that a lot of people from smaller towns and the countryside go there to look for jobs. While there are a lot of universities all around the country, I think students prefer to go to the three larger cities: Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca. Unlike other parts of Ecuador, Guayaquil's weather remains stable-for lack of a better term-throughout the entire year. It's always hot during the day. It gets really cool at night, so much that everyone goes out after a long day from work. They just gather on the streets, sit on their front yards, porches. If you go to certain neighborhoods, there are specific places, plazoletas (kind of small plazas) and people from all ages just hang out and drink, talk about politics, soccer, economy, any topic you can think of. Yet, no one gets offended. For example, if people talk bad about the president, even if they used to support him, it's because they share a common discontent with the government even if their opinions differ. I can keep talking about many things, like what we do for Easter or New Year's. Remember the Años Viejos?
e: Yeah! We made them every year. One year we made an Año Viejo of Abdalá Bucaram (president overthrown by the people and the armed forces) and another year, of Sixto Durán Ballén (another former president). My brother used to build the wooden frames, and then we would fill them with fireworks and sawdust. It's a whole process!
J: Yeah, I know...we burn them on the streets, it's like people are putting behind all the frustrations and bad things that happened to them during that year. It's kind of a ritual to start a new year hoping that things would change. Since you haven't been there in a while, what sort of memories do you get when you hear Guayaquil?
e: Well, except for my grandmother who lives in NYC, my whole family is there. I miss them a lot. I guess one of the things I miss is going to a party or a club with my brother, sister, and a large group of friends until early in the morning. Get the munchies and go to this open-air market (which was later relocated) in the heart of the city. But it's not like the markets here. Remember La Plaza Central?
J: Come on! Of course!
e: OK, we used to go there. There was a lady who had
a stand there and treated us like family. She had arroz con menestra y carne
asada (bad translation:
rice and beans, grilled steak). We sat on milk crates since there were no chairs.
It was cheap and so good. And then we would go to the beach, continue drinking
(yes, yes, we had a "designated driver"), listening to music, we
would play the guitar and sing, and eventually sleep on the sand.
J: And then you'd go for the encebollado or ceviches (foods made with seafood)?
e: Yeah. But I'm the one asking the questions, te acuerdas?
J: Well...not necessarily. Yo también quiero saber lo que piensas... You know, I wonder if we would've ever met in Guayaquil or anywhere else?
e: I don't think so, do you? Guayaquil no es tan chiquito...
J: Probably not, but I'm glad I've found a good friend in you. You've kept me motivated when at times I was overwhelmed. I know I can turn to you for help even after you graduate. I've come to realize that we share more than a common background. Perhaps because of that I've found it easy to talk with you right now about all these things, or anything. Gracias estheR. ;)
e: Gracias a ti :)
By Frans Weiser
This wasn't going down in the books as a normal Monday. No, a normal Monday would consist of a strict sequence of events.
One: At 6: 30, a gong crash from the Buddhist temple attached to my apartment reverberates through the neighborhood at least five times.
Two: For breakfast I stare at my rice cooker, whose directions I still haven't learned to decipher, and in the reverse of a desperate attempt to shut off my alarm, whose buttons I randomly pound until the machine splutters to life.
Three: A five minute scooter ride transforms into a horrendous twenty minute commute by virtue of traffic lights' special programming to flash red as soon as I approach.
Four: I marvel at the junior high school's castle-like profile on the hill while wincing at its penitentiary bleached concrete décor.
Five: I receive the traditional cup of green tea which, after bowing to the principal, I inevitably spill on my tie, adding to the design of stains.
Six: I face the daily question: "You eat apple and carrot today?" As per tradition, I nod. As per tradition, they laugh. It never gets old, the crazy gaijin eating carrots like a horse.
Ah, such a country steeped in tradition. And it's only 8:25.
Yet, perhaps the nicest thing about being stranded in the middle of nowhere is that strict sequences of events and tradition are out of the question, unless panic can be considered an event rather than a state. Granted, I am being slightly melodramatic, for despite the ominous fact that not a single convenience store lies in sight, I'm not really in the middle of nowhere. That's impossible in Japan, although rural Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of the country's four main islands, is a good place to pretend.
