robertogreco + literature   827

Zuihitsu - Wikipedia
“Zuihitsu (随筆) is a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author’s surroundings. The name is derived from two Kanji meaning “at will” and “pen.” The provenance of the term is ultimately Chinese, zuihitsu being the Sino-Japanese reading (on’yomi) of 随筆 (Mandarin: suíbǐ), the native reading (kun’yomi) of which is fude ni shitagau (“follow the brush”).[1] Thus works of the genre should be considered not as traditionally planned literary pieces but rather as casual or randomly recorded thoughts by the authors.”

[via: https://warrenellis.ltd/isles/zuihitsu-or-follow-the-brush/

“I have long had the notion that zuihitsu is, in fact, the sort of writing that weblog software best enables. That these are not diaries but fragments. Zuihitsu and fragment writing has fascinated me for a long time. I created the jotter category here to try and give myself permission for “casual or randomly recorded thoughts.”

I tend to re-read HOJOKI and ESSAYS IN IDLENESS once every year or two. A previous writing location of mine, Morning Computer, was intended as a home for this kind of fragment writing, but I found myself constrained by a place that was just that. I may be Full Hermit Forever, but I still need to be able to send signals out into the world, and it gives me pleasure to be able to draw your attention, reader, to the things in the world that I like.

We in the Isles of Blogging should consider ourselves allowed to follow the brush more.”]

[See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C5%8Dj%C5%8Dki ]
zuihitsu  japan  literature  writing  howwewrite  essays  words  place  surroundings  japanese  hojoki  idleness  hermits  warrenellis  diaries  classideas  jottings 
august 2019 by robertogreco
The Book That Made Me: An Animal | Public Books
"The Lives of Animals was the first book I read in college—or at least the first book I read in a strange, amazing seminar that rewired my brain in the first semester of freshman year. The course was about animals, and I signed up for it probably because it was a course my dad, who had been advising me on all things college, would have taken himself. He kept animal effigies all over the apartment: portraits of a donkey and a marmot in the bathroom; a giant poster of “The External Structure of Cock and Chicken” in the living room; dog figures of many breeds; pigs, his favorite, in all shapes and sizes, in every single nook and cranny. In the dining room he had a huge pig sculpture made of leather, which in retrospect was a strange and morbid combination: one animal skinned to make an image of another. Our cocker spaniel had chewed its face beyond recognition by the time my mom got around to throwing it out.

My dad passed away in 2016, two years after they got divorced, and I faced the monumental task of disposing of his menagerie. I kept many things, of course, but couldn’t keep them all. It was so easy to throw out or donate clothes, housewares, furniture, even books. I didn’t know what to do with the creatures, who seemed to contain his spirit more than anything else. I laughed when I found a key chain in a random drawer: a little brass effigy of one pig mounting another. That was his humor. That was his mind, his way of seeing, his culture—which was based, like all cultures, in certain ideas about nature. Frankly, he was a difficult man to know even when he was alive. The animals offered me a way in, as they probably did for him.

Anyway, he was the one who saw the listing for a course named “Zooësis” and thought I might like it. And I really did, from the moment our indefatigably brilliant professor, Una Chaudhuri, asked us to read J. M. Coetzee’s weird, hybrid book. The Lives of Animals is a novella, but Coetzee delivered it as a two-part Tanner Lecture at Princeton in 1997, and it centers, in turn, on two lectures delivered by its aging novelist protagonist, Elizabeth Costello. During her visit to an obscure liberal arts college, she speaks hard-to-swallow truths about the cruelties we visit upon animals, making a controversial analogy between industrialized farming and the Third Reich. But the content of her lectures is almost less important than the reactions they generate and the personal consequences she incurs, which Coetzee shows us by nesting the lectures within a fictional frame. People get incensed; the academic establishment rebukes her argument, her way of arguing, everything she represents. Even her family relationships buckle under the weight of a worldview that seems to reject reason.

Her first lecture is about the poverty of philosophy, both as a basis for animal ethics and as a medium for thinking one’s way into the mind of another kind of creature. But her second lecture is about the potential of poetry, and it’s captivating in its optimism about the ability of human language to imagine radically nonhuman forms of sensory experience—or, perhaps more radically, forms of sensory experience we share with other species.

As a person who has worked within the field commonly known as animal studies but has never worked with real animals (unlike so many great boundary-crossing thinkers: the late poet-philosopher-veterinarian Vicki Hearne, the philosopher-ethologist Vinciane Despret, et al.), I often find myself bummed out by the inadequacy of representation: Specifically, what good are animals in books? Are they not inevitably vessels of human meaning? In Flush, her novel about the inner life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Virginia Woolf has another way of putting the problem: “Do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” To which I would add: Do they not destroy, or at least ignore, the creature beyond the symbol as well?

Coetzee has a different view. Or Costello, at least, has some different ideas about what poetry can do. She celebrates poems like Ted Hughes’s “The Jaguar” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”—“poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him.” She finds value in poems that try to capture the fluid complexity of a moment of contact across species, rather than try to preserve an imagined essence of the animal in amber. She also defends the human imagination as something more powerful than we give it credit for. My favorite line from the book is her response to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel insists that it’s impossible for a human to know the answer to his titular question. Costello rebuts: “If we are capable of thinking our own death, why on earth should we not be capable of thinking our way into the life of a bat?” I think it takes an effort of heart, more than mind, to follow her train of thought.

The novella reflects her resistance to the imperious voice of human reason—and her embrace of the messiness of the subjective imagination—on many levels. She’s uneasy at the bully pulpit, as was Coetzee himself. For the longest time I thought that the narrator was omniscient—an impersonal God figure aligned with Coetzee’s own position at that Princeton lectern. But then I read the novella again, preparing to teach it in a lit class where we were also reading Jane Austen. I realized that the narrator filters everything through the perspective of John Bernard, Costello’s son, who has a strange tendency to obsess over his mother’s body (paging Dr. Freud: “Her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby”) and profoundly ambivalent feelings about her. He is torn between sympathy and repulsion, connection and alienation. He is torn, also, between her perspective, which persuades him to an extent, and the perspective of his wife, Norma, a philosophy professor who loathes her and has no patience for her anti-rationalist message.

The question this novella raises is always that of its own construction: Why is it a novella in the first place? What does Coetzee communicate through fiction that he couldn’t have communicated through a polemic? I think the technique of focalization, which grounds everything in John’s perspective, shows us exactly what an abstract polemic about animals couldn’t: the impossibility of speaking from a position outside our embodiment, our emotions, our primordial and instinctual feelings toward kin. In other words, the impossibility of speaking about animals as though we were not animals ourselves.

Every time I read the book—definitely every time I teach it—the potentialities of its form grow in number. I find new rooms in the house of fiction that reveal how grand a mansion it is. I display it proudly, in the center of a bookshelf lined with animal books like Marian Engel’s Bear, Woolf’s Flush, J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, Kafka’s stories, and John Berger’s Pig Earth. The shelf is my own version of my father’s menagerie, brimming with all manner of complex and contradictory creatures. All of them are representations, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real, or any less alive.

I regard my father with some of the ambivalence that John, the son in Coetzee’s story, feels toward his own mother and her thoughts on animals. But I encounter the creatures he left behind with warmth, solidarity, and hope."
via:timoslimo  jmcoetzee  multispecies  morethanhuman  senses  writing  howwewrite  language  whywewrite  fiction  animals  bodies  unachaudhuri  philosophy  elizabethbarrettbrowning  virginiawoolf  vincianedespret  animalrights  vickihearne  rainermariarilke  tedhughes  narration  thomasnagel  imagination  messiness  janeausten  perspective  novellas  kafka  johnberger  marianengel  jrackerley  hope  solidarity  communication  embodiment  emotions  persuasion  mattmargini  canon  books  reading  howweread  teaching  howweteach  farming  livestock  sensory  multisensory  animalstudies  poetry  poems  complexity  grief  literature  families  2019 
july 2019 by robertogreco
Duke University Press - Baroque New Worlds
"Baroque New Worlds traces the changing nature of Baroque representation in Europe and the Americas across four centuries, from its seventeenth-century origins as a Catholic and monarchical aesthetic and ideology to its contemporary function as a postcolonial ideology aimed at disrupting entrenched power structures and perceptual categories. Baroque forms are exuberant, ample, dynamic, and porous, and in the regions colonized by Catholic Europe, the Baroque was itself eventually colonized. In the New World, its transplants immediately began to reflect the cultural perspectives and iconographies of the indigenous and African artisans who built and decorated Catholic structures, and Europe’s own cultural products were radically altered in turn. Today, under the rubric of the Neobaroque, this transculturated Baroque continues to impel artistic expression in literature, the visual arts, architecture, and popular entertainment worldwide.

Since Neobaroque reconstitutions necessarily reference the European Baroque, this volume begins with the reevaluation of the Baroque that evolved in Europe during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth. Foundational essays by Friedrich Nietzsche, Heinrich Wölfflin, Walter Benjamin, Eugenio d’Ors, René Wellek, and Mario Praz recuperate and redefine the historical Baroque. Their essays lay the groundwork for the revisionist Latin American essays, many of which have not been translated into English until now. Authors including Alejo Carpentier, José Lezama Lima, Severo Sarduy, Édouard Glissant, Haroldo de Campos, and Carlos Fuentes understand the New World Baroque and Neobaroque as decolonizing strategies in Latin America and other postcolonial contexts. This collection moves between art history and literary criticism to provide a rich interdisciplinary discussion of the transcultural forms and functions of the Baroque.

Contributors. Dorothy Z. Baker, Walter Benjamin, Christine Buci-Glucksmann, José Pascual Buxó, Leo Cabranes-Grant, Haroldo de Campos, Alejo Carpentier, Irlemar Chiampi, William Childers, Gonzalo Celorio, Eugenio d’Ors, Jorge Ruedas de la Serna, Carlos Fuentes, Édouard Glissant, Roberto González Echevarría, Ángel Guido, Monika Kaup, José Lezama Lima, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mario Praz, Timothy J. Reiss, Alfonso Reyes, Severo Sarduy, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Maarten van Delden, René Wellek, Christopher Winks, Heinrich Wölfflin, Lois Parkinson Zamora"
baroque  latinamerica  literature  counterconquest  europe  postcolonialism  transcultural  neobaroque  nietzsche  heinrichwölfflin  walterbenjamin  eugeniod'ors  renéwellek  mariopraz  alejocarpentier  josélezamalima  severosarduy  édouardglissant  haroldodecampos  carlosfuentes  dorothybaker  christinebuci-glucksmann  josépascualbuxó  leocabranes-grant  irlemarchiampi  williamchilders  gonzalocelorio  jorgeruedasdelaserna  robertogonzálezechevarría  ángelguido  monikakaup  timothyreiss  alfonsoreyes  pedrohenríquezureña  maartenvandelden  christopherwinks  loisparkinsonzamora 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Severo Sarduy - Wikipedia
“Severo Sarduy (25 February 1937, Camagüey, Cuba – 8 June 1993, Paris) was a Cuban poet, author, playwright, and critic of Cuban literature and art. Some of his works deal explicitly with male homosexuality and transvestism.[1][2][3]

Biography

Born in a working-class family of Spanish, African, and Chinese heritage, Sarduy was the top student in his high school, in Camagüey, and in 1956 moved to Havana, where he began a study of medicine. With the triumph of the Cuban revolution he collaborated with the Diario libre and Lunes de revolución, pro-Marxist papers. In 1960 he traveled to Paris to study at the Ecole du Louvre. There he was connected to the group of intellectuals who produced the magazine Tel Quel, particularly to philosopher François Wahl, with whom he was openly involved[4]

Sarduy worked as a reader for Editions du Seuil and as editor and producer of the Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française. Sarduy decided not to return to Cuba when his scholarship ran out a year later. Disaffected with Castro’s regime and fearful of its persecution of homosexuals and the censorship imposed on writers, Sarduy never went home.

In 1972 his novel Cobra won him the Medici Prize. He was among the most brilliant essayists writing in Spanish and “a powerful baroque narrator, full of surprising resources.”[5] As a poet, he was considered one of the greatest of his time. He was also a more or less secret painter; a major retrospective of his work was held at the Reina Sofía Museum of Madrid after his death.

He died due to complications from AIDS just after finishing his autobiographical work Pájaros de la playa (translated as Beach Birds by Suzanne Jill Levine and Carol Maier). To this day, his writings are difficult to access for a Cuban audience, whereas his books are available to the French and international public.”
severosarduy  cuba  literature 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Elena Garro - Wikipedia
“Elena Garro (December 11, 1916 – August 22, 1998) was a Mexican writer. She is a recipient of the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize.

Biography
Elena Garro was born to a Spanish father and a Mexican mother. She spent her childhood in Mexico City but moved to Iguala, Guerrero, during the Cristero War. She studied literature, choreography and theater in the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, where she was an active member of Julio Bracho’s theatre group. She married Octavio Paz in 1937 and began a career in literature and theater. Garro’s fiction explored political and social causes related to life in Mexico. Her citizenship status and focus on Indian rights aroused controversy in Mexico. After her divorce from Paz in 1959, Garro spent time in seclusion between Madrid and Paris in Europe until moving back to Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1994.[1]“
elenagarro  literature  mexico  octaviopaz 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction, Zamora
"The Inordinate Eye traces the relations of Latin American painting, sculpture, architecture, and literature—the stories they tell each other and the ways in which their creators saw the world and their place in it. Moving from pre-Columbian codices and sculpture through New World Baroque art and architecture to Neobaroque theory and contemporary Latin American fiction, Lois Parkinson Zamora argues for an integrated understanding of visual and verbal forms.
 
The New World Baroque combines indigenous, African, and European forms of expression, and, in the early decades of the twentieth century, Latin American writers began to recuperate its visual structures to construct an alternative account of modernity, using its hybrid forms for the purpose of creating a discourse of “counterconquest”—a postcolonial self-definition aimed at disrupting entrenched power structures, perceptual categories, and literary forms.   

Zamora engages this process, discussing a wide range of visual forms—Baroque façades and altarpieces, portraits of saints and martyrs (including the self-portraits of Frida Kahlo), murals from indigenous artisans to Diego Rivera—to elucidate works of fiction by Borges, Carpentier, Lezama Lima, Sarduy, Garro, García Márquez, and Galeano, and also to establish a critical perspective external to their work. Because visual media are “other” to the verbal economy of modern fiction, they serve these writers (and their readers) as oblique means by which to position their fiction culturally, politically, and aesthetically.
 
The first study of its kind in scope and ambition, The Inordinate Eye departs radically from most studies of literature by demonstrating how transcultural conceptions of the visual image have conditioned present ways of seeing and reading in Latin America."
latinamerica  culture  literature  fiction  art  architecture  loisparkinsonzamora  visual  verbal  baroque  fridakhalo  diegorivera  borges  alejocarpentier  josélezamalima  gabrielgarcíamárquez  eduardogaleano  2006  neobaroque  severosarduy  elenagarro  modernity  conunterconquest  postcolonialism  disruption  transcultural  imagery  seeing  reading 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Verso: "The Funeral of C.L.R. James"
"C. L. R. James, the pioneering Trinidadian socialist historian and writer, died on this day 30 years ago in London with his funeral held a few weeks later at Tunapuna Cemetery, Trinidad. On the arrival back in Trinidad of his body, his long-time comrade John La Rose read passages of Aimé Césaire’s Cahier d’un retour au pays natal - the great Caribbean poem of exile and return. In this article, Jackqueline Frost investigates the continental connections of James and Césaire, and the politics of return."



"In James’ systematic determinism, the return to the Caribbean for political intellectuals takes on the dimensions of a prophecy. This is the logic at work in the final paragraph of “Fanon and the Caribbean,” where James considers what the Algerian revolutionary would be doing in 1978 were he still alive. Though at the end of his life Fanon no longer considered himself Caribbean, James’ goal in this short text is to show that Fanon’s upbringing in Martiniquan society inescapably made him the political actor and thinker he was. In abandoning the West Indies for Africa, as part of a generation of Caribbean militants whose major political engagement took similar forms, Fanon affirms rather than negates his Caribbean identity. James claims here that “the moment Fanon heard that in the Caribbean Cuba was free and the other countries were gaining independence, he said then he would go back to struggle there with them.” Whether Fanon’s promise to return to the Caribbean can be considered authentic or apocryphal, the tendency of return permitted these sorts of thought-experiments. The ugly outcomes of James’ own return to Trinidad and Tobago and 1958 and his mid-60s venture into electoral politics, did not dissuade him from singing the accolades of West Indians and their society in advancing world civilization through their specific “creative contributions.” As James writes in Beyond a Boundary, he had discovered that what mattered was “movement: Not where you are or what you have, but where you have come from, where you are going and the rate at which you are getting there.”[xx] These are some of the words carved into his gravestone in Tunapuna, Trinidad. While returning to the place one comes from has a specific meaning for West Indians in the second half of the 20th century, James reminds us that no cultural object is ever disconnected from the society which produced its author. On the 30th anniversary of James’ death, his epitaph and the passages read at his Ceremony of Return caution us against ignoring the social worlds that we often hold in isolation from the political and poetic acts they generate."

[See also (referenced in the essay): https://www.marxists.org/archive/james-clr/works/1978/11/fanon.htm ]
2019  clrjames  caribbean  culture  franzfanon  aimécésaire  jackquelinefrost  cuba  trinidad  haiti  johnlarose  jorgelefevretavárez  decolonization  latinamerica  africa  claudiajones  jacquesstephenalexis  elsagoveia  géraldbloncourt  saragomez  jacquesroumain  nancymorejón  renédepestre  andrewsalkey  suzannecésaire  mikeysmith  walteriocarbonell  nicolásguillén  alejocarpentier  negrismomovement  negrismo  race  negritude  cam  sociology  orlandopatterson  wilsonharris  georgelamming  art  literature  politics  marxism  aubreywilliams  altheamcnish  stuarthall  1999  martinique  algeria  1978 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Entrevista a Gastón Soublette - Parte I: La Sabiduría Tradicional - YouTube
"Realizada en Limache el 3 de octubre de 2015 en ocasión del Premio Nueva Civilización por su contribución al estudio y valorización de la cultura y la sabiduría popular creativa.
El Galardón será otorgado el Miércoles 25 de Noviembre, a las 18.30 hrs. en el marco del Simposio Internacional 'Desafíos de la Política en un Mundo Complejo', ocasión en que don Gastón Soublette ofrecerá una Conferencia Magistral."

[Parte II: El Arte
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjn8B-aSFaE

Parte III: La Cultura Mapuche
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N27LAd906yM

Parte IV: El Conocimiento Científico
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjEj-i0dcUs

Parte V: Filosofía y Educación
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neci7LTwH_8

Parte VI: Religión y Cultura
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neyEPrRH_oQ

Parte VII: Una Nueva Civilización
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=930FCVu9_7M ]
gastónsoublette  chile  history  mapuche  science  education  philosophy  culture  religion  civilization  future  art  music  tradition  oraltradition  oral  orality  diegoportales  improvisation  wisdom  mexico  precolumbian  inca  maya  aztec  quechua  literature  epics  araucaria  aesthetics  transcendentalism  myths  myth  arthistory  2015  perú 
march 2019 by robertogreco
In Praise of bell hooks - The New York Times
In 1987, I was a sophomore at Yale. I’d been in the United States for 11 years, and although I was a history major, I wanted to read novels again. I signed up for “Introduction to African-American Literature,” which was taught by Gloria Watkins, an assistant professor in the English department, and she was such a wonderful teacher that I signed up for her other class, “Black Women and Their Fiction.”

Gloria — as we were allowed to address her in the classroom — had a slight figure with elegant wrists that peeked out of her tunic sweater sleeves. She was soft-spoken with a faint Southern accent, which I attributed to her birthplace, Hopkinsville, Ky. She was in her mid-30s then but looked much younger. Large, horn-rimmed glasses framed the open gaze of her genuinely curious mind. You knew her classes were special. The temperature in the room seemed to change in her presence because everything felt so intense and crackling like the way the air can feel heavy before a long-awaited rain. It wasn’t just school then. No, I think, we were falling in love with thinking and imagining again.

She didn’t assign her own writing, but of course my friends and I went to the bookstore to find it. Gloria Watkins published her first book, “Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism,” under her pen name, bell hooks, in honor of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. Watkins wanted her pen name to be spelled in lowercase to shift the attention from her identity to her ideas.

Gloria Watkins was a 19-year-old undergraduate at Stanford University when she wrote her first draft of “Ain’t I A Woman,” and she published the book when she was 29 years old, after she received her doctorate in English from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since then she has published three dozen books and teaches in her home state of Kentucky at Berea College, a liberal arts college that does not charge tuition to any of its students. She is the founder of the bell hooks Institute and is recognized globally as a feminist activist and cultural critic. For nearly four decades, hooks has written and published with clarity, novel insight and extraordinary precision about art, media, race, gender and class.

For this now canonical text, hooks took her title from a line in the 1863 published version of Sojourner Truth’s speech in favor of women’s suffrage, which she gave in 1851 in Akron, Ohio. As in Truth’s political activism, hooks asserts that one cannot separate race from gender, history and class when considering a person’s freedom.

Now, 38 years after its publication in 1981, “Ain’t I A Woman” remains a radical and relevant work of political theory. hooks lays the groundwork of her feminist theory by giving historical evidence of the specific sexism that black female slaves endured and how that legacy affects black womanhood today. She writes, “A devaluation of black womanhood occurred as a result of the sexual exploitation of black women during slavery that has not altered in the course of hundreds of years.” The economics of slavery, which commodified human lives and the breeding of more enslaved people, encouraged the systematic practice of rape against black women, and this system established an enduring “social hierarchy based on race and sex.”

hooks’s writing broke ground by recognizing that a woman’s race, political history, social position and economic worth to her society are just some of the factors, which comprise her value, but none of these can ever be left out in considering the totality of her life and her freedom.