And I'm doing a pretty good job. The bus has taken three hours to wend its way along a mountainous, one-lane road, which affords grand views of pristine riverside soon to be immortalized-in travel brochures along with a gaudy row of tourist hotels. Construction crews are already taking measurements. Our white-gloved driver maneuvers us into tight coves to allow traffic headed in the opposite direction by. He exchanges smiles with the passing cars. Junior high school kids in their uniforms check email on their keitai phones, whittling away the hour commute. Everyone compliments my language abilities, a grace I have enjoyed since learning to mispronounce my first word. More smiles. We pass underneath Alex Kerr's thatched house. The country folk at the train station in the gorge decided I was a friend of Alex's and have simply given me the (in)famous author's telephone number, telling me to just go on up-he'll be glad to see me. I don't get off. More smiles. By three thirty, it seems that cultural experience has reached new heights.
Until the bus stops.
Until the bus driver says, "Okay, here we are," and
I realize I am nowhere, and certainly not at the hostel that I have been expecting.
learn that we passed it two hours ago. Just as I soon discover that the only
bus out of here is at 6:45 in the morning.
There is, however, a campground beside two traditional suspension bridges fashioned completely out of plant vines, conveniently located an hour's walk further down the road. The Iya Valley is famous for these bridges, I will be impressed. And then he asks me to please get off.
I take stock of what I have, which is not much. I have the information that it's going to freeze at night. I have the knowledge that I've brought nothing more than a thin sweater. One thing I certainly do not have is camping equipment, let alone a sleeping bag. I've been crashing in comfortably cramped capsule hostels for the last week. Food is out of the question, to which the stomachache I do have attests.
One thing I don't have, however, is room to complain, for by chance I met an American earlier at the tiny train station, traveling incognito with his ridiculously baggy pants and a carpet version of a five o'clock shadow. Ironically, throughout the bus ride he's thanked me profusely for allowing him to come to such a pristine area, while I am now eyeing the tent attached to his backpack and secretly patting myself on the shoulder.
" No really, it truly is my pleasure." The poor guy has been in Japan so long that he's started taking everything and everyone literally. I let him be grateful.
Looking down the road, we see two houses to our left and a long interrupted stretch of deciduous forest blanketing the mountains to our right. When we realize that what is parked in front of the houses is none other than a bread vendor, we start racing with our backpacks, their weight causing us to flounder like hunchbacked horses. We reach the truck in time to see the last bread roll dropped into a bag and sold. The very image of amiability, the vendor shrugs his shoulders while offering us words of hope.
" Tomorrow," he grunts in Japanese and pushes us out of the way.
" Fuck you too," we reply in English, certain that we won't be understood as we facetiously wave him off. If nobody can speak a word in the cities, how the hell would any sun-wrinkled hick out here have even heard of English?
Our answer comes before the dust from the truck clears. A middle aged woman-I know this because she appears to be twenty-two or so-with her two children clutching her legs, meanders out from one of the houses and eyes us as if trying to decide her next order of sushi.
" What are you doing here?" she says in perfect English.
" Whoah uh bluh bluh bluh," we respond in awe. What is this? Who is this?
" We don't get very many visitors out here."
" We gathered as much."
She doesn't wait for us to finish our story. "Wait a moment," she says and disappears into her house. The children follow and begin staring at us from the safety of the window, ducking out of sight with in embarrassment whenever we make eye contact.
When she returns, she is carrying several plastic bags. What I take to be her drunken husband gives us a crooked, lecherous grin from the doorway.
" We are having party right now. It last four days. All my family here," she says.
" Food for you."
It turns out she's cooked several days of food for the party and is now handing us rations that would keep a sumo wrestler happy for weeks. And some drinks. And a lift.
Oh yes, the campsite is much too far away, so she simply has to drive us there. In the process, she shyly reveals that she has nothing to do out here but study English while her husband works. How wonderful that her children have met some real foreigners. She's sure they will study hard now. Sorry, but can she take a picture?
I suddenly realize how many similar experiences I've had in just five days of travel. Maybe this is turning into a sequence of events after all, although I have the feeling I'm longer the teacher here.
After she helps
us put on our packs, she gives us some motherly advice as how to avoid paying
the campground fee. Is there anything
we might need?
even after all this, if we ask to stay at her house, she probably
will say yes. We don't.
That night I learn the real meaning of freezing when my American acquaintance, safe in his thick coat and sleeping bag, vetoes any plans involving snuggling. I resort to jogging in between the tents and discovering revolutionary kinds of calisthenics even Richard Simmons would have been a-goggle over. By morning, I haven't slept a wink, and I look like it. Two motorcyclists take pity and offer some hot coffee, which for the first time in my life I drink with relish. Before waving goodbye, I somehow manage to spill it on my shirt, exactly where my tie would have been.
By Letha Deck
Last week Spike Lee came out with another set of objections to rap and hip-hop music. Is his just the angry roar of a dinosaur? "Wake up!" Doesn't Lee remember that we all watched him tell about where he came from-and we kept an open mind. Why should the qualities that allow us to learn from and appreciate art differ from Lee's generation to TuPac's? If only the world had appreciated Lee's father's music, Lee would have led another life and had a different story to tell. Either way, I would have listened to what he had to say, as I do now with what my brothers and sisters have to say in urban music and video.
Urban music gets a bum rap because the subject matter of most hip-hop songs include generous references to the amazing life of the genital organs. If even one of the black men I know thought about sexual gratification as much as the radio plays them singing about it, mine would be a very different world. Hot! Black women would disappear from the streets where they walked with groceries and children in the rain. Black men riding children's bikes to work at Wendy's would no longer pose road hazards. Bus stops in remote towns in inclement weather and fair would be constantly unpopulated. Floors would not get swept. Stores would not be stocked. Gynecologists, obstetricians, and maternity wards would experience a boom in business. Surely the life of a people after that first generation would have to have more about it than getting and giving good sexual experiences. Are we to believe that the music is the people?
Historians write that the Spirituals often functioned as a code amongst slaves. A certain song, like "Steal Away," a certain time, sung a certain way could tell a runaway slave son in the nearby woods that his mother prays for his freedom, begs for his life, and sends him her love, forever. Another spiritual, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," could be noticed that today is the day the Underground Railroad is running. You'd already know where to be when it leaves. What if rap and hip hop are also codes?
These commercial verbal-musical performance artists claim they are the voices from an urban jungle where everyone has to "be a man" and each man walks alone watching his own back. They claim that they struggled through damaging educational systems, hunger, physical violence, deaths of peers, drug culture, psychologically abusive homes and communities, and institutions, including the juvenile justice systems. They sing about the way that musical careers opened doors for them, not the jail cells that mainstream society seemed forcing them to accept. Now they sing about gross materialism and their magical bodies, but they also sing of finding true love. From all the psychic pain involved in being black, as their ancestors have done, the new musical artists make that pain a reason to dance and celebrate the life of the body.
Spike Lee needs to chill on judging others and get about making art his own way.
© Copyright 2003, Letha Deck. Used with permission.
NEW GRADUATE STUDENTS IN COMPARATIVE LITERATURE, FALL 2003
Eleonora Barcellandi joined the MA in Translation Studies program from Argentina. She received her degree from Universidad Nacional de La Plata as a Sworn Translator, and taught Introductory Spanish and upper level courses for two semesters at Susquehanna University.
Elena Langdon began the Translation Studies Masters Program this Fall, after working for two and a half years in Brazil as a translator and interpreter. She obtained a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Indiana University, and worked as a television/video producer in Boston before moving to Brazil in 2000. Elena spent her most of her childhood and adolescence in Florianópolis, a small island in southern Brazil. Her academic pursuits include interpreting, contemporary literature and cultural studies. Her real-life interests include colors, jumping around, watching the wind, and dodging comfort.
Milton O. Joshua received his BA and MA from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. His area of research is Gender and Literature with a focus on constructions of masculinities in African and Post-Colonial literatures. His first year of studies is supported by a Ford Foundation Fellowship.
Ada McKenzie This is my first year in the Comparative Literature Department, following a year spent in the Afro-American Studies Graduate Program here at UMass. Prior to this, I completed a B.A. in Philosophy at Columbia University, and the following year, I spent ten months in Cuba in a filmmaking program at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión. My academic interests revolve around the philosophy and aesthetics of literature and visual arts in Afro-American and Caribbean cultures, as well as a broader interest in twentieth-century discourses pertaining to modernism, postmodernism and the Marxist legacy in the arts. I am VERY happy to be in the department, and I have just had a wonderful semester, thanks to all.
Daniel Pope earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin in English literature. He joined our MA/PhD program with first-year support from the University Graduate School Fellowship for Incoming Students. His post-graduate experience includes a Fulbright fellowship to Peru and employment as a senior technical writer and web-publishing architect at M.I.T.
Juan Ramos is the recipient of a Diversity Fellowship awarded the Department by the Graduate School to support his first year in our PhD program. He came from Rutgers University with a BA in English/Education. His research interests include the study of the 20th century Latin American and American novel and the relationship between journalism and novels with "journalistic traits."
Michaela Schnetzer has been accepted into the MA program in Translation Studies after undergraduate studies at the Zurich School for Translation and Interpretation. For the past two years, she has been working as a translator at a multi-national company in Zurich, Switzerland
Frans-Stephen Weiser joined our PhD program having received his BA at Linfield College with a major in English. Before coming to us, he was teaching English in Japan, working with elementary and junior high school students.