For me, reading “Ain’t I A Woman,” was as if someone had opened the door, the windows, and raised the roof in my mind. I am neither white nor black, but through her theories, I was able to understand that my body contained historical multitudes and any analysis without such a measured consideration was limited and deeply flawed.

I was 19 when I took hooks’s classes, and I was just becoming a young feminist myself. I had begun my study of feminism with Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Virginia Woolf, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, among other white women, and perhaps, because I was foreign-born — rightly or wrongly — I had not expected that people like me would be included in their vision of feminist liberation. Women and men of Asian ethnicities are so often neglected, excluded and marginalized in the Western academy, so as a college student I’d no doubt internalized my alleged insignificance. bell hooks changed my limited perception.

Her book of theory taught me to ask for more from art, literature, media, politics and history — and for me, a Korean girl who had been born in a divided nation once led by kings, colonizers, then a succession of presidents who were more or less dictators, and for millenniums, that had enforced rigid class systems with slaves and serfs until the early 20th century, and where women of all classes were deeply oppressed and brutalized, I needed to see that the movement had a space for me.

In fostering a feminist movement, which can include and empower women from all different races and classes, hooks calls for an honest reckoning of its history. She indicts the origins of the white feminist movement for its racist and classist treatment of African-American women and repudiates its goals of imitating the power structure of white patriarchy. That said, she does not support a separate black women’s movement, and in fact, sees that as counterproductive to the greater power a well-organized collective women’s movement can have. hooks wrote in “Ain’t I A Woman”: “Without a doubt, the false sense of power black women are encouraged to feel allows us to think that we are not in need of social movements like a women’s movement that would liberate us from sexist oppression. The sad irony is of course that black women are often most victimized by the very sexism we refuse to collectively identify as an oppressive force.”

I am 50 years old now, and I worry when I hear that feminism is anything a woman chooses, because I don’t think that’s true. If a woman chooses to hurt another person or herself in the guise of feminism, surely that cannot eradicate sexism. bell hooks asserts that freedom “as positive social equality that grants all humans the opportunity to shape their destinies in the most healthy and communally productive way can only be a complete reality when our world is no longer racist and sexist.” This is very true, I think, and I wonder if today we are considering what is “most healthy and communally productive” for all of us, not just for some of us.

In college, I did not imagine that I could be a fiction writer. The wish to make art seemed like some incredibly expensive store I could never enter. Nevertheless, no matter what I would do with my life after graduation, “Ain’t I A Woman” allowed me to recognize the dignity and power of living privately and publicly as an immigrant feminist of color. At the time, I did not yet know of Kimberle Crenshaw’s brilliant term “intersectionality,” or Claudia Rankine’s vital concept “racial imaginary” — complementary and significant theories for understanding present day lives, but as a young woman, through hooks’s work, I was just beginning to see that everyone needs theory, and we need it like water.

bell hooks: A Starter Kit
‘Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center’ (1984) Considered a follow-up to “Ain’t I A Woman.” A smart analysis of the future of the women’s movement.

‘Talking Back: Thinking, Thinking Black’ (1989) Anthology of essays about feminism and finding her material and voice as a writer, including “to Gloria, who is she: on using a pseudonym” and “Ain’t I A Woman: looking back.”

‘Black Looks: Race and Representation’ (1992) Anthology of essays, including the knockout, “Eating the Other,” and film-studies canon essay, “The Oppositional Gaze.”

‘Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom’ (1994) An exciting and liberating work of practical pedagogy for teachers and students.

‘Outlaw Culture’ (1994) Anthology of cultural criticism, including film, music and books. A terrific essay on rap music, “Gangsta Culture — Sexism and Misogyny,” which my friend Dionne Bennett, another former student of bell hooks and an anthropologist at City Tech, teaches because “There is no better essay on this topic,” says Dionne.

‘We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity’ (2004) Anthology of insightful cultural criticism of how white culture marginalizes and represses black men."
bellhooks  2019  minjinlee  feminism  race  racism  sexism  writing  teaching  howweteach  patriarchy  freedom  history  art  literature  media  politics  class  whitesupremacy  whiteness  whitefeminism  oppression 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Tips for Beginning Translators - TRANSLATIONiSTA
"It’s not as if every young and/or aspiring translator is the same as every other one, but I do get a lot of notes asking basically the same thing: If I’m interested in breaking into the field of literary translation, how do I start? How do I get published? Here’s the sort of advice I tend to give out, starting with the question: You do understand that being a literary translator is probably not a way to make a living without a day job, right? If that’s all right with you, keep reading.

For starters, you should be submitting your work to literary magazines. These don’t have to be magazines that specialize in translation; most literary mags are happy to consider translated work, especially if you let them know in your cover letter that you’ve already looked into the rights situation. As with any other work you’d submit to a magazine, you should take care to match your submission to the magazine’s aesthetic preferences and literary tastes, which you can determine by reading the magazine. You shouldn’t be in the business of trying to get published in magazines you don’t actually read. So your first order of business is to head over to your local bookstore or library and check out the rack of literary magazines; get to know which ones specialize in which sorts of work (plot-driven realistic stories? formally experimental work? the fantastic?), and then you’ll be well prepared to place your work sensibly; mention in your cover letter what made you think the particular translation you’re submitting would be a good match for the journal in question. Well, you might say, that’s a lot of work! Indeed, it is. Getting your translations published in magazines will help you confirm both to yourself and to other potential publishers (of books, say) that you are capable of producing professional-level, publishable work. As the list of your publications grows, so will your desirability to publishers. Note that there are also a number of journals (online and paper) actively seeking translated work; this list comes to you courtesy of the PEN Translation Committee. Oh, and speaking of literary magazines, you should also make a point of reading journals published in the countries where the language you translate from is spoken; it’s a great way to discover newer authors who haven’t been translated yet.

The second thing you should do is network with other emerging translators. Go to readings in your town and make a point of meeting other translators there. Join ELTNA (the Emerging Literary Translators Network in America). Check out the yearly conference of the American Literary Translators Association, which offers a lot of opportunities for networking (as well as competitive travel fellowships to attend the conference). If you can find peers interested in getting together to swap and critique work, that’s a great way to hone your skills if you’re not in a position to do coursework somewhere and are still learning.

The third thing you should do is get on the mailing list of any cultural institute relevant to the language you translate. Many countries have these – they promote a country’s language and/or culture internationally, and many of them sponsor readings, workshops, contests, and other sorts of events.

The fourth thing you should do is enter any competition relevant to your language (which you’ve found out about through the relevant cultural institute) and apply for grants, especially the PEN/Heim Translation Fund grants, which are open to emerging translators and are a great way for someone new on the scene to come to the attention of potential publishers. Since you apply with a specific book project, it’s a great grant to try for if you already have your heart set on translating a particular work.

When you’ve gotten your first magazine publications under your belt, then it’s time to shoot for the big league: book publishers. Look for publishers that print the sort of work you’re most interested in, and send around a few letters of introduction, including samples of your work and a list of your publications. Often publishers need translators to prepare sample translations from books they’re thinking about acquiring, and often the professional translators who regularly work for these publishing houses don’t have time for these samples, so this is your easiest way in. It’s also a good idea at this point to introduce yourself to the program staff at any relevant cultural institution; they too sometimes need sample translations and synopses for books they’re promoting.

Finally, here’s a paragraph for brand-new translators who’ve discovered a fantastic unknown-in-English author they want to pitch to publishers: Sure, you can do that, but first, imagine the situation from the publisher’s point of view. To publish (acquire rights, edit, copyedit, print, distribute, promote) a book involves a seriously substantial investment of money and time on a publisher’s part. Even if you’ve produced a strong short sample from the book (which you might have gotten help with, for all the publisher knows) – for an editor to trust that a translator without a track record is really going to be able to produce a translation of the entire book that is of the same quality as the sample within a reasonable time frame is a leap of faith. The more previous publications you can demonstrate (including in journals), the easier you make it for a publisher to decide to take you on. And of course if you win a competition or a grant, that’s an excellent calling card right there. In preparing a pitch, think about what you yourself would want to know about a project before deciding to invest in it; among other things, that will probably involve an assessment of where the author you’re proposing fits in the context of international writing as well as in the English-language literary landscape, and also what the book in question has in common with other works published by this publishing house.

There’s no one right way and no easy way to get into the translation business, but it’s definitely quite possible to break in to the profession if that’s your goal. Did I remember to mention that it’s a really really hard way to pay your rent?

P.S. I’ve been hearing from annoyed colleagues who are professional literary translators who do make a living translating literature, so obviously it’s possible, particularly in the UK (where the Translation Association of the Society of Authors recommends minimum rates that are widely adhered to), and particularly if you live in a place with a lower cost of living than, say, New York. In the United States, surviving as a literary translator without also performing other sorts of work (or having resources from another source) is much less common, and I myself have never managed to make a living that way, even though “literary translator” has been my primary professional identity for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, of course, and it doesn’t mean a translator shouldn’t negotiate for a living wage with publishers. Two years ago I posted a discussion of translation rates in the U.S. that covers a lot of bases – check it out!

I also recommend you consult the ALTA Guides published by the American Literary Translators Association."

[See also: http://literarytranslators.org/resources/alta-guides ]
publishing  tips  translation  susanbernofsky  2017  literature  srg 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Hay que reconciliar al cine mexicano con su público: Fernanda Solórzano - El Sol de México
"ENCONTRAR VIRTUD EN LO COMPLEJO

Otro tema que para ella es importante a la hora de dignificar las películas que se hacen aquí es revisar la idea de que el cine es sólo una forma de entretenimiento, útil nada más para el escapismo y la evasión, sin dar oportunidad a las producciones que no tienen un mensaje cerrado y que apelan a que el espectador abra su inteligencia a distintas posibilidades de mensaje.

“A mí me gustaría que en las escuelas mismas se promoviera entre los niños la idea de que no todos tenemos que entender de inmediato los relatos sino que entre más preguntas puedan provocar más pueden enriquecer. Que seas capaz de salir de una película y la puedas comentar con alguien que quizá tenga un punto de vista distinto al tuyo, justamente porque no se les dio un mensaje definido…”

Reconoce que es un trabajo lento y que puede durar varias generaciones, pero que no hay nada como encontrarle virtud a lo complejo y entender que una película que te permite tener varias lecturas puede resultarte quizá más satisfactoria que una que no va a permitir que alguien te cambie tu propio punto de vista.

Y remarca: “El cine que más disfruto es el que me saca de mis certezas; el que me hace pensar y repensar mi realidad. Me choca darme cuenta de que me están manipulando. Me gusta que confíen en mi inteligencia. A mí me gusta que los directores también confíen en la inteligencia del público y el público en su propia inteligencia”.

LA COMEDIA ROMÁNTICA

Y de todo ese panorama destaca algo con lo que no está de acuerdo, la temática con la que se están haciendo algunas comedias mexicanas actuales, ya que le parece que refuerzan valores a los que como sociedad estamos tratando de oponernos, como el machismo o la homofobia, y que en este género suelen ser abordados como algo gracioso y normal.

“Voy a poner como ejemplo la cinta Qué culpa tiene el niño, cuya historia versa sobre una chica que en una fiesta queda embarazada, no sabe de quién porque estaba alcoholizada y entonces eso es presentado como chistoso, sin importar que es irresponsable que un hombre se aproveche de una mujer en esas condiciones”.

No ve que este tipo de producciones sean tan terribles y bajas como las sexy comedias de los años 80, donde los hombres literalmente violaban a las mujeres y nadie decía nada y todos se reían, pero asumen los mismos valores. “Obviamente son más sofisticadas estas comedias, son más pulidas, pero los chistes son los mismos, apelan al mismo tipo de moral, lo que me parece triste”.

LA ERA DIGITAL

Con respecto a los nuevos formatos de filmación y las modalidades de exhibición más allá de las salas cinematográficas, Fernanda percibe que ciertamente plantean nuevos problemas estéticos y económicos, lo cual también puede ser una oportunidad para que se abaraten las posibilidades de acceso para producir cine a quien actualmente no tiene los recursos para hacerlo.

“Al final lo importante es contar bien una historia y hacerlo estéticamente. Incluso hay historias que se pueden contar mejor en uno u otro formato. Por ejemplo, hay un director que filmó su primera película en iPhone, Tangerine, de Sean Baker, que fue muy premiada, y después decidió que su segunda producción se hiciera en 35 mm porque consideró que esa cinta no aguantaba lo digital y requería cierta profundidad. O sea hay narrativas para todo tipo de formato”.

Sobre el formato de miniseries, predominante en los servicios de streaming on line, la crítica de cine también los califica de oportunidad interesante. “A mí me gustan muchísimo, yo no las veo como un producto menor. Creo que muchos directores de cine, ante la imposibilidad de tener un presupuesto tan alto, están experimentando. Y pongo cono ejemplo la serie Un extraño enemigo de Gabriel Ripstein, que me pareció muy buena, bien contada, bien narrada y muy acentuada, a pesar de que era muy difícil que una serie más sobre el 68 tuviera impacto”."
fernandasolórzano  conemexicano  education  schools  stories  film  filmmaking  storytelling  linearity  ambiguity  certainty  complexity  howwethink  conversation  interviews  race  racism  homophobia  digital  2018  literature  children  medialiteracy  literacy  teaching  howweteach  unschooling  deschooling  criticalthinking 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson | Autostraddle
"In 1955, Tove Jansson asked Tuulikki Pietilä to dance. They had sat all night around the gramophone together, guarding it whilst they played their records so that nobody could change the music. But Pietilä said no: same-sex relationships were still illegal in Finland — and would be until 1971 — and – the threat of judgement from peers and colleagues was intense. Queer people know well the hollow of panic, deep in the gut, when you think that your disguises may have failed. It is why, historically, we have avoided large displays of affection; why our histories take the form of private letters, fragments hidden inside books and diaries. The story of Tove and Tuulikki is no different; soon after she refused to dance, Tuulikki sent Tove a card with a cat, fat and striped, hand-drawn on the front. A code that meant: I am thinking of you. After telephone calls over the holidays, Tove finally set off to Tuulikki’s studio. It was March, and snowing, when she walked over; the streets were dark and the fat flakes fell in drifts that made the roads shine. When she got there, the studio warm and light like a ship’s cabin at sea, they drank wine and played French records.

Jansson’s queerness is often left out in stories of her life. Puffin editions of Moomin books talked about how she lived alone on her Finnish island; documentaries still talk of Pietilä as a lifelong friend. Jansson is no
 misnomer, rather, she fits in neatly with the trend of avoiding the personal lives of gay people
 – particularly lesbians – that exists to this day. Society dissolves queer realities: erases the two bodies sharing a bed, wrapped around each other, the two bodies fucking, the moments and hours and days, the holding hands and arguing and kissing and small talk. As seen throughout history, gayness is coded as dangerous for children. It is portrayed something purely sexual or purely chaste, rarely afforded the complexity and nuance afforded to heterosexual relationships. For Jansson to be a successful children’s writer she was portrayed as sexless, loveless. It’s particularly egregious when queerness informs the work of a writer to that extent that it did for Jansson. Not only do the themes of loneliness, family and love shape her work for adults and children, but she included characters based on her female lovers in many of her works.

Before meeting Pietilä, Jansson had been in a creative crisis. She knew the demand was high for another Moomin book, but dreaded the thought of repeating herself – she longed for new ground to tread, for the freedom of inspiration. As her fame had increased, so had her awareness that the Moomins were no longer hers alone; they now appeared on waste paper baskets and brooches and wrapping paper, and the public always wanted more. In 1955 she wrote of her conflicting feelings, saying, “I can’t recall exactly when I became hostile to my work, or how it happened and what I should do to recapture my natural pleasure in it.” The knowledge that she had to write another Moomin book loomed large in her mind. It was precisely Pietilä’s influence that helped overcome her writer’s block: “That I was able to write Moominland Midwinter was entirely due to Tooti,” Jansson stated to biographer Boel Westin in Tove Jansson: Life, Art Words. Out of their love letters the character of Too-tikky had been formed, first as an inky doodle of her lover’s likeness (‘My Tootikki!’, she nicknamed Pietilä), and then slowly as a fleshed-out form.

Moominland Midwinter was a radical departure from the sun-drenched summers of the Moomin valley that readers had seen before — sailing boats framed by orange-slice suns, picnics on the terrace, dances in the woods. Instead, Moomin wakes up from hibernation in the cold dark of a Finnish winter, pine trees blanketed with snow. He is disoriented and scared, eager to wake up his mother for comfort. However, when she turns away from him in her sleep he realises he must deal with this new world — and his yearning for spring — on his own. There to help him is Too-tikky, as no-nonsense as her flesh and blood counterpart, who describes to him the dancing colours of the Northern Lights, states “One has to discover everything for oneself.” Moomin realises that the winter is needed, for after it follows the spring, lush and bright and alive. It’s hard not to read this as a mirror of Jansson and Pietilä’s relationship, blooming out of the snow and cold — in Moominland Midwinter, our narrator states “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in.” The winter gives us as queer people the chance to show ourselves, to claim the world as ours.

This wasn’t the first lover she had included in her stories: Vivica Bandler, the married theatre director with whom Jansson had an affair in 1946, became the character of Bob. Bob’s counterpart, Thingumy, was Tove, who wrote to Bandler, “No one understands their language, but that doesn’t matter so long as they themselves know what it’s all about… Do you love me? Of dourse you coo! Sanks and the thame to you!” This exchange ended up almost entirely complete in Jansson’s next Moomin book, Finn Family Moomintroll, where Thingumy and Bob are introduced as intertwined, inextricable creatures, their names better known in conjunction than when on their own. They even look the same, only differentiated by the hat Bob wears. By placing them, idiosyncratic and unmissable, at the centre of the story, Jansson was able to make a public declaration of love in a private manner. Her passion – her willingness to depict their relationship for anybody who could decipher the code – led Bandler to warn her to be secretive. Not only was their love illegal, but it was classed as a psychiatric condition, and its reveal would have cost both women their livelihoods and families.

Queerness is Jansson’s works is never as simplistic as direct representation of lovers. It’s something that seeped into the pages, flowing along the lines in the illustrations. In a letter to Bandler, Jansson talks of how “everything has changed since I met you! Every tone is more vivid, every colour cleaner, all my perceptions are sharper.” Already so occupied with “pure, fresh colours” – fleshy greens and cornflower blues and sherbet yellows – Jansson’s passion for Bandler allowed her to utilise them further in her work, encouraging her to use them with a giddy joy on the front cover of Finn Family Moomintroll. Her renewed passion for colour around this time is also prominent in the murals she painted in Helsinki Town Hall, into which she painted Bandler, a tiny Moomintroll and herself; fan in one hand, cigarette in the other, turning her blue eyes away from the viewer’s gaze.

Throughout Finn Family Moomintroll there is a presence, cold and dark and flat, sucking the light from the sun, wilting the flowers. The Groke is the closest the Moomin books get to an antagonist, although even she is treated with sympathy. She is grey as a storm cloud, and wherever she goes the plants and creatures die. She is the antithesis of Thingumy and Bob’s happiness, the embodiment of loneliness to their companionship. It is they who get to keep suitcase of rubies in the end of the story, a treasure many long for but one whose dazzling contents are only available to those who have ‘the right’ to own it — their love makes them the only ones suitable for the honour. It’s tempting to read the Groke as an allegory for the bigotry of a society that seeks to separate lovers, and for the misery that follows. In typical Tove fashion, however, the Groke is not a figure of hatred or derision, but one of pity.

It is Too-Ticky who, in Moominland Midwinter, encourages us to empathise with the Groke — to consider how desperately lonely a life untouched by love must be. This is not to say that Jansson did not face the isolation that is inherent in the lives of most queer people — although she remained with Pietilä for the rest of her life, and although they shared connected apartments and their island cottage, she could never discuss her love with her family. Jansson was open with her friends, telling them that she the “happiest and most genuine solution for me will be to go over to the spook side;” a wonderfully matter-of-fact way of resolving her own conflicts over her sexuality. But both her father and her mother were unable to discuss it with her — Jansson describes how her father tried to speak with her after he had heard gossip, but ultimately, he could not say the “difficult word homosexual.” Jansson suspected that her mother knew, but never raised the subject, writing “I can accept this […] But it feels lonely.”

Only after her parents had died did Jansson write Fair Play, a collection of short stories that fictionalised her relationship with Pietilä. The characters in the book, Jonna and Mari, live as Jansson and Pietilä do – in adjoining apartments with connecting studios. They are – respectively – an artist, and an illustrator and writer. The stories are quiet: Jonna and Mari watch westerns together, try to protect their fishing nets from a storm, bicker over the way paintings hang on the wall. They travel to America, as their real-life counterparts did, and sleep in a tent when a guest stays in their island cottage. But it’s everyday-ness is precisely what makes it so calmly radical. It is a portrait of a lifelong lesbian couple, allowing us to see into their daily lives, the minutiae of how they live, and on display at the centre of everything is their love for one another. In her introduction Ali Smith brilliantly summarises it as “affectionate discretion […] a good-working love, a homage to the kind of coupledom that rarely receives such homage.” No longer forced to be… [more]
tovejansson  tuulikkipietilä  2018  moomins  sexuality  writing  hannahilliams  queerness  relationships  creativity  finland  love  boelwestin  1955  1946  vivicabandler  language  groke  empathy  literature  howwerite  homosexuality  alismith  affection  discretion 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne's spirals: chaos theory, minor literature and generic limits | Mary Cobb Wittrock - Academia.edu
"This article elucidates the distinct relationship between Frankétienne’s spiral writing and Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ contemporary chaos theory demonstrating that chaos theory is an important paradigm to consider in literary analysis of the twentieth and twenty-first century. The open-ended nature of Frankétienne’s spiral interprets the Arrow of Time as proposed by Prigogine and Stengers; that is, that time is not reversible and the future and the past do not have a direct, linear rela-tionship. In essence, Prigogine and Stengers proposed that order evolves out of chaos. Furthermore, the fractalized, noisy, chaotic schizophony illustrated in his works imitates the bifurcation process in chaos theory when a system, far from equilibrium, undergoes self-organizing iterations from chaos to either order or morechaos. As a result, this analysis will examine how two of Frankétienne’s works, Ultravocal and H’Éros-Chimères, challenge the limits of traditional genre theory, and will show that his schizophonic writing exists in a state ‘far from equilibrium’ allowing a deleuzian minor language and literature to be exposed."
frankétienne  marycobbittrock  2010  haiti  spiralism  literature  isabellestenger  ilyaprigogine  chaostheory 
november 2018 by robertogreco
OAPEN Library - Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon, by Kaiama L. Glover
"Touching on the role and destiny of Haiti in the Americas, Haiti Unbound engages with long-standing issues of imperialism and resistance culture in the transatlantic world. Glover's timely project emphatically articulates Haiti's regional and global centrality, combining vital 'big picture' reflections on the field of postcolonial studies with elegant close-reading-based analyses of the philosophical perspective and creative practice of a distinctively Haitian literary phenomenon. Providing insightful and sophisticated blueprints for the reading and teaching of the Spiralists' prose fiction, it will serve as a point of reference for the works of these authors and for the singular socio-political space out of and within which they write."
haiti  literature  spiritualism  spiralism  kaiamaglover  2011  fiction  postcolonialism  frankétienne  jean-claudefignolé  renéphiloctète 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The National Book Awards Haul Translators Out of Obscurity - The Atlantic
"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America."



"Some of the first stories you remember reading or hearing read aloud were probably translations, though chances are you didn’t realize it. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? That was from the Danish. “Sleeping Beauty”? French. One Thousand and One Nights? Arabic. “Hansel and Gretel”? German. “Pinocchio”? Italian. “Cinderella”? French—or, depending how far you back you want to go, German, Italian, or even Greek. As you grew up, if you read The Swiss Family Robinson or The Count of Monte Cristo, did you notice who translated it?

Not so long ago, it was rare for a translator’s name to appear on a book’s title page, let alone a cover, or for a review of a foreign novel to mention its translator. With a handful of exceptions (Robert Fitzgerald’s Aeneid, anyone’s Proust), if a book originated in a language other than English, that fact was downplayed. Behind this disappearing act lay an assumption that readers would recoil from a book if they realized it was translated, fearing it would be “tricky or complicated or inaccessible,” as Samantha Schnee, the founding editor of the translation journal Words Without Borders, put it.

This is changing. In the span of about 15 years, foreign provenance, once treated almost like a guilty secret, has become a source of allure. As blockbusters from foreign lands invaded American best-seller charts in the first decade of the 21st century—Suite Française, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—independent and nonprofit presses that specialized in translated literature sprang up from coast to coast; among them Archipelago Books (2003), Europa Editions (2005), Open Letter (2008), New Vessel Press (2012), and Restless Books (2013) in New York; Deep Vellum (2013) in Texas; and Transit Books (2015) in California. On November 14, the National Book Foundation, recognizing this shift in relevance, will award a Translated Literature prize—the first category added to the National Book Awards in more than two decades.

Lisa Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, sees the prize as “a lens. It’s a spotlight … It’s not about a distillation of all the works that are meritorious; the point is that you’re celebrating.”

There are a few possible explanations for this metamorphosis from near-invisibility to celebration. One is that in the late-20th century, a craze arose for retranslating the classics. Critics, always fascinated by what’s difficult and eager to spot a trend, took note, raising the profile of translators in the process. Perhaps the most prominent in this cohort are Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband-and-wife team who embarked in the 1980s on the audacious project of retranslating much of the Russian canon—which they are still doing, three decades on. Every time they let fly a new Slavic doorstop, a critical explosion ensues. Today the release of any new translation of a famous work—by Homer, Proust, Kafka, Flaubert—tends to elicit a passionate reaction from the literary elite, even if the translator is relatively unknown.

A complementary trend at the turn of the century heightened interest in the lived experience of people in or from other nations. A generation of American writers born outside of this country were coming of age: Chang-Rae Lee and Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri and Gary Shteyngart, Khaled Hosseini and Junot Díaz. In their books, they reached into other lands—Korea, Haiti, India, England, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Dominican Republic—braiding imported history, attitudes, and priorities into American narratives. Although they wrote in English, they were translating foreign cultures through their fiction. In the process, they created a flourishing literary hybrid that broadened domestic reading tastes.

Even as the identity of American fiction took on an international flavor, technological advances in machine translation demystified foreign languages for monolingual Americans, making the outside world more legible. Cellphones can translate street signs, notice boards, and menus into English (or German, or Chinese, or French) with the click of a button; internet translation engines can convert foreign-language news stories into readable English in seconds. Philipp Koehn, a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University who wrote the book on machine translation (literally, it’s called Statistical Machine Translation), recalls that when he started out in this field, 20 years ago, “all that these machines produced was gibberish. We were amazed when something came out that you could almost read.” Now, however, “if you find a newspaper article in good languages—by which I mean the ones we have enough data on, like French or English—and run it through Google Translate, you actually have to look for errors.”"



"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America. It means literature that, wherever it comes from, whatever nation it describes, American readers recognize as relevant to them, as familiar. Foreign is no longer foreign.

That said, the question of how “foreign” a translation should “feel” provokes fierce disagreement. When you open a translated novel from overseas, do you want to sense its author’s French, German, Swedish, Spanish, or Italian sensibility, even if that breaks the spell of your reading experience? Or do you want to feel as if the book has magically converted itself into flawless, easeful English, attuned to your own idiom? (This is called the “foreignization versus domestication” debate.) And should a translation hew closely to the language and structure of the original, or should it re-craft the language to appeal to the target audience? (This is the “faithfulness” question.) Hardly anyone agrees—not editors, not scholars, not translators, and not readers. This makes it difficult even for experts to reach a consensus on which translated new books by unfamiliar authors and translators should be singled out for praise. Another difficulty is that few have read the translated books in the original language, which means that most base their assessments on their opinion of the English, not knowing to what extent it reflects the urtext.

That’s why Lucas prefers to avoid using the word best when she discusses the prize contenders. “There are always going to be people who object to which books are chosen,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘This should have been on the long list, this should have been on the finalists list, this or that book should have won.’” To her mind, all the books win because the act of nominating them “generates energy, conversation, and critique.” The prize is not a competition, but an affirmation.

Collectively, the five titles on the National Book Foundation’s shortlist for the Translated Literature prize demonstrate the transformation and continuity of America’s investment in international voices. Three of the books come from two houses that formed only in the past 15 years—Archipelago, with Love, by Hanne Orstavik, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken; and Europa, with Disoriental, translated from the French by Tina Kover, and Trick, by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri. A fourth title, The Emissary, by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, comes from the venerable independent house New Directions. Only one of the books, Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, comes from one of New York’s “big five” houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). It was published by Riverhead, a division of Penguin Random House.

Still, there is room for progress. All five of the shortlisted books feature the translator’s name on the title page, but only two put it on the cover. One of these, Trick, presumably does so because its translator, Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, is better known in the United States than its author. Imagine that: reading for the translator."
2018  literature  translation  us  language  languages  chang-raelee  edwidgedanticat  jhumpalahiri  garyshteyngart  khaledhosseini  junotdíazphilippkoehn  lieslschillinger  machinetranslation  karloveknausgaard 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne, Father of Haitian Letters, Is Busier Than Ever - The New York Times
"Frankétienne has had prophecies of death (his own) and destruction (Haiti’s).

The earthquake that wrecked this country in January 2010? It was foreseen, said Frankétienne, the man known as the father of Haitian letters, in his play “The Trap.” It was written two months before the disaster and depicts two men in a postapocalyptic landscape, now a familiar sight in his Delmas neighborhood here.

“The voice of God spoke to me,” said Frankétienne, 75, later noting he had also long dwelt on the ecological ruin he believes the planet is hurtling toward. As for his death, that will come in nine years, in 2020, he says, at age 84. He is not sick, he says, but he has learned to “listen to the divine music in all of us.”

And so the prolific novelist, poet and painter — often all three in a single work — hears his coda. He is vowing to complete a multivolume memoir “before I leave, physically,” while keeping up an increasingly busy schedule of exhibitions and conferences.

“I am going to talk about everything I have seen from age 5 or 6,” he said recently at his house-cum-museum and gallery. “And stuff that hasn’t happened yet because I am a prophet.”

Eccentric. Abstract. A “spiralist,” who rejects realism and embraces disorder. Frankétienne — he combined his first and last names years ago — embraces chaos as a style he believes befits a country with a long, tumultuous history birthed in a slave revolt more than 200 years ago and scarred by a cascade of natural and man-made disasters.

In chaos he finds order.

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life,” he said, his baritone voice rising as it does when he gets worked up over a point. “What I don’t like is nonmanagement of chaos. The reason why Haiti looks more chaotic is because of nonmanagement. In other countries it is managed better. Haiti, they should take as reference for what could happen in the rest of world.”

Scholars widely view Frankétienne as Haiti’s most important writer. He wrote what many consider the first modern novel entirely in Haitian Creole, “Dezafi,” in 1975, and a play well known here that challenged political oppression, “Pelin Tet.” It is a biting work from 1978 that is aimed, not so subtly, at Jean-Claude Duvalier, the son of the dictator François Duvalier and himself a former dictator known as Baby Doc, who returned here from exile in January.

Although not well known in the English-speaking world, Frankétienne has star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries and was rumored to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.

After the quake, his works gained more international attention, particularly in Canada and France. “The Trap” debuted in March 2010 at a Unesco forum in Paris that named him an artist for peace; galleries in New York have organized shows featuring his artwork. Still, he also holds informal Sunday workshops with young artists in Haiti to talk about and critique their work.

“He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever,” said Jean Jonassaint, a Haitian literature scholar at Syracuse University.

Frankétienne’s output, about 40 written works and, by his count, 2,000 paintings and sketches, comprises dense, baroque affairs. He invents new words, blending French and Haitian Creole. Long digressions are de rigueur. His paintings, which he says are selling particularly well these days, blur swirling blacks, blues and reds, often covered with poems.

He admires James Joyce, and it shows. “ ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books,” he said.

Still, the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat said Frankétienne remained popular among Haitians, in part because some of his plays had been videotaped and passed around in Haiti and in immigrant communities in the United States.

“Pelin Tet,” in which the grim life of two Haitian immigrants in New York deliberately echoes the oppression of the Duvalier era on the island, is a touchstone for many Haitians, said Ms. Danticat, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Frankétienne and was, in part, inspired to write by his rise to the top.

“His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble,” she said. “It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without.”

Frankétienne was born as Franck Étienne on April 12, 1936, and raised in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the son of a Haitian farmworker and an American businessman, who later abandoned her.

Frankétienne’s mother worked as a street vendor — selling cigarettes, charcoal, candies, moonshine — while raising eight children.

“Since I was 5 or 6 I was smoking or drinking, but my mother never knew,” he recalled. He was the oldest, and she strove to send him to school (he, in turn, tutored his younger siblings, leading him to establish his own school).

The school he attended was French-speaking. Frankétienne initially did not know a word of French, but angered at being teased by other students, he set about mastering the language and developing an affinity for words and artistic expression.

His best-known works came in the 1960s and ’70s, and he ranks his novel “Dezafi” as one of his most cherished. Set in a rural Haitian village, it weaves cockfighting, zombification, the history of slavery and other themes into an allegory of the country’s pain and suffering.

“It is the challenge of finding the light to liberate everyone,” he said. He wrote it in Creole, he said, because that was the voice of the characters he imagined.

But Frankétienne also felt a need to assert his Haitian identity, as people often look at his fair skin, blue eyes and white hair and doubt he is from this predominantly black country.

“They might think I am white or mulatto or whatever, but I am not,” he said. “I have black features, Negro features. My mother was an illiterate peasant and she had me when she was 16. She was taken in by an American, a very rich American. The American was 63 and my mother was 16 at the time.”

Switching from Creole to English, which he is usually too timid to speak, he added, “You understand who I am now?”

After completing “Dezafi,” he was frustrated that so few of his compatriots could read it, with nearly half the adult population illiterate. He switched to plays, even if that meant irritating the dictatorship.

“Dictators are mean but not necessarily stupid, so they knew I didn’t have any readers,” Frankétienne said. “What really gave them a problem was when I started with plays.”

Other writers and artists left Haiti during the dictatorship, but he stayed as his reputation grew outside the country and human rights groups closely followed him, providing, he believes, some cover from Mr. Duvalier.

Later, he joined other intellectuals in denouncing Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president after Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown. Mr. Aristide, he said, became fixated on power and tolerated corruption and thuggery in his administration.

“He is a ghost, too,” Frankétienne said of Mr. Aristide’s return in March after seven years in exile.

His only regret, he said, is that his work is not widely translated and better known. If he knew Chinese, Japanese, Italian or other languages, he said, he would put them in his works.

“Everything is interconnected,” he said. “We are connected to everything, everyone.”

Frankétienne added, “The only thing not chaotic is death.”"
frankétienne  haiti  2011  literature  chaos  death  writing  form  theater  poetry  creole  language  identity  education  zombies  voodoo  vodou  voudoun  slavery  history  jeanjonassaint  edwidgedanticat  babdydoc  papadoc  jean-claudeduvalier  françoisduvalier  disorder  order  nonmanagement 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Spiralism: Haiti’s Long-Lost Poetics of Protest | Public Books
"Kaiama L. Glover’s choice to translate—brilliantly—this particular work may be seen as a gesture toward reconnecting Spiralism with the broader literary history of the Caribbean, a field largely dominated by Martinican thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Édouard Glissant.

What is Spiralism? The novel opens with lyrical flights that lay bare the movement’s objectives:
More effective at setting each twig aquiver in the passing of waves than a pebble dropped into a pool of water, Spiralism defines life at the level of relations (colors, odors, sounds, signs, words) and historical connections …

Re-creating wholes from mere details and secondary materials, the practice of Spiralism reconciles Art and Life through literature, and necessarily breaks with the hypocrisy of the Word … Spiralism uses the Complete Genre, in which novelistic description, poetic breath, theatrical effect, narratives, stories, autobiographical sketches, and fiction all coexist harmoniously …


These first pages are not set off from the main narrative as paratextual commentary; instead, they are woven directly into the fabric of the text they foretell."



"Unlike other Franco-Caribbean genres such as Négritude or Créolité, Spiralism does not announce a geopolitical project, but its social dimension is made explicit in Ready to Burst. Like Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of Total Literature2—a genre that would be legible to both the oppressor and the oppressed, and that would be the synthesis of destruction and construction—Spiralism’s Complete Genre is meant to be accessible to all. As Paulin, the writer and Frankétienne’s fictional alter ego, explains, Spiralism must tailor its shape to the needs of proletarian readers: “Our age doesn’t lend itself to reading literary works, boring in their too often useless length. … Between the fatigue of the night before and that of the day after … the laboring classes only have limited time—if they have any at all—to read printed characters. … And so, it’s a question of stating things quickly.” Spiralism aims to cleanse the written word of its bourgeois nature by freeing it from the conventional sentence. Thus unshackled, Paulin explains, the word acquires velocity and magnitude. It becomes “Inflated with meanings. Swollen with allusions.”

Spiralism is, perhaps above all, a state of mind in the face of life’s absurdity. “Whirlwinds. Vertigos. Storms. My life beats to the rhythm of turbulences,” declares Paulin. “I am a Spiralist. … It’s not that I’m looking to be scandalous. But because life itself emerges from the cry of blood. Wayward child of pain. Of violence. And that, too, is Spiralism.” On the one hand, these semantic splinters perform the feeling of insularity, of oppression, of restlessness, and of fragmentation that characterized the life of the Haitian people under the Duvalier regime; on the other hand, the resistance they stage against traditional literature symbolically punctures all forms of dictatorships.

Spirals are intrinsically infinite, incomplete. Paulin never finishes his novel and eventually vanishes into thin air, having perhaps been a figment of Raynand’s imagination all along. And much as the spiral gives and takes, Frankétienne reminds the reader that his work’s self-proclaimed aesthetic allegiance matters less than the sheer fact of writing: “I no longer worry about what I write. I simply write. Because I must. Because I’m suffocating. I write anything. Any way. People can call it what they want: novel, essay, poem, autobiography, testimony, narrative, memory exercise, or nothing at all. I don’t even know, myself.”"
2015  spiralism  haiti  poetry  poetics  protest  frankétienne  kaimaglover  aimécésaire  édouardglissant  literature  form  corinestofle  jean-paulsartre  canon  legibility  renéphiloctète  jean-claudefignolé 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Dodie Bellany: Academonia
"In this lively, entertaining collection of essays, Dodie Bellamy has written not only a helpful pedagogical tool, but an epic narrative of survival against institutional deadening and the proscriptiveness that shoots the young writer like poison darts from all sides. By the 90s funding for the arts had dwindled and graduate writing programs—“cash cows”—had risen to fill the slack. Simultaneously, literary production moved from an unstable, at times frightening street culture where experiment was privileged beyond all else, to an institutionalized realm—Academonia!—that enforces, or tends to enforce, conservative aesthetic values.

Among the questions Bellamy raises: how does the writer figure out how to write? How will she claim her content among censorious voices? Can the avant-garde create forms that speak to political and spiritual crisis? Can desire exist in a world of networking structures? To the keepers of the status quo, what is so goddamned scary about experimental writing? Bellamy’s textual body morphs through sex, ravenous hunger, aging, displacement, cuddling with animals. Along the way she invokes Levi Strauss, Kurosawa, Marvin Gaye, Christiane (the faceless daughter in Georges Franju’s 1959 horror classic Eyes Without a Face), Alice Munro, Michael Moore, Quan Yin, Cinderella, and the beheaded heroine Lady Jane Grey. On Foucault’s grid of invisible assumptions, Academonia casts a blacklight vision, making it glow in giddy FX splendor.

*****

There are the institutions that are created without our input and the institutions that we create with others. Both sorts of institutions define us without our consent. Dodie Bellamy’s Academonia explores the prickly intersection among these spaces as it moves through institutions such as the academy, the experimental writing communities of the Bay Area, feminist and sexual identities, and group therapy. Continuing the work that she began in The Letters of Mina Harker pushing memoir and confession out of its safety zones and into its difficulties, this book provokes as it critiques and yet at the same time manages to delight with its hope.

--Juliana Spahr

Way back in the seventies, and before Bellamy, pastiche and bricolage as applied to literature made me yawn. Smug attacks on linear narrative through the use of tired language games aroused my contempt. As far as I was concerned, theory had ruined fiction by making critic and artist too intimate. Then Bellamy’s pioneering graftings of storytelling, theory and fractured metaphor changed all that, giving birth to a new avant-garde. Her writing sweeps from one mode of thought to another in absolute freedom, eviscerating hackneyed constructs about desire and language and stuffing them with a fascinating hodgepodge of sparkling sensory fragments. The result is true postmodernism, not the shallow dilettantism of the “postmodern palette.” She sustains it on page after page, weaving together sex and philosophy, fusing trash with high culture, injecting theory with the pathos of biography and accomplishing nothing less than a fresh and sustained lyricism. What is more, her transfiguration of the trivial details of life by the mechanisms of irony, fantasy, disjunction, nostalgia and perverse point of view prove that it’s not the life you live that matters, but how you tell it.

--Bruce Benderson"
writing  howwewrite  books  dodiebellany  institutions  proscriptiveness  academonia  academia  highered  highereducation  akirakurosawa  levistrauss  marvingaye  alicemonroe  michaelmoore  quanyin  cinderella  ladyjanegrey  foucault  institutionalization  julianaspahr  brucebenderson  bricolage  literature  linearity  form  feedom  structure  language  senses  sensory  postmodernism  dilettantism  culture  bayarea  experimental  experimentation  art  arts  funding  streetculture  2006 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Carol Black on Twitter: "I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author ali
"I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author alive who would want their book read this way."



"Look, the reality is that most people do not want to analyze literature. It's a specialty interest, a niche thing. There is absolutely no reason all people should have to do this. By forcing it we just create an aversion to books.

[@SOLEatHome "Would you consider someone re-reading a book they love and noticing things they missed the first time analysis? It at least fits what has come to be known as "close reading""]

Kids who become writers (or filmmakers, or musicians) re-read, re-watch, re-listen to their favorite things repetitively, obsessively. They internalize structure, rhythm, characterization, language, vocabulary, dialogue, intuitively, instinctively.

Close reading & analysis is a separate activity, it requires a whole different stance / attitude toward the book. It can enhance this deeper intuitive understanding or it can shut it down, turn it into something mechanical & disengaged.

I think it's a huge mistake to push this analytical stance on children when they are too young. I was an English major, & I don't think I benefited from it until college. Younger kids should just find things they love & process them in ways that make sense to them.

This is one of the many delusional things about the way literature is taught in HS. The reality is you have to read a book at the *bare minimum* twice in order to do meaningful analysis. But there is never time for this. So we just club the thing to death on the first reading.

One of the principal things a writer does is to work incredibly hard at refining the way one sentence flows into the next, one chapter springboards off the last. To experience this as a reader you have to immerse yourself, turn off the analytical brain, just *read* the damn book.

To insert analysis into this process on a first reading is like watching a film by pausing every couple of minutes to make notes before continuing. It's fine to do that in later study, but if you do it the first time through you've destroyed everything the filmmaker worked for."