Prateeti Ballal is working on her dissertation.
This has been a much happier year than last year. My family and I are having a much closer relationship, understanding how different we are while realizing how much we share. What have I been doing? A lot, but only have a paragraph. Working on my thesis, which is about Rafael Campo's poetry and memoir. If you get a chance, get his poetry. It will make you think differently about medicine, the human body, "Latinos." Great poet! This past summer, I went to San Antonio, Texas to present a paper entitled "La Otra Latina/The Other Latina: Reflections of the (B)Orders" at the MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social) Conference. I recently found out that my paper on English translations of the poetry of Julia de Burgos was accepted at the SLAS (Society for Latin American Studies) Conference, which will be held at the University of Leiden, Netherlands this coming April. But I still don't know if I'll be able to go. After I get my MA (hopefully this coming May), I'll continue writing my novel. I'm excited about it!
Between extensive traveling and intensive partying this semester, I was unable to do much work. Yet I insist on deluding myself that I was too busy teaching International Short Story (for the first time), and that is why I have joined the gang of those who postpone interminably their comprehensive exams. In this busy schedule, the only thing I managed to squeeze in was a presentation at the Marxist conference (see Enrique's article), even though I am NOT a Marxist.
I defended my dissertation prospectus, titled "Cross-Cultural Palimpsests of Mulan: Iconography of the Woman Warrior from Pre-Modern China to Asian America," in fall 2003 and I passed.
I'm in the process of writing my dissertation on the literary constructions of Brussels in Flemish fiction. For most of its history, Brussels was a Dutch-speaking city until it became the capital of Belgium in 1830. During the following two centuries the city went through a process of Frenchification, resulting in the fact that Brussels is now a predominantly Francophone city where Dutch is only spoken by a minority. Officially however, Brussels is now a bilingual city yet the presence of the European Union as well as a large immigrant population, have given it an increasingly cosmopolitan élan. Brussels is evolving into an international center where one can hear a vast spectrum of different languages. My particular interest goes out to the specific position of Dutch in Brussels as a language that for centuries held center stage but that in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries has become relegated to the margins. My focus will be on the way in which Flemish authors have responded to this extraordinary linguistic change and how it has influenced their representation of the urban setting.
Lilian P.W. Feitosa
Looking back , I don't feel I made a lot of progress in 2003, but at least I can say that my son is growing to be a nice little kid (he's 21 months right now) , and that I'm doing a good job taking care of him, which brings me some consolation! I participated of the Children's Literature Association annual meeting for the 3rd consecutive time, this year with a panel, and the accompaniment of two other OGSCLers, Yehudit, and Letha (thank you for agreeing to participate and come all the way to El Paso, Texas!). The panel title was " Recapturing Dreams through the Power of Story" and my paper was "Empowering Dreams and Constructing Identity with the Afro-Brazilian Myth of Zumbi". I also got my very first article published in the second volume of Sankofa: A Journal of African Children's and Young Adult Literature. It is titled "Constructing an identity: Afro-Brazilian Children's Literature in works by Júlio Emílio Braz, Joel Rufino dos Santos, and Luiz Galdino" and is "derived" from one of the topics for my Comps (same thing for the presentation paper). My prospectus is almost ready for defense, even though I REALLY would have liked to have defended it still this year, but this will be impossible, since I'm traveling to Brazil on Dec. 11 to spend the holidays with my family, and take Kelvin there for the first time. One exciting thing I've done this year, along with my family and parents, was a great trip through the Southwest/ West, that was motivated by the ChLA conference in El Paso, TX. We visited 7 national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and it was AWESOME! Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that I'll spend the best part of December and January in Brazil, taking my son there for the first time, and enjoying my family, the warm weather, the abundance of delicious fruit, the beach, etc, etc. Well, maybe it has not been such a bad year after all...
Enrique García has been terrorizing his fellow students the entire semester. Since he decided to do EVERYTHING at once, we've been reading umpteen versions of his exam abstracts, exam papers, Rethinking Marxism paper, Ford Foundation application (which was six documents), and prospectus. (As you can see, he completed his comprehensive exams, applied for a grant, gave a paper, and is defending his prospectus on Dec. 17th. Busy boy). He was teaching two EXTREMELY large sections of Vietnam. Off to Puerto Rico for some R&R including catching up on Cuban and Mexican films as well as some anime. Rumor has it he's also going to be working on a novel tentatively entitled Smelling Like Mango: A Postcolonial Autobiography.