[@irasocol: How a teacher destroys not just reading but culture. Can we let kids experience an author's work without dissection? How I tried to address this in 2012... http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-do-we-read-why-do-we-write.html "]



[This was in repsonse to a thread that began with:
https://twitter.com/SOLEatHome/status/1053338882496958465

"This thread details a real school assignment that was asked of a high school student to do while reading a book they hadn't read before. I assure you this is is not something isolated to one school:

Annotate.

Inside front cover: major character with space for...

...character summaries, page reference for key scenes or moments of character development. Evidently these are enormous books.

Inside Back Cover: list of themes, allusions, images, motifs, key scenes, plot line, epiphanies, etc. Add pg. references or notes. List vocab words...

...if there's still room. (big books or small writing?)

Start of each chapter: do a quick summary of the chapter. Title each chapter as soon as you finish it, esp. if the chapters don't have titles.

Top margins: plot notes/words phrases that summarize. Then go back...

...and mark the chapter carefully (more on these marks to come)

Bottom and side margins: interpretive notes, questions, remarks that refer to the meaning of the page (???). Notes to tie in w/ notes on inside back cover

Header: Interpretive notes and symbols to be used...

...underline or highlight key words, phrases, sentences that are important to understanding the work
questions/comments in the margins--your conversation with the text
bracket important ideas/passages
use vertical lines at the margin to emphasize what's been already marked...

...connect ideas with lines or arrows
use numbers in the margin to indicate the sequence of points the author makes in developing a single argument
use a star, asterisk, or other doo-dad at the margin--use a consistent symbol--(presumably to not mix up your doo-dads?) to...

...be used sparingly to emphasize the ten or twenty most important statements in the book.
Use ???for sections/ideas you don't understand
circle words you don't know. Define them in the margins (How many margins does a page have?)
A checkmark means "I understand"...

...use !!! when you come across something new, interesting or surprising
And other literary devices (see below)

You may want to mark:
Use and S for Symbols: a symbol is a literal thing that stands for something else which help to discover new layers of thinking...

Use an I for Imagery, which includes words that appeal to the five senses. Imagery is important for understanding an authors message and attitudes
Use an F for Figurative Language like similes, metaphors, etc., which often reveal deeper layers of meaning...

Use a T for Tone, which is the overall mood of the piece. Tone can carry as much meaning as the plot does.
Use a Th for Theme: timeless universal ideas or a message about life, society, etc.
Plot elements (setting, mood, conflict)
Diction (word choice)

The end. ::sighs::"]
carolblack  irasocol  howweread  reading  literature  closereading  2018  school  schooliness  education  absurdity  literaryanalysis  writers  writing  howwewrite  filmmaking  howwelearn  academia  academics  schools  unschooling  deschooling  analysis  understanding  repetition  experience  structure  rhythm  characterization  language  vocabulary  dialogue  noticing  intuition  instinct  film  flow 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Introduction to Electronic Literature: UCLA 2017: ENGL 116B
"Prof. Daniel Scott Snelson: danny.snelson@gmail.com | http://dss-edit.com
Course URL: http://dsnelson.bol.ucla.edu/~elit/2017.html
Wiki: http://dss-edit.com/elit/wiki

UCLA, Fall Quarter 2017
Room: Royce Hall 160 | Meeting Times: TuTh 2:00–3:50
Office: 203 Humanities | Office Hours: TuTh 4:00–5:00

Abstract: We might begin by asking, what is not electronic literature today? Rather than introduce electronic literature or “e-lit” as a distinct literary category, this course wonders if it’s still possible to consider literature beyond the electronic circuits that characterize the networked present. The creation and study of literature today is facilitated by a range of digital formats and networked consoles, each of which introduce new practices of production, circulation, reception, and reading. Alongside these transformations, we’ll explore a range of new literary genres inhabiting, for example, computer scripts, image macros, flash movies, social media, bandcamp releases, interactive applications, and print on demand books. Thinking through the present, this introduction examines the history and future of literature through the everyday experience of computers and electronic devices. From the history of digital poetics to recent internet publications, we’ll track the development of literature under the influence of computation up to works published in the present, as they emerge throughout the quarter. In lockstep, the course considers the category of “electronic literature” as a way to think about historical works remediated to the internet, in a wide range of (post-)digital formats. The course requires short weekly responses in an open format, as well as a mid-term and final assignment, which may be critical or creative in form, developed in conversation with the instructor. No previous experience in programming, poetry, or literature is required."

[See also: https://eliterature.org/pad/elp.html ]
literature  electronicliterature  e-literature  interactivefiction  if  danielscottsnelson  twine  poetry  poetics  digital  digitalhumanities 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Literary Canon Is Mostly White. Here's an Alternative Latin American Reading List
[interesting, I’ve read all or parts of six of these, I should make my own list to compare]
readinglists  latinamerica  literature  books  culture  2018 
august 2018 by robertogreco
About Litmap
[See also:
http://barbarahui.net/litmap/ ]

[via: "This brilliant mapping of Sebald's The Rings of Saturn by @barbarahui shows/ tracks the multiple, frantic displacements of the journey, allowing you to zoom into the landscape but also see its global connections.
Key viewing for #TheReadingsofSaturn
Here: http://barbarahui.net/litmap/ "

https://twitter.com/RobGMacfarlane/status/1016962352217018368 ]

"I created Litmap as part of my Comparative Literature PhD dissertation project. It's a digital map that plots all of the places that are mentioned in W.G. Sebald's novel, The Rings of Saturn.

Litmap is featured in the documentary Patience (After Sebald), directed by Grant Gee. You can also read about the project in this New York Times ArtsBeat post.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

What is meant by spatial?

Taking up the call of spatial thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre, Edward Said, Edward Soja, and Doreen Massey, as well as literary “cartographer” Franco Moretti, spatiality is here conceived of in all of its conceptual complexity. This includes a consideration of the geospatial shape of the narrative, i.e. the contours that emerge when the place names mentioned in the texts are plotted on geospatial map image. It also includes attention to the more subjective, slippery—yet no less real—spatialities at work in each narrative, including the scale of global and local place, and the networks of colonialism, imperialism, migration, language, and media that exist across and between those places. The project seeks to represent and examine these networks as they exist in and around literature. Indeed, the network emerges as a crucial spatial paradigm for understanding contemporary narratives.

What is meant by geospatial?

By definition, geospatial is an adjective used to describe or denote data that is associated with a particular location. This is geographical space and place as conceived of in a positivist, empirical way. In other words, the earth is thought of as a spherical surface on which one can plot any location with a certain degree of mathematical accuracy using, for example, numerical latitude and longitude coordinates. The use of numerically precise data means that a range of geospatial calculations can be performed on a given geographical dataset. This is typically carried out via the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), or computer software specializing in the processing of geographical datasets.

Given the utility and free availability of geospatial applications like Google Maps and Google Earth, GIS technology and its attendant geographical representations are becoming rapidly entrenched in our cultural consciousness. Those of us who live in well-mapped locales and have access to networked personal computing technology are growing accustomed to viewing and navigating our surroundings via the use of these geospatial applications.

What is meant by network?

As with the concept of spatiality, the network is here conceived of in both concrete and abstract terms. It includes not only physical networks (wired communications networks, transportation networks, etc.) but also the colonial, imperial, migratory, and linguistic networks constituted by the movements of people, goods, and ideas across geographical space. Additionally, it includes imaginary networks such as those that exist in Stephen Hall’s novel The Raw Shark Texts in which people throw off both tangible and intangible linguistic traces of themselves, and are hunted down via this stream of bait by terrifyingly real yet otherworldly “primordial thought sharks.” In Hall’s novel, each person’s linguistic output is conceived of as a fundamentally material extension of the subject. Litmap allows the reader to map both the concrete geospatial aspects of the novel (“Hull, Leeds, Sheffield” (104)) and also the “un-space” that exists within its spatial imaginary: a labyrinth of tunnels underground, and a trip to a parallel thought world.

Networks are in the general sense “an arrangement or structure with intersecting lines and interstices resembling those of a net” (“Network, N,”). At the interstices exist the nodes of the network. This paradigm of the network is recognizable in many contexts. On geographical maps, the lines are the railroad tracks, roads, and flight paths; the nodes are the stations, villages, towns, and cities (i.e., geographical places) where those lines intersect. The Internet is of course a famous example of a communications network. An early Internet map shows connections between different locations “on the network”: the lines represent data wires, while the nodes are the locations at which those wires meet and the digital data they carry is processed.

The kinds of networks illustrated via Litmap are numerous, with each narrative containing one or often multiple networks, each of a unique configuration. Depending on the kind of spatial information given in each narrative, these networks are plotted with varying degrees of geospatial precision. Sometimes it is possible to map a piece of literature almost entirely down to the street level, while at other times the text requires much more subjective and abstract spatial renderings.

What is meant by place?

In keeping with spatial theorist Doreen Massey, I contend that places be defined as the nodes that are constituted by the intersection of multiple lines or paths of social networks. As she describes it:
[W]hat gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. If one moves in from the satellite towards the globe, holding all those networks of social relations and movements and communications in one’s head, then each ‘place’ can be seen as a particular, unique, point of their intersection. It is, indeed, a meeting place. Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether it be a street, a region, or even a continent. (28)

Thus places denoted by markers on map images are not fixed, immobile, bounded entities with unified histories, but rather dynamic, socially defined “moments.” While it is true that each latitude and longitude point would still exist on the map without an attached pin (or place), it is crucial to understand that these mathematically-defined coordinates do not give place its particularity, nor did that place as place exist a priori. Rather, it is the fact of the intersection of various social networks at that location which give it its very definition as place. As Massey argues, localities do have specificity, but – and this is crucial – they are defined on a far larger scale than that of their geospatially immediate bounded surroundings.

The built-in ability of digital mapping interfaces to zoom in for a local view and out for a global view, coupled with the ability to programmatically draw connecting lines between places based on certain predefined criteria, make for a platform inherently adept at representing the local-global, networked nature of space and place that Massey so compellingly argues for. The user of Litmap can therefore zoom in to examine the particularities of a place mentioned in a text and then zoom out to look at the way in which it is connected to other locations within that text’s spatial imaginary.

Works Cited
Hall, Steven. The Raw Shark Texts. New York: Canongate, 2007.

Massey, Doreen. "A Global Sense of Place." Marxism Today June 1991: 24-29.

“Network.” . Def. A.2.a. The Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 28 October 2009. <http://dictionary.oed.com/>."
litmap  barbarahui  literature  digitalhumanities  wgsebald  theringsofsaturn  maps  mapping  space  spatial  geospacial  networks  doreenmassey  stevenhall  geography  books  gis  henrilefebvre  edwardsid  edwardsoja  francomoretti 
july 2018 by robertogreco
In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? – Raiot
"Text of The W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation by Arundhati Roy
5 June 2018, The British Library, London."

[more excerpts coming soon]

"Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, I finished writing my second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but if a novel can have an enemy, then the enemy of this novel is the idea of “One nation, one religion, one language.” As I composed the cover page of my manuscript, in place of the author’s name, I was tempted to write: “Translated from the original(s) by Arundhati Roy.” The Ministry is a novel written in English but imagined in several languages. Translation as a primary form of creation was central to the writing of it (and here I don’t mean the translation of the inchoate and the prelingual into words). Regardless of which language (and in whose mother tongue) The Ministry was written in, this particular narrative about these particular people in this particular universe would had to be imagined in several languages. It is a story that emerges out of an ocean of languages, in which a teeming ecosystem of living creatures—official-language fish, unofficial-dialect mollusks, and flashing shoals of word-fish—swim around, some friendly with each other, some openly hostile, and some outright carnivorous. But they are all nourished by what the ocean provides. And all of them, like the people in The Ministry, have no choice but to coexist, to survive, and to try to understand each other. For them, translation is not a high-end literary art performed by sophisticated polyglots. Translation is daily life, it is street activity, and it’s increasingly a necessary part of ordinary folks’ survival kit. And so, in this novel of many languages, it is not only the author, but the characters themselves who swim around in an ocean of exquisite imperfection, who constantly translate for and to each other, who constantly speak across languages, and who constantly realize that people who speak the same language are not necessarily the ones who understand each other best.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has been—is being—translated into forty-eight languages. Each of those translators has to grapple with a language that is infused with many languages including, if I may coin a word, many kinds of Englishes (sociolects is perhaps the correct word, but I’ll stay with Englishes because it is deliciously worse) and translate it into another language that is infused with many languages. I use the word infused advisedly, because I am not speaking merely of a text that contains a smattering of quotations or words in other languages as a gimmick or a trope, or one that plays the Peter Sellers game of mocking Indian English, but of an attempt to actually create a companionship of languages.

Of the forty-eight translations, two are Urdu and Hindi. As we will soon see, the very fact of having to name Hindi and Urdu as separate languages, and publish them as separate books with separate scripts, contains a history that is folded into the story of The Ministry. Given the setting of the novel, the Hindi and Urdu translations are, in part, a sort of homecoming. I soon learned that this did nothing to ease the task of the translators. To give you an example: The human body and its organs play an important part in The Ministry. We found that Urdu, that most exquisite of languages, which has more words for love than perhaps any other language in the world, has no word for vagina. There are words like the Arabic furj, which is considered to be archaic and more or less obsolete, and there are euphemisms that range in meaning from “hidden part,” “breathing hole,” “vent,” and “path to the uterus.” The most commonly used one is aurat ki sharamgah. A woman’s place of shame. As you can see, we had trouble on our hands. Before we rush to judgment, we must remember that pudenda in Latin means “that whereof one should feel shame.” In Danish, I was told by my translator, the phrase is “lips of shame.” So, Adam and Eve are alive and well, their fig leaves firmly in place.

Although I am tempted to say more about witnessing the pleasures and difficulties of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness being translated into other languages, more than the “post-writing” translations, it is the “pre-writing” translation that I want to talk about today. None of it came from an elaborate, pre-existing plan. I worked purely by instinct. It is only while preparing for this lecture that I began to really see how much it mattered to me to persuade languages to shift around, to make room for each other. Before we dive into the Ocean of Imperfection and get caught up in the eddies and whirlpools of our historic blood feuds and language wars, in order to give you a rough idea of the terrain, I will quickly chart the route by which I arrived at my particular patch of the shoreline."



"So, how shall we answer Pablo Neruda’s question that is the title of this lecture?

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?7

I’d say, without hesitation, in the Language of Translation."
arundhatiroy  language  languages  translation  literature  2018  india  colonialism  nationalism  authenticity  elitism  caste  nativism  identity  culture  society  inbetween  betweenness  multilingual  polyglot  everyday  communication  english  hindi  nationstates  imperialism  urdu  persian  tamil  sinhala  bangladesh  pakistan  srilanka  canon 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on a Childhood of Reading and Wandering | Literary Hub
"In the most egalitarian of European—and New Mexican—traditions, forests were public commons in which common people could roam, graze flocks, hunt and gather, and this is another way that forests when they are public land and public libraries are alike: as spaces in which everyone is welcome, as places in which we can wander and collect, get lost and find what we’re looking for.

The United States’s public libraries sometimes seem to me the last refuges of a democratic vision of equality, places in which everyone is welcome, which serve the goal of an informed public, offering services far beyond the already heady gift of free books you can take home, everything from voter registration to computer access. I’ve joked for a long time that if you walked up to people in the street and asked them whether we could own our greatest treasures collectively and trust people to walk away with them and bring them back, a lot of people would say that’s impossibly idealistic and some would say it’s socialist, but libraries have been making books free for all for a very long time. They are temples of books, fountains of narrative pleasure, and toolboxes of crucial information. My own writing has depended on public libraries and then university libraries and archives and does to this day. I last used a public library the day before yesterday."



"So let’s begin by recognizing that all this was—and in many moral ways still is—Coast Miwok land, before the Spanish came, before Spanish claims became Mexican claims, before this was considered to be part of Mexico, before it was part of the United States."



"Browsing, woolgathering, meandering, wandering, drifting, that state when exploring, when looking to find what it might be possible to find rather than seeking one particular goal, is the means of locomotion. I often think that hunter-gatherers must move a lot like this, seeking game or plant foods, flexible about what might show up on any given day. I was lucky that children were weeds, not hothouse flowers, in those days, left to our own devices, and my own devices led in two directions: north to the hills and the horses, south to the library."



"These linked paths and roads form a circuit of about six miles that I began hiking ten years ago to walk off my angst during a difficult year. I kept coming back to this route for respite from my work and for my work too, because thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking. Walking itself is the intentional act closest to the unwilled rhythms of the body, to breathing and the beating of the heart. It strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing. It is a bodily labor that produces nothing but thoughts, experiences, arrivals. After all those years of walking to work out other things, it made sense to come back to work close to home, in Thoreau’s sense, and to think about walking.

Walking, ideally, is a state in which the mind, the body, and the world are aligned, as though they were three characters finally in conversation together, three notes suddenly making a chord. Walking allows us to be in our bodies and in the world without being made busy by them. It leaves us free to think without being wholly lost in our thoughts."



"Moving on foot seems to make it easier to move in time; the mind wanders from plans to recollections to observations."



"Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go…"



"Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."



"Libraries are sanctuaries from the world and command centers onto it: here in quiet rooms are the lives of Crazy Horse and Aung San Suu Kyi, the Hundred Years War and the Opium Wars and the Dirty War, the ideas of Simone Weil and Lao Tsu, information on building your sailboat or dissolving your marriage, fictional worlds and books to equip the reader to reenter the real world. They are, ideally, places where nothing happens and where everything that has happened is stored up to be remembered and relived, the place where the world is folded up into boxes of paper. Every book is a door that opens into another world, which might be the magic that all those children’s books were alluding to, and a library is a Milky Way of worlds. All readers are Wu Daozi; all imaginative, engrossing books are landscapes into which readers vanish."
rebeccasolnit  2017  children  unschooling  deschooling  parenting  education  libraries  wandering  howwelearn  freedom  autonomy  forests  childhood  novato  california  learning  canon  publicgood  us  egalitarianism  democracy  socialism  thoreau  walking  cv  unknowing  uncertainty  woods  writing  howwewrite  books  literature  stories  storytelling  listening  reading  sanctuary  vanishing  nature  plants  wildlife  multispecies  morethanhuman  society 
april 2018 by robertogreco
American Indians in Children's Literature
"Established in 2006, American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society. Scroll down for links to book reviews, Native media, and more."
us  nativeamericans  books  childrensliterature  literature  childrensbooks 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page: http://www.philip-pullman.com/writings

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."



"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."



"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch | Poetry Foundation
"Curious about poetry, but don't know where or how to begin? We've reprinted the first chapter from the book How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch. Its 16 sections provide strategies for reading poems, and each section has plenty of links to examples of poems in our archive to illustrate the points.

Heartland
Poems are like messages in a bottle sent out with little hope of finding a recipient. Those of us who find and read poems become their unknown addresses.

To the Reader Setting Out
The reader of poetry is a kind of pilgrim setting out. To read a poem is to depart from the familiar, to leave all expectations behind.

In the Beginning is the Relation
A lyric poem is a special communiqué between an I and a You. It speaks out of a solitude to a solitude; it begins and ends in silence.

Stored Magic
The lyric poem seeks to mesmerize time. It crosses frontiers and outwits the temporal. It can bridge the gulf between people otherwise unknown to each other.

The Immense Intimacy, the Intimate Immensity
The experience of reading poetry and the kind of knowledge it provides cannot be duplicated elsewhere.

Mere Air, These Words, but Delicious to Hear
From syllable to word to phrase to sentence, the sound of poetry is the source of its primitive pleasures.

In Plain American Which Cats and Dogs Can Read!
A lyric poem walks the line between speaking and singing. Poetry is not speech exactly and yet it is always in relationship to speech, to the spoken word.

Give a Common Word the Spell
The medium of poetry is language, our common property. It belongs to no one and to everyone. The precision of poetry restores language. It also defamiliarizes words by wrenching them from familiar or habitual contexts.

Metaphor: A Poet is a Nightingale
Metaphor drives the engine of poetry. Figurative language—figures of speech and thought—guides the interaction between poet and reader.

Epic, Drama, Lyric: Be Plentiful Like the Universe
Poems may be epic, lyric, dramatic, or a mixture of the three. Most poems find a way to defy these conventional categories.

Harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers
The lyric poem began as a work to be performed, to be sung or read aloud. Over time, the lyric transformed into a work for the page, for the reader to imagine in visual terms.

Winged Type
The poem appeals to the eye. It has a shapely dimension and thus relates to the plastic arts, especially painting. The poem is something to look at as well as to recite.

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
Rhythm is a form cut into time, as Ezra Pound said in ABC of Reading. It is the combination in English of stressed and unstressed syllables that creates a feeling of fixity and flux, of surprise and inevitability.

The Wave Always Returns
The poem is a muscular and composed thing. It moves like a wave, dissolving the literal. We participate in its flow as it moves from the eye to the ear, to the inner ear, the inner eye.

Help Me, O Heavenly Muse
Where does a poem come from? The sources of inspiration are many, from reason to a touch of madness.

It Is Something of an Accident That You Are the Reader and I the Writer
Reading poetry calls for an active reader. The reader must imaginatively collaborate with a poem to give voice to it."
edwardhirsch  poems  poetry  classideas  tutorials  howto  literature  words  meaning  meaningmaking  language 
april 2018 by robertogreco
OCCULTURE: 57. John Crowley & John Michael Greer in “The Slow Decline” // Talking Crows, Pocket Utopias & the Future of Storytelling
"John Michael Greer joins the show to chat with author John Crowley about his latest novel, “Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr”, as well as Frances Yates, creative writing, pocket utopias, the future of storytelling and the slow decline of industrial society."
johnmichaelgreer  ryanpeverly  johncrowley  occulture  decline  2017  crows  corvids  literature  fiction  occult  storytelling  birds  animals  stories  myth  mythology  utopia  pocketutopias  animism 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Michael Rosen: Recent squibs on education
"The thing is people didn’t know how to use emojis until the govt produced the Emoji Curriculum.

In the name of ‘raising standards’ but in reality bullying education into being a weapon in international competitiveness wars, the govt has unitised and monetised education. We shld reply with humanistic values to this onslaught.

Hey 4 year old, you are not a ‘4 year old’, you are a ‘stage’ , a developmental unit, a score on the way to being another score, a place on a graph, a monitored level, a number less than or more than another number...

“With his dark blue furry just-fitting, interesting hat on, which he had bought, he walked in.” = Good writing according to ‘Expected level’ National Curriculum.

embeddedrelativeclause
frontedAdverbial
expandednounphrase

Children whose names are not phonically regular must not try to read or write their names in Nursery, Reception or Year 1 in case it hinders their learning of how the alphabetic code works. [irony alert]

If Nursery, Reception or Yr1 children ask to see the writing in a non-phonically regular book, or try to read a cereal packet or a road sign, firmly grip the top of their head and turn it away from the words in question. See Bold Beginnings for more advice on this.

Why do you write poems, Michael?
So that children can be graded according to how well they ‘retrieve ‘ and ‘infer’ on a right/wrong grid devised by people who don’t like poetry."
michaelrosen  education  children  school  unschooling  deschooling  schooling  learning  poems  poetry  2018  inference  literature  emoji  standards  standardization  satire 
february 2018 by robertogreco
The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin
"In the temperate and tropical regions where it appears that hominids evolved into human beings, the principal food of the species was vegetable. Sixty-five to eighty percent of what human beings ate in those regions in Paleolithic, Neolithic, and prehistoric times was gathered; only in the extreme Arctic was meat the staple food. The mammoth hunters spectacularly occupy the cave wall and the mind, but what we actually did to stay alive and fat was gather seeds, roots, sprouts, shoots, leaves, nuts, berries, fruits, and grains, adding bugs and mollusks and netting or snaring birds, fish, rats, rabbits, and other tuskless small fry to up the protein. And we didn't even work hard at it--much less hard than peasants slaving in somebody else's field after agriculture was invented, much less hard than paid workers since civilization was invented. The average prehistoric person could make a nice living in about a fifteen-hour work week.

Fifteen hours a week for subsistence leaves a lot of time for other things. So much time that maybe the restless ones who didn't have a baby around to enliven their life, or skill in making or cooking or singing, or very interesting thoughts to think, decided to slope off and hunt mammoths. The skillful hunters then would come staggering back with a load of meat, a lot of ivory, and a story. It wasn't the meat that made the difference. It was the story.

It is hard to tell a really gripping tale of how I wrested a wild-oat seed from its husk, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then another, and then I scratched my gnat bites, and Ool said something funny, and we went to the creek and got a drink and watched newts for a while, and then I found another patch of oats.... No, it does not compare, it cannot compete with how I thrust my spear deep into the titanic hairy flank white Oob, impaled on one huge sweeping tusk, writhed screaming, and blood spouted everywhere in crimson torrents, and Boob was crushed to jelly when the mammoth fell on him as I shot my unerring arrow straight through eye to brain.

That story not only has Action, it has a Hero. Heroes are powerful. Before you know it, the men and women in the wild-oat patch and their kids and the skills of the makers and the thoughts of the thoughtful and the songs of the singers are all part of it, have all been pressed into service in the tale of the Hero. But it isn't their story. It's his.

When she was planning the book that ended up as Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf wrote a heading in her notebook, "Glossary"; she had thought of reinventing English according to a new plan, in order to tell a different story. One of the entries in this glossary is heroism, defined as "botulism." And hero, in Woolf's dictionary, is "bottle." The hero as bottle, a stringent reevaluation. I now propose the bottle as hero.

Not just the bottle of gin or wine, but bottle in its older sense of container in general, a thing that holds something else.

If you haven't got something to put it in, food will escape you--even something as uncombative and unresourceful as an oat. You put as many as you can into your stomach while they are handy, that being the primary container; but what about tomorrow morning when you wake up and it's cold and raining and wouldn't it be good to have just a few handfuls of oats to chew on and give little Oom to make her shut up, but how do you get more than one stomachful and one handful home? So you get up and go to the damned soggy oat patch in the rain, and wouldn't it be a good thing if you had something to put Baby Oo Oo in so that you could pick the oats with both hands? A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient.

The first cultural device was probably a recipient .... Many theorizers feel that the earliest cultural inventions must have been a container to hold gathered products and some kind of sling or net carrier.

So says Elizabeth Fisher in Women's Creation (McGraw-Hill, 1975). But no, this cannot be. Where is that wonderful, big, long, hard thing, a bone, I believe, that the Ape Man first bashed somebody with in the movie and then, grunting with ecstasy at having achieved the first proper murder, flung up into the sky, and whirling there it became a space ship thrusting its way into the cosmos to fertilize it and produce at the end of the movie a lovely fetus, a boy of course, drifting around the Milky Way without (oddly enough) any womb, any matrix at all? I don't know. I don't even care. I'm not telling that story. We've heard it, we've all heard all about all the sticks spears and swords, the things to bash and poke and hit with, the long, hard things, but we have not heard about the thing to put things in, the container for the thing contained. That is a new story. That is news.

And yet old. Before--once you think about it, surely long before--the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger-- for what's the use of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug ones you can't eat home in--with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

This theory not only explains large areas of theoretical obscurity and avoids large areas of theoretical nonsense (inhabited largely by tigers, foxes, other highly territorial mammals); it also grounds me, personally, in human culture in a way I never felt grounded before. So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had, or wanted, any particular share in it. ("What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization," Lillian Smith observed.) The society, the civilization they were talking about, these theoreticians, was evidently theirs; they owned it, they liked it; they were human, fully human, bashing, sticking, thrusting, killing. Wanting to be human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that's what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all.

That's right, they said. What you are is a woman. Possibly not human at all, certainly defective. Now be quiet while we go on telling the Story of the Ascent of Man the Hero.

Go on, say I, wandering off towards the wild oats, with Oo Oo in the sling and little Oom carrying the basket. You just go on telling how the mammoth fell on Boob and how Cain fell on Abel and how the bomb fell on Nagasaki and how the burning jelly fell on the villagers and how the missiles will fall on the Evil Empire, and all the other steps in the Ascent of Man.

If it is a human thing to do to put something you want, because it's useful, edible, or beautiful, into a bag, or a basket, or a bit of rolled bark or leaf, or a net woven of your own hair, or what have you, and then take it home with you, home being another, larger kind of pouch or bag, a container for people, and then later on you take it out and eat it or share it or store it up for winter in a solider container or put it in the medicine bundle or the shrine or the museum, the holy place, the area that contains what is sacred, and then next day you probably do much the same again--if to do that is human, if that's what it takes, then I am a human being after all. Fully, freely, gladly, for the first time.

Not, let it be said at once, an unaggressive or uncombative human being. I am an aging, angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off. However I don't, nor does anybody else, consider myself heroic for doing so. It's just one of those damned things you have to do in order to be able to go on gathering wild oats and telling stories.

It is the story that makes the difference. It is the story that hid my humanity from me, the story the mammoth hunters told about bashing, thrusting, raping, killing, about the Hero. The wonderful, poisonous story of Botulism. The killer story.

It sometimes seems that that story is approaching its end. Lest there be no more telling of stories at all, some of us out here in the wild oats, amid the alien corn, think we'd better start telling another one, which maybe people can go on with when the old one's finished. Maybe. The trouble is, we've all let ourselves become part of the killer story, and so we may get finished along with it. Hence it is with a certain feeling of urgency that I seek the nature, subject, words of the other story, the untold one, the life story.

It's unfamiliar, it doesn't come easily, thoughtlessly to the lips as the killer story does; but still, "untold" was an exaggeration. People have been telling the life story for ages, in all sorts of words and ways. Myths of creation and transformation, trickster stories, folktales, jokes, novels...

The novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story. Of course the Hero has frequently taken it over, that being his imperial nature and uncontrollable impulse, to take everything over and run it while making stern decrees and laws to control his uncontrollable impulse to kill it. So the Hero has decreed through his mouthpieces the Lawgivers, first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn't any good if he isn't in it.

I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel … [more]
ursulaleguin  1986  marxism  economics  labor  work  capitalism  feminism  writing  stories  storytelling  heroes  virginiawoolf  elziabethfisher  lilliansmith  humans  human  hunter-gatherers  humanity  scifi  sciencefiction  fiction  literature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Sisyphus on Twitter: "“Great literature wasn’t written so that kids can learn about metaphors. Great lit is meant to rock your world, make you cry, and laugh. It’s art, it’s not fodder to be used to help you do better on a test.” English teacher
“Great literature wasn’t written so that kids can learn about metaphors. Great lit is meant to rock your world, make you cry, and laugh. It’s art, it’s not fodder to be used to help you do better on a test.” —English teacher whose quitting teaching “because of all the BS.”
education  teaching  howweteach  literature  reading  howweread  2018  schools  schooling  schooliness  metaphors  sfsh 
january 2018 by robertogreco
How storybook lessons impart scholastic success | University of California
"The lessons from childhood storybooks are decidedly different in China and the United States, and align with the lessons the respective countries impart in the classroom, UC Riverside research finds.

There is a widely held perception — and some research to affirm it — that East Asian schools outperform schools in North America. A recent study published by UC Riverside psychologist Cecilia Cheung skirts the link between storybooks and school performance, but asserts that the lessons taught in Chinese schools could start early.

“The values that are commonly conveyed in Chinese (vs. U.S.) storybooks include an orientation toward achievement, respect for others — particularly the elderly — humility, and the importance of enduring hardship,” Cheung said. “In the U.S. storybooks, protagonists are often portrayed as having unique interest and strength in a certain domain, and the themes tend to be uplifting.”

For her study, published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Cheung compared storybooks in the U.S. and Mexico with those in China.

She chose 380 storybooks recommended by education ministries in the respective countries, for children aged 3 to 11. The study considered three core aspects of learning-related qualities: beliefs (views about the nature of intelligence), motivated cognitions (achievement, determination), and behaviors (effort, overcoming obstacles).

Charming stories with divergent values

A representative Chinese storybook is “A Cat That Eats Letters.” In the book, a cat has an appetite for sloppy letters. Whenever children write a letter that is too large, too small, too slanted, or with missing strokes, the cat eats the letters. The only way to stop this runaway letter-eating is for the children to write carefully, and to practice every day. This leads to a hungry cat, because the children have all become skilled writers. (Not to fear, the compassionate children then intentionally write some sloppy letters to feed the cat).

A more typical U.S.-Mexico storybook formula is represented by “The Jar of Happiness,” in which a little girl attempts to make a potion of happiness in a jar, then loses the jar. The happy ending comes courtesy of the girl’s realization that happiness doesn’t come from a jar, but rather from good friends – including those who will cheer her up when she loses a jar.

To a large extent, Cheung and her team found the Chinese storybooks celebrated the behaviors associated with learning and hard work. Somewhat to their surprise, they found U.S. and Mexican storybooks had a shared emphasis on self-esteem and social competence.

Past studies have affirmed the important role of parents in children’s scholastic achievement, Cheung said. But few have considered the role of “cultural artifacts,” such as storybooks.

Cheung argues that storybooks play a key role in establishing the values that can help determine scholastic success. Referencing past research, Cheung said it is “conceivable that exposure to reading materials that highlight the importance of learning-related qualities, such as effort and perseverance, may lead children to value such qualities to a greater extent.”

Cheung was joined in the research by UC Riverside graduate students Jorge A. Monroy and Danielle E. Delany. Funding was provided from the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States."
us  mexico  china  stories  children  classideas  education  parenting  society  culture  2018  ceciliacheung  achievement  humility  respect  belief  beliefs  motivation  behavior  literature  childrensbooks  learning  hardwork  competence  self-esteem  books  storybooks  effort  perseverance  schools  schoolperformance  comparison  intelligence  determination  sfsh  happiness  socialcompetence  childrensliterature 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Ask Dr. Time: Orality and Literacy from Homer to Twitter
"So, as to the original question: are Twitter and texting new forms of orality? I have a simple answer and a complex one, but they’re both really the same.

The first answer is so lucid and common-sense, you can hardly believe that it’s coming from Dr. Time: if it’s written, it ain’t oral. Orality requires speech, or song, or sound. Writing is visual. If it’s visual and only visual, it’s not oral.

The only form of genuine speech that’s genuinely visual and not auditory is sign language. And sign language is speech-like in pretty much every way imaginable: it’s ephemeral, it’s interactive, there’s no record, the signs are fluid. But even most sign language is at least in part chirographic, i.e., dependent on writing and written symbols. At least, the sign languages we use today: although our spoken/vocal languages are pretty chirographic too.

Writing, especially writing in a hyperliterate society, involves a transformation of the sensorium that privileges vision at the expense of hearing, and privileges reading (especially alphabetic reading) over other forms of visual interpretation and experience. It makes it possible to take in huge troves of information in a limited amount of time. We can read teleprompters and ticker-tape, street signs and medicine bottles, tweets and texts. We can read things without even being aware we’re reading them. We read language on the move all day long: social media is not all that different.

Now, for a more complicated explanation of that same idea, we go back to Father Ong himself. For Ong, there’s a primary orality and a secondary orality. The primary orality, we’ve covered; secondary orality is a little more complicated. It’s not just the oral culture of people who’ve got lots of experience with writing, but of people who’ve developed technologies that allow them to create new forms of oral communication that are enabled by writing.

The great media forms of secondary orality are the movies, television, radio, and the telephone. All of these are oral, but they’re also modern media, which means the media reshapes it in its own image: they squeeze your toothpaste through its tube. But they’re also transformative forms of media in a world that’s dominated by writing and print, because they make it possible to get information in new ways, according to new conventions, and along different sensory channels.

Walter Ong died in 2003, so he never got to see social media at its full flower, but he definitely was able to see where electronic communications was headed. Even in the 1990s, people were beginning to wonder whether interactive chats on computers fell under Ong’s heading of “secondary orality.” He gave an interview where he tried to explain how he saw things — as far as I know, relatively few people have paid attention to it (and the original online source has sadly linkrotted away):
“When I first used the term ‘secondary orality,’ I was thinking of the kind of orality you get on radio and television, where oral performance produces effects somewhat like those of ‘primary orality,’ the orality using the unprocessed human voice, particularly in addressing groups, but where the creation of orality is of a new sort. Orality here is produced by technology. Radio and television are ‘secondary’ in the sense that they are technologically powered, demanding the use of writing and other technologies in designing and manufacturing the machines which reproduce voice. They are thus unlike primary orality, which uses no tools or technology at all. Radio and television provide technologized orality. This is what I originally referred to by the term ‘secondary orality.’

I have also heard the term ‘secondary orality’ lately applied by some to other sorts of electronic verbalization which are really not oral at all—to the Internet and similar computerized creations for text. There is a reason for this usage of the term. In nontechnologized oral interchange, as we have noted earlier, there is no perceptible interval between the utterance of the speaker and the hearer’s reception of what is uttered. Oral communication is all immediate, in the present. Writing, chirographic or typed, on the other hand, comes out of the past. Even if you write a memo to yourself, when you refer to it, it’s a memo which you wrote a few minutes ago, or maybe two weeks ago. But on a computer network, the recipient can receive what is communicated with no such interval. Although it is not exactly the same as oral communication, the network message from one person to another or others is very rapid and can in effect be in the present. Computerized communication can thus suggest the immediate experience of direct sound. I believe that is why computerized verbalization has been assimilated to secondary ‘orality,’ even when it comes not in oral-aural format but through the eye, and thus is not directly oral at all. Here textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange. To handle [page break] such technologizing of the textualized word, I have tried occasionally to introduce the term ‘secondary literacy.’ We are not considering here the production of sounded words on the computer, which of course are even more readily assimilated to ‘secondary orality’” (80-81).

So tweets and text messages aren’t oral. They’re secondarily literate. Wait, that sounds horrible! How’s this: they’re artifacts and examples of secondary literacy. They’re what literacy looks like after television, the telephone, and the application of computing technologies to those communication forms. Just as orality isn’t the same after you’ve introduced writing, and manuscript isn’t the same after you’ve produced print, literacy isn’t the same once you have networked orality. In this sense, Twitter is the necessary byproduct of television.

Now, where this gets really complicated is with stuff like Siri and Alexa, and other AI-driven, natural-language computing interfaces. This is almost a tertiary orality, voice after texting, and certainly voice after interactive search. I’d be inclined to lump it in with secondary orality in that broader sense of technologically-mediated orality. But it really does depend how transformative you think client- and cloud-side computing, up to and including AI, really are. I’m inclined to say that they are, and that Alexa is doing something pretty different from what the radio did in the 1920s and 30s.

But we have to remember that we’re always much more able to make fine distinctions about technology deployed in our own lifetime, rather than what develops over epochs of human culture. Compared to that collision of oral and literate cultures in the Eastern Mediterranean that gave us poetry, philosophy, drama, and rhetoric in the classical period, or the nexus of troubadours, scholastics, printers, scientific meddlers and explorers that gave us the Renaissance, our own collision of multiple media cultures is probably quite small.

But it is genuinely transformative, and it is ours. And some days it’s as charming to think about all the ways in which our heirs will find us completely unintelligible as it is to imagine the complex legacy we’re bequeathing them."
2018  timcarmody  classics  homer  literature  poetry  literacy  orality  odyssey  walterong  secondaryorality  writing  texting  sms  twitter  socialmedia  technology  language  communication  culture  oraltradition  media  film  speech  signlanguage  asl  tv  television  radio  telephones  phones 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Diverse BookFinder – Identify & Explore Multicultural Picture Books
"Our Mission/Vision

• To diversify and balance bookshelves everywhere, that all our children can find themselves reflected and celebrated in libraries, schools and homes across the nation.
• To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to also consider content and impact by translating research findings so that they are accessible and useful.

***

To move the diverse books discussion beyond a focus simply on the lack of numbers to a much more nuanced exploration of who (which groups) are represented in recent American children's picture books and how (what themes predominate for each group), and what that communicates about how members of each group are perceived in contemporary America.
Our current focus is on depictions of racial and cultural diversity.

We bring together the current national conversation about diverse books with existing and ongoing social science research on the topic. The former is largely driven by an emphasis on increasing the number of diverse books published annually, the latter is largely driven by an exploration of the impact diverse books and how they can be used to effect attitude change.

Improving cultural accuracy is an absolutely essential step towards necessary change in diverse children’s literature all children should be able to find authentic mirrors and windows in the books they read. But even when titles are free of stereotypes and misinformation, a collection can send messages that might not be what those who share books with children intend. A diverse group of culturally authentic books might still imply, for instance, that the Black experience is defined by pain and struggle, that Native people all lived long ago, that Asian, Latinx and Middle Eastern American lives are exotically foreign. Thematic analysis offers an additional tool to librarians and educators, publishers and parents, as they seek to create collections of titles that offer a wide and balanced range of messages about racially and culturally underrepresented groups.

***

This project is a work in progress. Even as we attempt to shift the spotlight to focus on groups that have been underrepresented in children's books, the [field/space/world] in which we operate continues to marginalize indigenous people and people of color and centralize White people. For example:

• White culture is dominant and normative, so it is commonly used as the reference point to which other cultures are compared ("diverse" compared to whom?).
• When choosing categories for evaluating and coding, references to the dominant culture can’t be avoided, since books featuring indigenous people and people of color are a record of a minority racial/cultural experience, often one of marginalization.
• The majority of children's books, including multicultural titles, continues to be created by White authors and illustrators, and agented, acquired, published, reviewed, sold and collected by businesses and institutions that are majority White.

Therefore, as we work to transform the world of picture books to better reflect our children, we're still part of the system we're trying to change. Many thoughtful people have contributed to our evolving concepts and language, and we invite you to be part of this conversation. We welcome critiques of our content, especially any suggestions for improvement."
books  diversity  literature  libraries  resources  classideas  via:sahelidatta 
december 2017 by robertogreco
Gendered Text Project
"Keep the plot. Keep the prose.
Change the pronouns.

Purpose
Dynamically rewrite the gender of personae in texts
Challenge unconscious biases about gender and characters"
gender  literature  flipforlessonplans  writing  classideas  via:lukeneff 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Great Africanstein Novel | by Namwali Serpell | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"The title of Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi’s magisterial first novel, Kintu—first published in Kenya in 2014, then in the US this year by the Oakland-based press Transit Books—is a Luganda word. Luganda is a Bantu language spoken in Uganda; Bantu is a proto-language that just means people; there are languages derived from it all across the African continent. In Zambia, where I’m from, we spell this word chinthu. In both countries, it is pronounced chin-two and it means “thing.” In ancient Buganda mythology, however, Kintu is also the name of the first man, the equivalent to the Judeo-Christian Adam. The implications of this titular oxymoron—a word that means both “thing” and “man”—begin to unfold in the opening pages of Makumbi’s book.

There’s a knock at the door. A woman opens it to four local officials, who rouse her man, Kamu, from sleep and lead him outside for questioning. He assumes they’re there on behalf of a creditor but when they reach a marketplace, they bind his hands. Kamu protests: “Why are you tying me like a thief?” A mob swirls into being like a weather formation, the word thief flying “from here to there, first as a question then as a fact.” Kicks and blows begin to rain down on him, from both the elderly and the young. Arrivals to the scene ask, “‘Is it a thief?’ because Kamu had ceased to be human.” He tries to hold on to his humanity: “Kamu decided he was dreaming. He was Kamu Kintu, human. It was them, bantu. Humans. He would wake up any minute.” He does not.