I have been teaching Hebrew through Literature Intermediate Level, this is my second semester teaching at Smith College (last Fall and this Fall) and I'm enjoying this experience very much. It was a busy summer for me. In May I gave the first talk on the research for my dissertation at Amherst college for the Five College Religion Seminar. It was titled "New Language, New History - Biblical Intertextuality in Rahel's poetry" (working title of the dissertation as well). In June, I went to El Paso (with Lilian and Letha) to participate in the Children's Literature Association conference with a paper titled " 'The Ocean of Notions': The Role of Dreams and Language in Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories", then, a few days later I traveled to Israel to celebrate the publication of my second book of poetry [there's a poem featured above in the newsletter] titled: Here Even in the Summer it Rains. I was glad to learn that an article I wrote was accepted for publication next year in a book called Around the World, Biblical Symbols in Secular Literature. Three poems (a poem by Emma Lazarus and 2 other poems by Gotlib, a Czech poet) in my Hebrew translation were accepted to be published in an anthology of Jewish authors and poets from around the world that will come out in Israel next year, and a poetic prose piece of mine, "Salt Women", was also published in the July issue of the Mass Review. All through, and right now I am working on my dissertation, and I am looking forward to seeing my son after a long semester away from home in St. Paul Minnesota, and before he takes off to London for the Spring semester.
Dale Hudson defended his dissertation, Border Crossings and Multicultural Whiteness: Nationalism in the Global Production and Reception of a "Vampire-film Subgenre", in October. This semester, he assisted with the French Film course; next semester, he will teach his "politics of horror" course on vampire films.
I'm from China. The two occupations I had had before I came: one was a student and the other was a teacher. "I like listening to different songs and climbing different mountains," as I have said in my poem that appeared in the spring 2003 issue of mOtherTongue. I like literature, that's why I am here. I especially like poetry, Asian American literature, translation and women's writing.
Last year I received an award as Outstanding Student in Latin American Studies by NECLAS, This year was not an easy one for me, but I'm working on the rationales for my exam, and should schedule it soon. I would like to use the Newsletter to express my gratitude to the Department, especially Bill, Linda, Lucien, David and Elizabeth for the support they offered me on the occasion of my mother's death over the summer. Your support meant a lot to me.
2003 has been a very productive year for me. I presented a portion of the first chapter of my dissertation at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in May and received great feedback. I worked on my exams and my prospectus over the summer and this fall I taught Junior Year Writing for the second time. Organizing the Colloquium and working with the majors was an excellent experience again this year-our students are great!
Alongside copious hours preparing for my exams I've been finding committee work to fill those moments that might otherwise go spare. From attempting to restart the Grad Bar (perhaps as the Grad Groggery?) which is already available as a study space, albeit without the added charms of caffeine and alcohol, to repealing the International Student Fee, to the more regular delights of GSC and GEO meetings. In between these snatched moments I have got into two conferences, firstly to talk about eXistenZ next March in San Antonio at the SW/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Associations extravaganza. If I can finagle the air fare I am also hoping to spend spring break in Tokyo at the auspiciously titled "Postmodern Conference" talking about the influx of technology on the contemporary classroom. Alongside presenting, I decided to field test some articles and I currently have two under review for publication for rhizomes.net and European Film.
Shawn Smolen Morton
Bunkong (BK) Tuon
Academically, I am preparing for my comprehensive exam. Personally, I enjoy music, film, and writing. Earlier this year, I finished my autobiographical fiction, "Under the Tamarind Tree." Presently, I'm working on a long narrative poem in the tradition of Whitman, Ginsberg and Berryman. Also, I just bought a beautiful cheap new-used Takamine G330 guitar through E-bay. I'm in love with the damned thing; it's one of the few things that genuinely make me happy--finally!
Beverly is settling back into life in the Northeast after 1 1/2 years absence. Besides reading all of Enrique's papers, she's also kept herself busy teaching Good and Evil and TA'ing Intro to Women's Studies. She often inhabits the halls of campus only in the early morning hours, as she continues writing her dissertation on representations of Muslim women in Germany - currently writing chapters on the research she conducted last year while on a DAAD grant to Berlin. She chaired a panel at Rethinking Marxism on Socialism and its Others, and will also be presenting a paper entitled "Sheets on the Head and in the Hand: Constructing the Muslim Woman in Post-Wende Germany" at the December MLA conference.
OGSCL Newsletter Organization of Graduate Students in Comparative Literature - Fall 2003