The account of Kamu’s abrupt, arbitrary death on Monday, January 5, 2004, and the subsequent fate of his corpse in the bureaucratic torpor of Kampala’s morgue, recurs in short fragments at the start of each of the novel’s five sections, which tell the stories of other members of the scattered Kintu clan. First, we jump back three centuries to its first generation, headed by Kintu Kidda, a ppookino, or governor, of the Buddu province in the eighteenth-century Buganda Kingdom. In a moment of irritation, Kintu slaps his adopted son, a Rwandan, and the boy falls down dead. His men bury the body improperly: “the grave was narrow and shallow. They used a stick to measure Kalema’s length, but while the stick fit into the grave, Kalema did not. They crammed him in.” In their haste, the men do not even realize that they have buried the boy beside a burial shrub for dogs. The tragic repercussions of this desecration—“the curse was specific: mental illness, sudden death, and suicide”—ripple across the centuries through the lives of Kintu’s descendants.

Like Charles Dickens or Gabriel García Márquez, Makumbi ranges widely across time and social strata; her knowledge of Ugandan culture seems as precise as a historian’s. We meet Suubi Kintu, a young woman who grows up in a compound, perpetually on the brink of starvation, but is eventually integrated into a middle-class family. Kanani Kintu and his wife, Faisi, members of an evangelical group, the Awakened, bear a twin son and daughter with an uncomfortably close relationship. Isaac Newton Kintu, the product of rape and named for the last lesson his mother learned in school before she dropped out, gets trapped into marriage; when his wife dies, seemingly of AIDS, he anguishes over whether to learn his own HIV status. Miisi Kintu, a writer raised by colonial priests (the “white fathers”) and educated abroad, returns to a postcolonial Kampala still feeling the aftershocks of dictatorship and the bush war of the early Eighties, which killed some of his children. With its progression through generations and its cyclical returns to genetic inheritance—hay fever, twins, madness—Kintu’s structure feels epic.

Kintu continually diverts us from this straightforward path of a curse and its aftermath, however, as well as from our preconceptions about Africa. The polygamous eighteenth-century governor wants nothing more than to be with the woman he loves; the Awakened couple experience their enviably passionate sex life as a torment; the spiritual leader of a ritual cleansing is so “anglicized” that the assembled family members doubt his efficacy. Social class is defined neither by strict stratification nor by upward mobility, but by extreme volatility—economic fates rise and fall almost at random. Servant girls become educated women, sons of professors come to live in slums.

Makumbi’s depiction of local culture also bears little resemblance to standard notions of African “authenticity.” Her Uganda is an unabashed amalgam of Europe and Africa, in everything from cooking to spiritual possession to mental health to sexual mores. As Makumbi said in an interview:
We are both Europeanized and Ugandan. We speak both traditional languages and English. Someone goes to church, but then will go to the traditional healer. Someone is a scientist but will have an intense spiritual life. We have this saying in Uganda: “God help me, but I’m going to run as well.” We think two ways at once.

In the novel, Miisi conjures an image of African postcolonialism that captures this sensibility. He pictures the black torso of the continent but stripped of its limbs, which have been replaced with European ones. “We cannot go back to the operating table and ask for the African limbs,” he writes. “Africa must learn to walk on European legs and work with European arms. As time goes by, children will be born with evolved bodies.” Makumbi’s portmanteau for this Gothic image enacts the very grafting it describes: Africanstein.

Kintu cannot but be in some sense the story of a people, the Ganda, and a nation, Uganda. But its politics are personal. Idi Amin and the bush wars emerge in conversation, in acts of mourning. The ins and outs of the ancient Buganda Kingdom’s secessions and coups seem incidental to the personal tragedy of Kintu Kidda, his wives, and their children. Makumbi has said that she intentionally skipped the nation’s colonial history: “The almost complete lack of colonization was deliberate…. To me colonization was my grandfather’s quarrel.” So, without the usual lenses of class, culture, and colonialism—without “Queen and Country,” so to speak—how are we to read this “African” novel?"



"Oddly enough, despite all this generalizing and pigeonholing, African writers are rarely thought to speak to the universal—in the philosophical sense rather than the platitudinous one. But if, as Makumbi noted at an event in Brooklyn last June, the origin of the human species is probably East Africa, then why can’t Kampala be the center of a profoundly universal inquiry? As its two-faced title—man/thing—suggests, Kintu does in fact have a grand philosophical question in mind. The novel forces us to reckon over and again with what it means to be kintu, to be man, or human. This question plays out across certain boundaries: between men and women, between twins, between life and death, between “mankind” and “animalkind,” between good and evil, between human and supernatural worlds, between foreigners and family, and, of course, between humans and objects."



"Miisi completely loses his grip on reality and starts wearing a Western-style waistcoat and coat over his kanzu. In his dishevelment, he comes to resemble his ancestor with that strange thing/person name, Kintu. Miisi becomes a man “floating in two worlds.” Which two worlds? Boyhood and manhood, past and present, muntu and muzungu, Europe and Africa? “I know who I am,” Miisi tells his daughter, “We are not even Hamites. We are Bantu.” But she thinks, “He is now a different person.” In the end, he is riven by his divisions, “in the middle world between sanity and insanity.”

To survive being human, Kintu suggests, is to hold all these divisions together, gently, to “just be.” This argument about personhood is radical because it rejects a long philosophical tradition of considering “humanity” as a matter of self-containment and integrity, of what the human excludes. It is also radical because Makumbi centers this argument in Uganda. But what better place, with its arbitrarily sketched borders, its pliable myths and cultures, its originary status—cradle of the first human/thing—to stage an interrogation of personhood? As Makumbi has remarked in passing about living as an immigrant in the UK: “Out here you are Ugandan. At home you are just human.”"
jennifernansubugamakumbi  namwaliserpell  books  literature  kintu  kampala  ugnda  africaisnotacountry  2017  toread  universal  universalism  humans  humanism  objects  betweenness  seams  gender  supernatural  middleground  gray  grey  humanity  personhood  integrity  self-containment  borders  identity  myth  culture  sexuality  history  colonialism  postcolonialism  human  colonization  europe  decolonization  frankenstein  africanstein  africa  africans  twins  multispecies  morethanhuman  life  living  philosophy  divisions  interstitial  liminality  liminalspaces  liminalstates  between 
october 2017 by robertogreco
don't look | sara hendren
"While reading to my three children at night, my youngest, age 7, will often be lolling in bed while I narrate. Or maybe he’ll be fiddling with Legos or other blocks as he listens. But lately, when the action of the story gets intense, or a scene grows emotional, or somehow the suspense elongates, my son’s whole body will wind down till he’s perfectly still. He will train his eyes on my face, watching the words come out as he listens. He’s the youngest, so it’s likely that his brain is having to assimilate at least one new vocabulary word per paragraph by inference, all while he’s being carried along by what happens, and then what happens next.

This perfect quietude usually only lasts a dozen seconds or so at a time, after which he’ll go back to kneading his pillow or looking at the stickers on his bed frame while the story continues. But each time this happens, I’m aware of it. I can see him in my peripheral vision. And for many reasons, at least right now, I don’t meet his eyes. I keep reading.

Sometimes I’m so tempted! I have an instinct to share his attention. To break the spell of the narrative to say: See here, here we are, watching the same characters move their way through time. That would be the completion of one kind of circuit: you and I, caught up in this same tale together.

But I hold back. I don’t want to intrude on his experience of just the story itself, being delivered to him aurally and mostly without my mediation as to what things mean, what context we’re missing. He is having his own encounter, and that’s another kind of circuitry altogether. It’s one to which I’m sometimes best as a witness. Because this is also how a story does its work: sending a charge to its boy and back again, blooming both partial and replete in his singular comprehension.

Part of parenting is surely this—acting as nothing more and nothing less than a hedge around experiences we may watch but perhaps refrain from sharing. All I can think now is: Keep reading. Don’t look."
sarahendren  2017  restraint  parenting  observation  assessment  readalouds  intrusion  cv  canon  comprehension  constructivism  stories  literature  witness  sharing  narrative  quietude  stillness  concentration  attention 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet — University of Minnesota Press
[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZeIyNcHxL6/ ]

"Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene

2017 • Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, Editors

Can humans and other species continue to inhabit the earth together?

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene.
Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet exposes us to the active remnants of gigantic past human errors—the ghosts—that affect the daily lives of millions of people and their co-occurring other-than-human life forms. Challenging us to look at life in new and excitingly different ways, each part of this two-sided volume is informative, fascinating, and a source of stimulation to new thoughts and activisms. I have no doubt I will return to it many times.

—Michael G. Hadfield, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Living on a damaged planet challenges who we are and where we live. This timely anthology calls on twenty eminent humanists and scientists to revitalize curiosity, observation, and transdisciplinary conversation about life on earth.

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two key figures that also serve as the publication’s two openings: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. Ghosts and Monsters are tentacular, windy, and arboreal arts that invite readers to encounter ants, lichen, rocks, electrons, flying foxes, salmon, chestnut trees, mud volcanoes, border zones, graves, radioactive waste—in short, the wonders and terrors of an unintended epoch.

Contributors: Karen Barad, U of California, Santa Cruz; Kate Brown, U of Maryland, Baltimore; Carla Freccero, U of California, Santa Cruz; Peter Funch, Aarhus U; Scott F. Gilbert, Swarthmore College; Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford U; Donna J. Haraway, U of California, Santa Cruz; Andreas Hejnol, U of Bergen, Norway; Ursula K. Le Guin; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, U of Oslo; Andrew Mathews, U of California, Santa Cruz; Margaret McFall-Ngai, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Ingrid M. Parker, U of California, Santa Cruz; Mary Louise Pratt, NYU; Anne Pringle, U of Wisconsin, Madison; Deborah Bird Rose, U of New South Wales, Sydney; Dorion Sagan; Lesley Stern, U of California, San Diego; Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus U.
books  toread  anthropocene  annalowenhaupttsing  multispecies  heatheranneswanson  elainegan  nilsbubandt  anthropology  ecology  science  art  literature  bioinformatics  2017  morethanhuman  humans  transdisciplinary  interspecies  karenbarad  katebrown  carlafreccero  peterfunch  scottgilbert  deborahgordon  donnaharaway  andreasheinol  ursulaleguin  marianneelisabethlien  andrewmathews  margaretmcfall-ngai  ingridparker  marylouisepratt  annepringle  deborahbirdrose  dorionsagan  lesleystern  jens-christiansvenning  earth  intraspecies  annatsing 
september 2017 by robertogreco
Virginia Heffernan on Learning to Read the Internet, Not Live in It | WIRED
"Anxiety is much more than a rookie response to internet-borne humiliation and weakness; sometimes it seems like the animating principle of the entire commercial web. That’s part of the reason for our decade-old retreat to apps, where McModern design and the illusion of walls seems like a hedge against the malware and rabble of the original web metropolis.

But leave standard consumer software aside and you’ll find that straight panic haunts the latest phase of digitization. Virtual reality, AI, the blockchain, drones, cyberwarfare—these things spike the cortisol in everyone but power users of Github and people with PGP session keys in their Twitter bios. The recent obsession with whether Barack Obama and James Comey did the right thing when confronted with evidence of Russian cyberattacks in 2016 misses the point: No one—no world leader, no FBI director, no masterful subredditor—knows exactly what to do about cyberattacks. The word alone is destabilizing.



To put it simply: Much of digital technology seems to be, in the words of our YouTube debunker, not in sync. It doesn’t quite track. Twitter emotion doesn’t rise and fall the way human emotions do. Similarly, death, final by definition, is not final in Super Mario 0dyssey. GPS tech is not true to the temperature and texture of physical landscapes. Alexa of Amazon’s Echo sometimes seems bright, sometimes moronic, but of course she’s neither; she’s not even a she, and it’s a constant category error to consider her one.

Living in the flicker of that error—interacting with a bot as if its sentiments were sentiments—is to take up residence in the so-called uncanny valley, home to that repulsion we feel from robots that look a lot, but not exactly, like us, a phenomenon identified nearly 50 years ago by robotics professor Masahiro Mori. When something gets close to looking human but just misses the mark—like that CGI creep in The Polar Express—it induces fear and loathing, the exact opposite of affection.

I’m unaccountably afraid. At root the anxiety is: Who is the human here, and who the simulacrum?
Mori used the notion of the uncanny valley to describe a restrictive aesthetic response to robots. But the internet, by aiming to represent a monstrous range of human experiences that includes everything from courtship and commerce to finance and war, introduces a near-constant dysphoria. An uncanny experience registers like a bad note to someone with perfect pitch. And bad notes are everywhere on the internet. Queasy-making GIFs, nonsense autocorrect, memes that suggest broken minds. The digital artifacts produced on Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify are identifiable as conversation, bodies, and guitars, and yet they don’t sync with those things in the three-dimensional world. Our bodies absorb the dissonance, and our brains work overtime to harmonize it or explain it away.

Consider my stock response to a friend’s honey-colored Instagram photos that show her on a yacht in Corsica. Is that what life is supposed to look like? Why does my own life by this loud municipal swimming pool look sort of—but not really—like that? We rightly call this jealousy, but the comparison of one’s multisensory experience to a heavily staged photo, passing for existence, entails cognitive discomfort too.

My poolside afternoon changes millisecond to millisecond. It also has a horizon line; robust unsweetened audio (yelps of “Marco” and “Polo” in my daughter’s pool-glee voice); a start-and-stop breeze; the scent of a nearby grill; ever-changing and infinitesimal shades that elude pixelation and suggest even hues outside the human spectrum that my sunblock (scented to evoke the tropics) is meant to guard against. What’s more, because it’s my experience, this scene is also inflected by proprioception, the sense of my own swim-suited body present in space. Compared to this robust and fertile experience as a mammal on Earth, isn’t it the Instagram image that’s thin, dry, and inert? “The imagined object lacks the vivacity and vitality of the perceived one,” philosopher Elaine Scarry wrote in Dreaming by the Book, her 1999 manifesto on literature and the imagination.

And yet. There’s that tile-sized cluster of pixels on my phone. The heightened portrait there, let’s call it Woman in Corsica, makes my own present moment—real life—seem like the impoverished thing. I’m unaccountably afraid. At root the anxiety is: Who is the human here, and who the simulacrum?

The good news is that the anxiety of the uncanny is nothing new or unique to digital experience. Every single realist form, the ones that claim to hold a mirror to nature, has made beholders panic—and worse. In the fifth century BC, the Greek artist Zeuxis is said to have painted voluminous grapes that looked so much like the real thing that birds pecked themselves to death trying to eat them. Novels, which were intended to show unfiltered middle-class life in everyday prose instead of fakey verse, drove women to promiscuity by representing their feelings so exactly. And, of course, there was the famous stampede in Paris in 1896, when audiences watching an early movie, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, retreated to escape the train hurtling toward them from the screen.

A Snopes search for these stories turns up nothing; all of them are now considered folklore. But they’re useful. We like stories that suggest that experiences with art and entertainment we now take for granted—realist paintings, novels, the movies—once overwhelmed our ancestors. As a species, we must have learned something: how to stimulate ourselves with movies without being duped. And if we learned it then, we can learn it now. Because while the gap between the real and the replica can seem nauseatingly narrow, we do have a brilliant mechanism for telling reality from artifice. It’s literacy.

SKILLFUL READERS OF novels recognize language as a symbolic order with rules that set it apart from the disorder of real life. Musicians recognize sound signals in OGG format as decent representations of the sounds produced by their tubas and vocal cords, but not the music itself. Similarly, the Instagram image of Corsica is not life itself. It’s not even Corsica. It’s software. To read novels, hear recorded music, or scroll through Instagram is not to experience the world. It’s to read it.

But we forget this, over and over. Our eyes are still adjusting to the augmented reality of everyday life mediated by texts and images on phones. The oceanic internet has grown far too fast, with the highest aspirations to realism, for anyone to have developed guidelines for reading it without getting subsumed. Our phones even intercede between ourselves and the world. Like last year’s Pokémon Go, virtual artifacts now seem to embellish everything. And the enchantment they cast is potent: We will, it seems, drive off the road rather than resist the text. Literacy entails knowing when not to read.

As David Kessler has written about mental illness, thoughts, ideologies, and persistent images of past or future can “capture” a person and stall their mental freedom. If this is hard to grasp in the abstract, look at the captivating quality of sexting, doctored photos, or something as silly and fanciful as Twitter, with its birdies and secret codes. Even as artificial and stylized as Twitter is, the excitement there rarely seems like a comic opera to users. Encounter a troll, or a godawful doxer, and it’s not like watching a sitcom—it’s a bruising personal affront. “You’re a fool,” tweeted by @willywombat4, with your home address, makes the face flush and heart pound every bit as much as if a thug cornered you in a dark alley. Sometimes more.

But you don’t cool your anxiety by staying off the internet. Instead, you refine your disposition. Looking at a screen is not living. It’s a concentrated decoding operation that requires the keen, exhausting vision of a predator and not the soft focus that allows all doors of perception to swing open. At the same time, mindful readers stop reading during a doxing siege—and call the police to preempt the word being made flesh. They don’t turn quixotic and mix themselves up with their various avatars, or confuse the ritualized drama of social media with mortal conflicts on battlefields. The trick is to read technology instead of being captured by it—to maintain the whip hand.

Paradoxically, framing the internet as a text to be read, not a life to be led, tends to break, without effort, its spell. Conscious reading, after all, is a demanding ocular and mental activity that satisfies specific intellectual reward centers. And it’s also a workout; at the right time, brain sated, a reader tends to become starved for the sensory, bodily, three-dimensional experience of mortality, nature, textures, and sounds—and flees the thin gruel of text.

The key to subduing anxiety is remembering the second wave of YouTube commenters: the doubters. Keep skepticism alive. We can climb out of the uncanny valley by recognizing that the perceivable gap between reality and internet representations of reality is not small. It’s vast. Remember how the body recoils from near-perfect replicas but is comforted by impressionistic representations, like Monets and stuffed animals?

So imagine: Twitter does not resemble a real mob any more than a teddy bear resembles a grizzly. If you really go nuts and nuzzle up to a teddy, I guess you could swallow a button eye, but you’re not going to get mauled. Tell this to your poor rattled central nervous system as many times a day as you can remember. Make it your mantra, and throw away the benzos. Nothing on your phone alone can hurt you more than a teddy bear."
internetismyfavoritebook  virginiaheffernan  literature  literacy  internet  web  online  twitter  instagram  cv  2017  via:davidtedu  socialmedia  howweread  internetculture  trolls  blockchain  bitcoin  youtube  anxiety  drones  technology  cyberwarfare  cyberattacks  uncanneyvalley  presentationofself  reality  fiction  fictions  multiliteracies 
august 2017 by robertogreco
Coordenadas - Limbo Gurugú - 17/07/17, Coordenadas - RTVE.es A la Carta
"El juramento del Gurugú es la última novela del escritor ecuatoguineano Juan Tomás Ávila, sobre las personas migrantes que esperan allí el momento de entrar en Europa. Exiliado de Obiang en Barcelona, lo trae al programa Victor Guerrero. Y descubrimos el último trabajo de Verdcel, The plantes, Talaies i cims, con la presencia de su lider Alfons Olmo.

Escuchamos a The Drums, "Heart Basel"; Chojin ft. Barón, "Solo para adultos"; Stand up, "Something else"; Verdcel, "Foc Amic", "Optimistic"."

[via: https://twitter.com/DedalusAfrica/status/887611112774148096 ]
juantomásávila  2017  interviews  equatorialguinea  race  migration  gurugú  victorguerrero  alfonsolmo  refugees  europe  africa  futbol  soccer  football  writing  books  literature  music  literacy  libraries  guineaecuatorial 
august 2017 by robertogreco
When Did The Fight for Human Rights Begin? de Innovation Hub | Escúchalo gratis en SoundCloud
"Human rights are hotly-debated, but when did that debate begin? UCLA’s Lynn Hunt talks about what might have been the formative moment for human rights - and how we’re constantly changing our definition of equality."

[via: "The origins of human rights theory & its ties to the 18th c. novel. Historian Lynn Hunt on @IHubRadio:"
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/885990212815474689

"And writers, fiction & non-fiction: take heart here about the power of words to enact new realities. Messy, asynchronous, but effectual."
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/885992263712722945 ]

[See also:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7pD6Oogdeg

"Professorship in Historiography, with a response by Professor Sandra Fredman (Rhodes Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for FutureGenerations),University of Oxford, May 2014.
-http://strategicdialogue.org/humanitas
-http://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/humanitas
-http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/programme...

Declarations of rights, Professor Hunt argues in her lecture, do not emerge from long historical developments but rather from an acute sense of outrage. In other words, rights only become rights when they are claimed, and they are only claimed when they are violated. This poses a problem for the assertions of 'timelessness' and 'self-evidence' that often accompany declarations of rights. Professor Hunt argues that in the case of universal rights, an emotional epiphany comes before reason. Professor Sandra Fredman gives a response to Professor Hunt's lecture, building on the ideas raised as a way of looking at the future of human rights."

via: "If you want more Lynn Hunt on human rights theory, here you go. Force of nature, this scholar."
https://twitter.com/ablerism/status/886046387670003713 ]
lynnhunt  humanrights  history  novels  literature  2017  writing  whywewrite  empathy  understanding  humanities  change  changemaking  progress 
july 2017 by robertogreco
The Truth About Stories - Thomas King - Lecture 1 - YouTube
[Lecture 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daw7cGjrORE
Lecture 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CICKluOS9Ic
Lecture 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgJEMPf1hSE
Lecture 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KW2ETIxnYyo ]

[See also: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-2003-cbc-massey-lectures-the-truth-about-stories-a-native-narrative-1.2946870

"In his 2003 Massey lecture, award-winning author and scholar Thomas King looks at the breadth and depth of Native experience and imagination.

Beginning with Native oral stories, King weaves his way through literature and history, religion and politics, popular culture and social protest, in an effort to make sense of North America's relationship with its Aboriginal peoples.

Thomas King holds a PhD in English/American Studies from the University of Utah and has taught Native Studies at Utah, California, Minnesota, and Alberta for the past twenty-five years. He is currently Professor of English (teaching Native Literature and Creative Writing) at the University of Guelph. His widely-acclaimed novels include Medicine River, Green Grass, Running Water, and Truth and Bright Water, and he has been nominated for the Governor General's Award as well as the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. He is the editor of All My Relations: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Native Fiction, and co-editor of The Native in Literature: Canadian and Comparative Perspectives. His popular CBC series, The Dead Dog Café, is being adapted as an animated television series. His father was Cherokee, his mother is Greek, and King is the first Massey lecturer of Native descent."]
thomasking  storytelling  secondaryorality  2003  literature  history  experience  indigenous  aboriginal  fistnations 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Subtle Radicalism of Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures, Collected in 'Literature Class' - The Atlantic
[See also:
"Julio Cortázar's Berkeley Lectures Demonstrate the Writer as Dream Professor" (Tobias Carroll, 2017)
https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/julio-cortazars-berkeley-lectures-demonstrate-the-writer-as-dream-professor/

"Cortázar at Berkeley" (Jessica Sequeira, 2014)
https://soundsandcolours.com/articles/argentina/cortazar-at-berkeley-22708/ ]

"“What good is a writer if he can’t destroy literature?” The question comes from Julio Cortázar’s landmark 1963 novel Hopscotch, the dense, elusive, streetwise masterpiece that doubles as a High Modernist choose-your-own-adventure game. Famously, it includes an introductory “table of instructions”: “This book consists of many books,” Cortázar writes in it, “but two books above all.” The first version is read traditionally, from chapter one straight through; the second version begins at chapter seventy-three, and snakes through a non-linear sequence. Both reading modes follow the world-weary antihero Horacio Oliveira, Cortázar’s proxy protagonist, who is disenchanted with the tepid certainties of bourgeois life, and whose metaphysical explorations form the scaffolding of a billowing, richly comic existential caper. Of his magnum opus, Cortázar said, laconically, “I’ve remained on the side of the questions.” But it was the novel’s formal daring—its branching paths—that hinted at what was to be the Argentine author’s most persistent and most personal inquiry: Why should there be only one reality?

That suspicion of grand narratives—both in literature and in life—informs much of Literature Class, a newly published collection of eight lectures the writer delivered at the University of California, Berkeley in 1980. The consequent lectures—originally delivered in Spanish and translated adeptly by Katherine Silver—are erudite, intimate, charmingly fragmented, and anecdotal, covering a range of topics, from “Eroticism and Literature” to “The Realistic Short Story.” The unifying through line is Cortázar’s abiding insistence on the elasticity of literary art, the better to capture what he saw as a fleeting, contentious, and ever-fluid reality. At one point, Cortázar tells his students, “I had lived with a complete feeling of familiarity with the fantastic because it seemed as acceptable to me, as possible and as real, as the fact of eating soup at eight o’clock in the evening.” The fantastic, then, was a means of leavening the flatness of the widely accepted, or the merely prosaic. The sentiment becomes something of a refrain. For Cortázar, like his creation Horacio, the joyless—and, in cases, politically expedient—narrowing of lived possibility was forever conspiring with a larger falseness, one he called “the prefabricated, pre-established world.”

While Cortázar doesn’t explicitly explain what he meant by this, his work suggests a deep distrust of the very everydayness of life, a suspicion that it constitutes a paralysis masquerading as a soothing routine. “It occurred to me like a sort of mental belch,” Horacio says in one of Hopscotch’s lengthy internal monologues, “that this whole A B C of my life was a painful bit of stupidity, because it was based solely on…the choice of what could be called nonconduct rather than conduct.” Elsewhere, in the short story The Instruction Manual, Cortázar writes with similar misgiving, “How it hurts to refuse a spoon, to say no to a door, to deny everything that habit has licked to a suitable smoothness.” The lectures take up arms against that smoothness with a disarming candor: “Why do people accept that things are the way they are when they could be some other way?” he asks his students in a lecture called “The Ludic in Literature.” It seems a simple, even banal, question, yet it animated his work to an extraordinary degree.

By the time of his Berkeley sojourn, Cortázar was no stranger to undermining these kinds of assumptions. Indeed, for the offshoot of literary modernism referred to as the Latin American Boom—in which Cortázar played a definitive role in its 1960s heyday—a radical reevaluation of reality came with the territory. The Boom, which included the fertile works of Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and José Lezama Lima, among others, helped to shatter the barriers between the mundane and the fantastic. Cortázar himself brought a kind of cosmopolitan cubism to the novel in which time, place, language, even the literal text itself, became sites of contention, participation, and play. The read-as-you-like instructions of Hopscotch, then (“The reader may ignore what follows with a clean conscience”) should not be taken as mere gamesmanship or avant-garde posturing; rather, they actively pushed up against a literary realism that no longer suited the fragmented textures of contemporary Latin American life.

Widespread political turbulence was an inescapable feature of that experience, even as a concomitant concern with what it meant to be a politically engaged Latin American artist took shape beside it. A new wave of fiercely complex, narratively adventurous novels like Augusto Roa Bastos’s I, the Supreme, a barely concealed censure of the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Time of the Hero, copies of which the Peruvian military burned, showcased the potency of literature as a means of speaking to dictatorial power. “I think it is now clear that the inevitable dialect that always exists between reality and literature has evolved deeply in many of our countries through the force of circumstance,” Cortázar tells his students in “A Writer’s Paths,” the most nakedly autobiographical of the Berkeley lectures. Literature Class is punctuated by such candid remarks, and suggests that the sparkle and audacity of Cortázar’s work, to say nothing of the Boom as a whole, are in many ways inextricable from that tumultuous mid-century political moment. Cortázar’s mid-career epiphany that literature should be “born out of the process of the populace, the peoples that the author belongs to” arguably came out of this experience; it represented a radical awakening to a frankly political, though never crudely didactic, art. “I had to switch my emphasis to the condition of being Latin American,” Cortázar says in the same lecture, “and take on everything that came with that responsibility and that duty.”

No small part of that duty was Cortázar’s project of reality-testing. Just as in his novels and short stories, that word—“reality”—appears dozens of times throughout Literature Class. Over the course of the lectures, the word accretes a kind of moral gravity until one begins to understand it as Cortázar himself appeared to: a battlefield over which opposing forces grappled for control. This was no mere abstraction. During the brutal regimes of Perón, Batista, Somoza, and others, officially sanctioned reality lost any claim to the real; rather, it served as a kind of malignant fiction in which the State was the unquestioned narrator. (The Trump administration’s insistence on “alternative facts” is only the latest iteration of this tactic.) Cortázar’s experience of this encroachment would be sporadic—he had lived in Paris since 1951—but profound. The so-called “Dirty War” saw thousands of his countrymen killed or “disappeared” in the 1970s as anti-communist death squads ruthlessly eliminated supposed dissidents. “It is in this realm,” Cortázar says to his students in the lecture “Latin American Literature Today,” “so stained with blood, torture, prisons, and depraved demagoguery, where our literature is fighting its battles.”

Cortázar’s quest for reality, then, became indistinguishable from his critique of it. In a 1976 edition of the international literary quarterly Books Abroad, he wrote, “Nothing seems more revolutionary to me than enriching the notion of reality by all means possible.” No matter what form that enrichment took in his fiction (the branching paths of Hopscotch, the visionary naïveté of Cronopios and Famas, the genre instability of Blow-Up: And Other Stories), its objective, as he suggests in “The Realistic Short Story,” was to produce “reality as it is, without betraying it, without deforming it, allowing the reader to see beneath the causes, into the deeper workings, the reasons that lead men to be as they are or as they are not.” Always something of a moving target in his work, reality, finally, wasn’t meant to be found, much less achieved. It was an endless pursuit, morally malleable, generous, radically free. “When you reach the limits of expression,” he says in another lecture, “just beyond begins a territory where everything is possible and everything is uncertain.” In Cortázar’s terms, we’ve reached Eden: the ultimate state of grace.

The classroom, of course, was another story entirely. Cortázar might have seen it as a place where official narratives, that “pre-established world,” could be nurtured and legitimized for students—an irony he was doubtless abundantly aware of as he lectured. Indeed, almost immediately one can feel him chafing beneath the authority conferred by the lectern. “I want you to know that I’m cobbling together these classes very shortly before you get here,” he says on his first day. “I’m not systematic, I’m not a critic or a theorist.” Later, in the lecture “Writing Hopscotch,” he reveals the ultimate source of his apprehension: “How can [the writer] denounce something with the tools that are used by the enemy, that is … a language already used by the masters and their disciples?” Whatever the ostensible topic of a given lecture, these evasions continue to surface like an anxious tic. Taken together, they comprise the enormously enjoyable subtext of Literature Class: the ambivalence of a great writer who seeks to interrogate the efficacy of a weapon he has no choice but to use.

… [more]
juliocortázar  radicalism  authority  2017  ucberkeley  reality  1960s  literacy  theboom  elboom  life  meaning  everyday  literature  1963  rayuela  linearity  nonlinear  1980  katherinesilver  elasticity  magicrealism  fantasy  gabrielgarcíamárquez  carlosfuentes  josélezamalima  cubism  language  latinamerica  mariovargasllosa  alfredostoessner  augustoroabastos  argentina  alternativefacts  grace  non-linear  alinear 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Bikes to Books Map | Burrito Justice
"San Francisco is famous for many things, one of which is its vast literary legacy, a legacy that stretches back to its earliest days. On January 25, 1988, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a proposal by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books to rename 12 small San Francisco streets after famous authors and artists who had lived and worked in the City.

Jack London
Mark Twain
Ambrose Bierce
Dashiell Hammett

On Sunday, October 2, 1988, a ceremony and unveiling of new street signs was held at City Lights Bookstore (which was also celebrating its 35th anniversary). Mayor Art Agnos declared October 2nd to be “City Lights Bookstore Day in San Francisco,” and an enormous crowd showed up at City Lights. After a number of speeches by literary notables, the first signs were unveiled at Kerouac Street (between City Lights and Vesuvio’s Bar) and William Saroyan Place (between Spec’s Bar and the Tosca Café), where the celebration continued into the night.

Isadora Duncan
Frank Norris Jr.
Richard Henry Dana Jr.
Benny Bufano

Twenty-five years later, Nicole Gluckstern, a local author/city cyclist and Burrito Justice, an amateur historian/cartographer, joined forces to devise a bike tour and interactive map connecting all 12 streets and authors/artists, from Jack London to Jack Kerouac, South Park to North Beach. The 7.1 mile tour, which takes between two and three hours to complete, is admittedly not for the faint of heart nor gear—these streets were not chosen for their proximity to bike lanes, and there is plenty of traffic to dodge, hills to climb, one-way streets, and even a set of stairs. But it’s a diverting and unique way to celebrate both the literary and the adventurous spirit of San Francisco.

Bob Kaufman
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Kenneth Rexroth
William Saroyan
Jack Kerouac

A 18″x24″ foldable map of the bike route is available for sale at City Lights Bookstore and select San Francisco book shops:

Folio Books (24th @ Noe)
Adobe Books (24th @ Folsom)
Alleycat (24th @ Harrison)
Dog Eared Books (Valencia @ 20th)
Needles and Pens (16th @ Guerrero)
Borderlands (Valencia @ 20th)
Green Arcade (Market @ Gough)
Green Apple (Inner Richmond, 6th Ave @ Clement)
Other Avenues (Outer Sunset, Judah @ 44th Ave)
City Lights (North Beach, Columbus @ Broadway)

In addition to the 13 authors and artists, the maps contains a detailed description of the bike route, as well as over two dozen era-specific points of interests.

SF author bike tour City Lights preview

Zoom and enhance:

On the back of the map is a selected, San Francisco-centric bibliography of the 13 authors and artists.

The Bikes to Books map is also available as a slippy, zoomable online version, with lots of pop-ups and links.

Profound and utter thanks go to Noah Veltman for the online map."
classideas  sanfrancisco  history  literature  maps  mapping  burritojustice  jacklondon  marktwain  ambrosebierce  dashiellhammett  isadoraduncan  franknorrisjr  richardhenrydanajr  bennybufano  bobkaufman  lawrenceferlinghetti  kennethrexroth  williamsaroyan  jackkerouac  noahveltman  johnoram  books  bookstores  booksellers 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Watching my son experience school | Bryan Alexander
"He despises homework. Homework is a source of agony, even in this final year of high school. There is very little thrill in completion or in successfully overcoming an obstacle. He struggles mightily to complete assignments at school or elsewhere (public library, on the bus) so that the work doesn’t follow him home. He wants to preserve home time for himself. The flipped classroom isn’t a crazy experiment for him, but simply a good thing.

He’s skeptical about the possibility of going to a Vermont college or university. Not because of being too close or too far from us, his parents, but mostly because his experience of Vermont cell phone and internet connectivity is so awful that he dreads four more years of bad online experience. (Readers can get a sense of the state of affairs from these posts) . This is a big issue for him.

He doesn’t idolize his favorite teachers, at least not to us. A good teacher or class experience is something he’ll rarely mention. Some teachers describe Owain giving a great presentation or impressing his classmates, and that will be the first time we’ve heard of it. Instead, he describes bad experiences in epic detail, and remembers them for years. He’s a tough audience.

He has become deeply opposed to literature classes. On his own he reads constantly, and always has, but feels that academic lit is mostly about dwelling on depressing, frustrating, and upsetting readings.

When he struggles with homework he turns to us, his parents, for help. He always has. Recently it’s been bittersweet to see him advance past our respective academic abilities, especially in math or science or Python that we don’t recall.

Sometimes he struggles with technology issues, as when working on a digital video, trying to use some courseware, or fighting through Windows laptop issues. We do our best… and there we see the digital divide yawning wide. Ceredwyn and I can do a decent amount of tech support, because of our respective life experiences and professional work. We also own some technology (laptops, tablets, XBox…) so Owain has grown up with access to tools and toys. We’re not necessarily typical parents. How do young people fare when their parents lack these skills? When do they give up? Moreover, how do they do when the home lacks hardware and/or bandwidth? (These are rhetorical questions.) We have had to drive across the county to get him sufficient speeds for some assignments.

Owain expects teachers to communicate digitally, and is scathing when he feels they fail on that score. He’s not pleased when teachers and staff use email, Google Docs, etc.; he just assumes they will. If they don’t, or use the tech in an insufficient way, he mutters or rants about “technophobes” and “old people” and “Vermont.”

He communicates with classmates more online than in person, I think. Google Chat seems to be the preferred venue, although I don’t pry. He can’t text from home (see my earlier notes about Vermont), but happily texts when his phone gets signal.

Google Docs is his leading writing medium for class work, far more than desktop word processing. He’s fully accustomed to sharing docs with readers and working with their feedback therein.

The open web is his research space. I can’t think of a time when he’s used a commercial database, although he does like Amazon Kindle ebooks. He’s aware of the politics, and isn’t entirely confident in his search abilities.

Grades matter to him a great deal. He stresses deeply about exams, projects, and tests. He fears the results might not be accurate, especially if they overstate his actual abilities.

Libraries are sources of connectivity, computing, and also media (books, DVDs). They are familiar spaces for him. He prefers the public library to the school one.

Outside of class resources are important in Owain’s schooling. In high school he has spent significant time in “learning lab”, an after-class paracurricular center staffed by experts in the sciences and humanities.

He always listens to music or plays videos when working. He has a staggeringly vast YouTube playlist that he relies on, plus a bevy of favored video creators. He’ll play media on a tablet when working on a laptop.

I think he separates learning from school. He rarely describes learning in school. Instead, he views school as work, a set of tasks set by authorities usually without sufficient context. He fights to raise his passions (space, history, technology) in classes. He learns informally from books, YouTube, websites, and some games. That’s a different category than “school”.

I’m not sure how these behaviors and attitudes will change when he goes away to college.

If he does homework in his dorm room, will that space be less of a home for him? Or will he seek out other spaces for assignments? I can imagine him taking advantage of peer tutors and teaching and learning centers.

Will a professor rock his world and become a mentor? Will he rethink the university as a place of learning, rather than onerous work?

He might start using his phone for voice calls. He usually avoids speaking on phones, mobile or landline, but that could change if he lives in a campus with solid cell coverage and/or misses us.

After Owain leaves Ripton Ceredwyn and I are planning on moving. If we successfully land in a high-speed location, perhaps we’ll start using video or message services to stay in touch with our son. Maybe we’ll turn to texting each other.

As an educator and research I’ve tried not to rely heavily on my children as study subjects. I don’t want to speak of them too much, despite my urgent desire to do so every hour, because I’d prefer to stick to evidence where I’m not so biased. But I wanted to share this sketch now, partly as a memory aid for our family’s future, and also as a tiny view into education in 2017."
byanalexander  education  schools  learning  literature  2017  highschool  technology  digitaldivide  rural  vermont  unschooling  deschooling  libraries  howwelearn  youth  teens  homework 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The Snarling Girl | Hazlitt
"Oh really, she says. Now I matter? Wrong, motherfucker: I mattered before. (Also: Nope, can’t help you write a book, best of luck.)

She’s a little trigger-happy on the misanthropic rage, this snarling girl. She is often accused of “not living up to her potential.” She is neither inspired by nor impressed with prep school. The college admissions race leaves her cold. Her overbearing mother berates her about crappy grades and lack of ambition. (O-ho, the snarling girl says, you want to see lack of ambition? I’ll show you lack of ambition!) Where she is expected to go right, she makes a habit of veering left. She is not popular, not likely to succeed. Her salvation arrives (surely you saw this coming) in the form of books, movies, music. She obsessively follows the trail of breadcrumbs they leave behind. Here is a neat kind of power: she can be her own curator. She can find her way from one sustaining voice to another, sniffing out what’s true, what’s real. In her notebooks she copies out passages from novels, essays, poems, and songs. She Sharpies the especially resonant bits on her bedroom wall. This is how she learns to trust herself, no easy feat. These are epigraphs to the as yet unwritten book of her life, rehearsals for the senior page she is keen to assemble. These stories and lines and lyrics are companionship, proof that the universe is much, much bigger than her radioactive family and rich bitch west L.A. and Hebrew school and Zionist summer camp. Behold: She is not crazy! She is not alone! She is not a freak! Or, rather: she is crazy, she is alone, she is a freak, and she’ll keep glorious company with all of these other crazy, lonely, amazing freaks.

Look at her notebooks, all in a row. They live in my study, above shelves stacked with my books, galleys, audiobooks, foreign editions, literary journals, anthologies, Literary Death Match Champion medal, and piles of newspapers and magazines in which I’m celebrated as this amazing thing: a writer. A novelist. Legit. But witness, please, no coincidence, the notebooks live above that stuff. Spiral-bound, leather-bound, fabric-bound, black, pink, green, floral. This Notebook Belongs To: Elisa Albert, neatly printed in the earliest, 1992. Fake it ’til you make it, girl! The notebooks have seniority. Here is how she began to forge a system of belief and belonging, to say nothing of a career. Am I aggrandizing her? Probably. I am just so goddamn proud of her."



"Everything worthwhile is a sort of secret, not to be bought or sold, just rooted out painstakingly in whatever darkness you call home.

Here is what we know for sure: there is no end to want. Want is a vast universe within other vast universes. There is always more, and more again. There are prizes and grants and fellowships and lists and reviews and recognitions that elude us, mysterious invitations to take up residence at some castle in Italy. One can make a life out of focusing on what one does not have, but that’s no way to live. A seat at the table is plenty. (But is it a good seat? At which end of the table??? Alongside whom!?) A seat at the table means we are free to do our work, the end. Work! What a fantastic privilege."



"Some ambition is banal: Rich spouse. Thigh gap. Gold-buckle shoes. Quilted Chanel. Penthouse. Windowed office. Tony address. Notoriety. Ten thousand followers. A hundred thousand followers. Bestseller list. Editor-in-Chief. Face on billboard. A million dollars. A million followers. There are ways of working toward these things, clear examples of how it can be done. Programs, degrees, seminars, diets, schemes, connections, conferences. Hands to shake, ladders to climb. If you are smart, if you are savvy, who’s to stop you? Godspeed and good luck. I hope you get what you want, and when you do, I hope you aren’t disappointed.

Remember the famous curse? May you get absolutely everything you want.

Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.

I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?

So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.

I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.

Yes, oppression is systemic, I get it, I feel it, I live it, I struggle, I do. Women are not equal, we’re not fairly represented, the pie charts are clear as day: nothing’s fair, nothing at all, it’s maddening, it’s saddening, it’s not at all gladdening. We all suffer private and public indignities (micro-aggressions, if you prefer) big and small. It’s one thing to pause and grapple with unfairness, but if we set up camp there, we can’t get anything done, can’t get to the root of the problem. So sure, great, go on and on about how women should help other women! Rah rah, put it on a T-shirt, sell it on Etsy. Great marketing, but what’s actually being accomplished? Who, specifically, is being helped? A collection of egos shouting ME ME ME is not artistically or intellectually productive or interesting.

“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now? Bye. Take care."



"Here’s what bothers me about conventional ambition, the assumption that we all aspire to the top, the winner’s circle, the biggest brightest bestest, the blah blah blah, and that we will run around and around and around our little hamster wheels to get there: most of these goals are standardized. Cartoonish. Cliché. Beware anything standardized, that’s what I would teach my daughter. Health care, ambition, education, diet, culture: name it, and you will suffer endlessly from any attempt to go about it the same way as some projected Everyone Else. You cannot be standardized. You are a unique flower, daughter. Maybe the Ivy League will be wonderful for you; maybe it will crush your soul. If the former, I will mortgage the house to pay your way; if the latter, give that shit the finger and help me move these peonies, will you? You are not defined by such things, either way. Anyway, let us discuss what we want to whip up for dinner and take turns playing DJ while doing so.

“She can, though every face should scowl / And every windy quarter howl / Or every bellows burst, be happy still.” That was Yeats.

I mean, fuck ambition, that’s where this is going. I don’t buy the idea that acting like the oppressor is a liberation, personal ambition being, in essence, see above, patriarchal. And yeah, about recognition. What about when genius and/or hard work isn’t recognized? Because often it isn’t, and what do we make of that… [more]
elisaalbert  writing  belief  2017  literature  purpose  books  notebooks  care  caring  emotionallabor  whatmatters  feminism  audience  small  slow  ambition  standardization  mayaangelou  patriarchy  liberation  recognition  success  mastery  accomplishment  sideeffects  unintendedconsequences  striving  humility  winning 
april 2017 by robertogreco
John Berger 1926-2017: an appreciation | Books | The Guardian
"I first rang John Berger more than a year ago – I had been given his number by his publisher to arrange a date to meet him in Paris. I mentioned that November was a busy month, to which he responded in a warm, conspiratorial tone: that was good – because he would be away throughout the month and could not say when next he would be free. The sense was – charming, if not helpful in professional terms – that we would agree not to meet unless or until it suited us. The clear subtext was: let the bosses go hang. I put the phone down – amused but then anxious that I had missed my opportunity to meet the great man – storyteller, art critic, artist. Months passed and then Berger’s 90th birthday was on the horizon – a new excuse to meet. I still had his mobile number and, this time, we made our date without fuss.

The trouble was – and typical that this should happen en route to meeting a man I admired so much – his address. There is more than one Avenue du Onze Novembre and they exist in distinct, far-flung areas of Paris. I was on a suburban train when Berger rang to check my progress and we ascertained I was heading at speed in completely the wrong direction (my slapdash approach to Google maps to blame). When I eventually arrived, a flustered cab ride later, he and his companion, Nella Bielski, must have been staring at the lunch Nella had prepared for almost an hour. They could not have been nicer, Berger smilingly making light of all my apologies with what I would discover to be his defining quality: kindness.

In their company, the procedure of an interview seemed bad form. How much more agreeable to talk over lunch through the ebbing Parisian afternoon. And that, with huge enjoyment on my part, is what we mainly did. As to any sense that Berger himself was ebbing, only his painful back seemed to insist he was mortal. He planned to get back on his motorbike and swim again (as soon as his back obliged). Even allowing for the frailty of being 90, there was fire in him. We talked about art, politics and literature and, above all, his love of family and friends. He told me he was intending to give only one major pre-birthday interview – this was it. Neither of us knew it would be his last. “Come and see us again next time you are in Paris,” he said."
johnberger  kindness  2017  katekellaway  family  friendship  art  politics  literature  company 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Case Against Cats - Los Angeles Review of Books
"IMAGINE THERE’S NO CAT. Imagine there’s no mouser, no pet, no fuzzy thing rubbing against your leg, meowing for dinner. Imagine there’s no word for jazz hipsters, nothing to always land on its feet, nothing for animal hoarders to hoard, nothing to dangle from a tree limb telling you to “Hang in there!” Imagine there’re no cat memes, no Grumpy or Nyan Cat, no cat playing keyboard or framed by a misspelled catchphrase. Imagine a world without cats.

It’s not that easy to do. The cat has become ubiquitous in our lives, whether serving as pest repellent, loyal friend and companion, inexhaustible reservoir of metaphor and cultural association, or internet content. This last is the latest, but not the least, of the cat’s accomplishments. Of all the things that get shared, retweeted, liked, favorited, loved, or memed on any given day of our networked lives, up at the top of the list is always cats: cats with their heads between slices of bread, cats trying to fit into a cardboard box, cats riding around on Roombas in shark costumes. Because we love them, we put them anywhere and everywhere, spreading their images far and wide.

Cats are colonizers: this is what they do. They have colonized the internet just as they have colonized so many other habitats, always with the help of humans. This is the lesson of Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, a new book by conservation scientist Peter P. Marra and travel writer Chris Santella. From remote islands in the Pacific to the marshes of Galveston Bay, Cat Wars traces the various ways in which felines have infiltrated new landscapes, inevitably sowing death and devastation wherever they go.

Perhaps the most famous case of genocide-by-cat is that of the remote Stephens Island in New Zealand. Before the end of the 19th century, it was home to a unique species: the Stephens Island wren. One of only a few species of flightless songbirds, the wren ran low to the ground, looking more like a mouse than a bird. After a lighthouse was built on the island in 1894, a small human settlement was established; and with humans, invariably, come pets. At some point a pregnant cat, brought over from the mainland, escaped and roamed wild. The island’s wrens, unused to facing such a skillful predator, were no match for the feral cats that spread throughout the island. Within a year, the Stephens Island wren was extinct. It would take another 30 years to eradicate the feral cats.

This is not an isolated incident. Cats have contributed to species decline and habitat reduction in dozens of other cases. Because they’re so cute and beloved, we have little conception of — and little incentive to find out — how much damage cats are doing to our environment. When researcher Scott Loss tallied up the number of animals killed by North American housecats in a single year, the results were absolutely staggering: between 6.3 and 22.3 billion mammals, between 1.3 and 4 billion birds, between 95 and 299 million amphibians, and between 258 and 822 million reptiles.

¤

It is undeniable, then, that cats are a menace to animal society, particularly those cats that are allowed to roam free outdoors. We have known this for almost a century. In 1929, the ornithologist Edward Howe Forbush commented that “the widespread dissemination of cats in the woods and in the open or farming country, and the destruction of birds by them, is a much more important matter than most people suspect, and is not to be lightly put aside, as it has an important bearing on the welfare of the human race.” Forbush, having tallied up an impressive anecdotal record of death and destruction, concluded that the cat “has disturbed the biological balance and has become a destructive force among native birds and mammals.” The cat doesn’t much care if its prey is threatened with extinction. Any small mammal, bird, or reptile is fair game, regardless of its rarity.

In one of Cat Wars’s more enlightening analogies, Marra and Santella compare housecats to the pesticide DDT. The cat, they argue, is one of the earliest known invasive species, and invasive species, they argue, are “simply another form of an environmental contaminant; like DDT, they can cause great harm and, once introduced, can be exceptionally difficult to remove from the environment.” Both started out as human technologies used to rid the landscape of unwanted pests, and both came with unintended side effects and unwanted additional destruction in the wild. Given the amount of energy we have devoted to banning DDT and ridding the environment of its consequences, it’s noteworthy that we seem so uninterested in a similar remedy for the scourge of cats, which, by most metrics, are far more destructive. The authors note that, while cats have been implicated in the decline and extinction of some 175 different species, “there are no confirmed bird extinctions from the pesticide DDT.”

The news that housecats are laying waste to wide swaths of biodiversity has not, like revelations about climate change or other ecological evils, led to some kind of scientific consensus about what was to be done. It’s led, instead, to the establishment of two warring camps: the cat people and the bird people. The bird people think that the wholesale slaughter of the world’s bird population is a problem requiring human intervention, namely the banning of feral and outdoor cats, forced sterilization, and euthanization. The cat people are aghast at these solutions, and argue instead that cats, being innate predators, should be allowed to fulfill their natural directive. When University of Wisconsin professor Stanley Temple published a report noting the high number of birds being killed by cats, he was besieged with death threats. “Many Wisconsites (at least those who wrote letters to the editor and hate mail to Temple),” Marra and Santella write, “were much more concerned that cats were being blamed for songbird deaths than with the fact that millions of songbirds were being killed. And some were more troubled about the possibility of cats being killed than they were about the life of a researcher.”

In the ensuing stalemate, legislation has been halfheartedly introduced, allowed to languish in committee, and finally scuttled altogether. Half-measures have been introduced that do no good. Invective has been hurled from both sides with increasing ferocity. And, meanwhile, cats continue to kill all manner of creature of field and stream.

¤

Cat Wars raises an interesting ethical question: is it justifiable to kill one animal because that animal kills other animals in disproportionate numbers? The authors cite Bill Lynn, an ethicist who has supported the culling of one species as a means to protect another, calling such work a “sad good.” But Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, contends the opposite: that the life of each individual animal must be weighed separate from a concern for species and for diversity. This kind of dilemma — is it morally acceptable to sacrifice the one to save the many, or the many for the one? — has long vexed philosophers of human ethics, and it is fascinating to see it here played out with regards to interspecies warfare.

Rather than explore this difficulty further, though, Cat Wars remains mostly about the war between cat people and bird people. Marra and Santella are clearly bird people. (Marra, after all, is the head of the Smithsonian’s migratory bird center.) The pro-bird, anti-cat thrust of their book is not subtle. “Allowing owned cats to roam freely outside,” they write, is an example of “irresponsible pet ownership,” a message they drive home with increasing emphasis. (Full disclosure: I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m a dog person.)
Cat Wars is one of those strange books, reading which one can feel generally comfortable with the authors’ conclusions while growing increasingly frustrated with their bad faith arguments, rhetorical sleights-of-hand, and other abuses of the reader’s trust. A chapter that focuses on cats as disease vectors is the worst offender. They point out, correctly, that housecats can be carriers of bubonic plague (an Arizona man died in 1992 after catching plague from a cat) as well as rabies, and that Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat feces, has been linked to behavioral changes in humans. It’s true, of course, that cats can transmit plague and other diseases, but this trait is not unique to them, nor are toxoplasma cysts restricted to outdoor cats. The haphazardness of these arguments makes the book seem indiscriminate in its anti-cat bias. Repeatedly, Marra and Santella offer rhetorically strong arguments that fall apart under scrutiny. They claim, for example, that “[w]ild birds and mammals […] have rights that do not seem to receive as much attention as the claimed rights of cats to wander freely outdoors.” It’s true that threatened and endangered species are protected under law, as are pets (mostly in the form of animal cruelty laws). But what can it mean to say that other, non-protected birds and mammals have “rights”? What kind of rights? Moral rights? Rights under some unstated but presumed “natural law”? Is this a call to extend legal protection to all American animals? Are all animals created equal? Does the equally invasive black rat lack rights that more charismatic native songbirds have?

Cat Wars also bends over backward to paint cat-owners, particularly those who advocate for outdoor lifestyles, as unstable and poorly educated. As Marra and Santella become increasingly polemical, they resort to refuting a straw-man “leading outdoor-cat advocate’s website” bullet-point-style:
CAT ADVOCATE CLAIMS: Cats have lived outdoors for more than 10,000 years — they are a natural part of the landscape

SCIENCE SAYS: Domestic cats are an invasive species throughout their current range, including North America

This … [more]
cats  colinedickey  2016  literature  petermarra  chrissantella  animals  environment  colonization  books  housecats  pets  multispecies  biodiversity  ethics  billlynn  marcbekoff  life  nature  birds  wildlife  invasivespecies  songbirds 
january 2017 by robertogreco
One Book: One Press
"This year, I did something I'd always been meaning to do: I subscribed to the entire year's output of a small press, in this case Wave Books [http://www.wavepoetry.com/collections/subscriptions ], the Seattle poetry publisher. There were new books by writers I already loved, like Renee Gladman and Mary Ruefle. There were books by new-to-me poets who I now adore, like Hoa Nguyen. And there were also books I thought were so-so, or didn't finish, or didn't get around to at all. But I loved the fact that that discrete output of a publisher for the year 2016 came to my doorstep. I loved it so much that next year, and maybe every year in the future, I am going to subscribe to another small press.

A number of small presses will send you a bunch of their books for a smallish lump sum (for instance, Dorothy [http://dorothyproject.com/books-gallery/ ] will send you all 14 of their books for $140) but for me the temporality, the getting the books as they're published, is the exciting part. Here are a few that do a yearly subscription:

Two Lines Press [http://twolinespress.com/subscribe/ ]: literature in translation, fifty bucks! Includes a newly translated Marie NDiaye

PM Press [https://secure.pmpress.org/index.php?l=product_detail&p=1 ]: radical history/politics/lifestyle with occasional fiction, monthly subscriptions

Deep Vellum [http://deepvellum.org/product/10-book-subscription/ ]: literature in translation, subscribe for 5 or 10 books

Aqueduct Press [http://www.aqueductpress.com/orders.php ]: feminist science fiction, subscribe to Conversation Pieces series

Black Ocean [http://www.blackocean.org/subscriptions14/ ]: literature, mostly poetry

Sarabande [http://www.sarabandebooks.org/subscriptions/2017-subscription ]: ditto, includes a Mary Ruefle chapbook

Perhaps supporting a small press might brighten your or a friend's year."
suzannefischer  books  subscriptions  gifts  publishing  literature  poetry  sciencefiction  translation  history  politics  temporality 
december 2016 by robertogreco
21 Of The Most Powerful Things Ever Said About Being An Immigrant
"1. “They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries.” —Rupi Kaur, Milk & Honey

2. “Is it my fault if I do not look like an English girl and I do not talk like a Nigerian?” —Chris Cleaves, Little Bee

3. “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery.” ―Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

4. “First generation kids, I’ve always thought, are the personification of déjà vu.” —Durga Chew-Bose, “How I Learned To Stop Erasing Myself”

5. “In America, you don’t get to decide what race you are. It is decided for you.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

6. “She was nobody here. It was not just that she had no friends and family; it was rather that she was a ghost in this room, in the streets on the way to work, on the shop floor. Nothing meant anything.” ―Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

7. “You say goodbye to your country, your people, your home, your friends, your family. Everything you knew. You cry the entire flight.” —Arnesa Buljusmic-Kustura

8.
“so, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.”
—Ijeoma Umebinyuo, “diaspora blues“

9. “These days, it feels to me like you make a devil’s pact when you walk into this country… it drags you in and suddenly you are unsuitable to return, your children are unrecognisable, you belong nowhere.” —Zadie Smith, White Teeth

10.
“This is for the ones who pump tangoing mixed blood
Of entities not quite white and not quite black
Not quite indigenous and not quite invasive”
—Adeline Nieto, A Pure Medley

11. “Do you understand the sadness of geography?” —Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

12. “Exiles feed on empty dreams of hope. I know it. I was one.” —Aeschylus, Agamemnon

13. “I go to seek a great perhaps.” —Last words of poet Francois Rabelais

14. “For being a foreigner Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy — a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts.” —Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake

15. “Immigrants, we get the job done.” —Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

16. ”All Americans have something lonely about them. I don’t know what the reason might be, except maybe that they’re all descended from immigrants.” —Ryū Murakami, In the Miso Soup

17. “It’s said that you can never go home again, and it’s true enough, of course. But the opposite is also true. You must go back, and you always go back, and you can never stop going back, no matter how hard you try.”
— Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram

18.
“you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land”
—Warsan Shire, “Home”

19. “Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the picture you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them.” —Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language

20. “And then you’ll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who’s only yours. And you’ll realize… that this is where your life is.” —Colm Tóibín, Brooklyn

21. “It would be simpler if English and life were logical.” —Tanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again"
immigrants  immigration  rupikaur  writing  literature  amychua  chriscleaves  durgachew-bose  chimamandangoziadichie  colmtóibín  arnesabuljusmic-kustura  ijeomaumebinyuo  adelinenieto  michaelondaatje  aeschylus  agamemnon  francoisrabelais  migration  linmanuelmiranda  jhumpalahiri  gregorydavidroberts  ryūmurakami  warsanshire  evahoffman  tanhhalai 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Novel City Maps: A poetic view on the city
"How do impressions of a city perceived in fiction change depending on author, time and narration?

The project Novel City Maps visualizes spatiality and its relation to the story in Berlin novels in the form of poetic maps that originate from the complex tissue of the underlying stories.

by Jan-Erik Stange"
jan-erikstange  maps  mapping  literature  cities  novels  narration  space 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Ursula Le Guin Has Earned a Rare Honor. Just Don’t Call Her a Sci-Fi Writer. - The New York Times
"The speech, and her outrage, went viral. “A writer in her mid-80s simply has less to lose,” she said. “An author in midcareer who defies the hegemony of Google and Amazon, and names their immoral or unfair practices as such, takes an immediate risk of vengeance from them and of enmity from fellow writers who are cozy with them. I’m taking the same risks, but what the hell. My work is out there — visible, existent.”

Many younger writers cite Ms. Le Guin as an inspiration, including David Mitchell and Neil Gaiman. In an email, Junot Díaz talked about “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” Ms. Le Guin’s parable about a society whose happy existence depends on keeping one small child locked away in misery. Most citizens of Omelas accept that deal. A few do not.

“That story is both a call and a practice for Le Guin,” Mr. Diaz said. “She has spent all these decades trying to chart a path for those who wish to walk away from Omelas — also known as the horror of our civilization.”

“The Complete Orsinia” is Ms. Le Guin in a quieter key. “The editorial challenge of the Library of America is to strike a balance,” said Max Rudin, the library’s publisher. “On the one hand to publish writers and works that are indisputably part of the American canon, and on the other hand to publish books that stretch people’s imagination of what great American writing is.”

In the introduction, she quotes from a 1975 notebook in which she wrote that much of her work was concerned with one central notion: “True pilgrimage consists in coming home.” The hero of “Malafrena” must leave his provincial farm only to find it again.

“There’s a difference between the circle and the spiral,” Ms. Le Guin said. “We say the Earth has a circular orbit around the sun, but of course it doesn’t. You never come back to the same place, you just come back to the same point on the spiral. That image is very deep in my thinking.”

“Orsinia” has another spiral: As Ms. Le Guin’s works are being put in the canon, she has largely stopped writing. “The fiction isn’t coming. You can’t get water from a dry well.” She still writes poetry, which is a consolation.

There remains that other big legacy-cementing possibility. Last year, Ms. Le Guin was given Nobel odds of 25-1. Her conclusion: “All I have to do in the next 25 years is outlive the other 24 writers.”"
ursulaleguin  2016  sciencefiction  scifi  literature  fiction  writing  historicalfiction  recognition  junotdíaz  nailgaiman  davidmitchell  gender  genre  dondelillo 
september 2016 by robertogreco
The Steps
"I like to think about the ways in which thirty years of reading mostly science fiction have shaped my experiences as a reader. The most important groove my reading mind drops into is what I'll call a posture of openness. I read for "incluing," signs and traces. If a book is narrated by a ghost (I have read many books narrated by ghosts), I take the ghost at its word. I do expect a certain plot trajectory – the way the ghost died will be a mystery that we must discover – but I am thrilled to have that expectation overturned. If you read in a similar way, please do not read the introduction to this edition, which engages in excessive speculation as to what exactly made the ghost's childhood a "before." I much prefer to leave myself open to this breathless, haunting, unresolved story."
suzannefischer  openness  reading  howweread  2016  mindset  fiction  literature  scifi  sciencefiction 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Of Thee I Read: The United States in Literature - The New York Times
"Reporters and editors on the National Desk of The New York Times were asked to suggest books that a visitor ought to read to truly understand the American cities and regions where they live, work and travel.

There were no restrictions — novels, memoirs, histories and children’s books were fair game. Here are some selections.

Recommend a book that captures something special about where you live in the comments, or on Twitter with the hashtag #natbooks."
us  literature  geography  2016  books  booklists  losangeles  california  thesouth  pacificnorthwest  seattle  cascadia  southwest  midwest  boston  neworleans  nola  maine 
august 2016 by robertogreco
A Snapshot of a 21st-Century Librarian - The Atlantic
"Quill: My focus is on maps, but also geographic information science—spatial analysis and digital mapping, and the digital companions to a lot of traditional paper maps. I both get to collect the older and even currently published paper maps, and do a lot more workshops on different digital mapping tools—which are really well attended.

Even for people who are quite tech-savvy, the general abundance of options and tools makes it really difficult to invest the time in every element of research and tools that you might need. I think it's helpful for the librarian, especially in the case of mapping, to be able to be the expert on all these different things so the students don't have to go down every little avenue and try to learn every tool. I spend a lot of time doing research consultations with people, and then teaching workshops. A lot of those are for some sort of digital product or tool.

We've also been able to use some of these new technologies to enhance our traditional print map collection, whether it's digitizing a collection, or I made an interactive index for one of our series of maps so it's easier to find which specific map you need. Things like that that can be a complement to traditional resources. I don't think of it as two separate things. They all work together in different ways.

Green: Do you feel like you have to teach yourself new tools all the time?

Quill: Yes, definitely, which is one of the things I really enjoy about my job. I'm taking some graduate-level classes now just to keep up on what's being taught and new technologies. I also just spend a lot of time looking out for new things, playing around with them. I have an ongoing list of different tools and what they're best for, the pros and cons of each.

Green: I looked at some of your work on the university’s site. Tell me more about the Russian treasure hunters and “The Sun Also Rises: A Drinking Map”.

Quill: Because librarians are academic faculty, there’s an expectation that we do research. I’ve been mapping all the locations in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, specifically where the characters drink alcohol. The really cool thing about that particular book is that Hemingway is really specific about the places that they’re going, and sometimes even has addresses in the book. I’m trying to map the progression through the novel. I’ve also been counting exactly how many drinks they’ve had, which sometimes is stated and sometimes it just “a lot,” or “many,” or “we passed out.” It's interesting to see as the characters move through space and time how their drinking habits also accommodate what's going on around them.

The project came out of me trying to learn one of these new tools that are specifically for narrative maps, so I thought the best way to learn is to just try to do one myself with one of my favorite books.

Green: And the Russian treasure hunters?

Quill: We have a series of Russian military maps from the late 1800s up until about 1940, so covering most of both World Wars in Europe. They were made by the Russian military for internal use, so a lot of them are stamped secret. There's a whole long history, and we've been digitizing them. They're used by a lot by people trying to research their families. For example, “My grandmother lived in this village in Poland that no longer exists,” but maybe it's on this map from 1910 of Poland.

We can see which websites are driving traffic to our map collection, and one of them is a Russian treasure hunter’s forum. It seems like somebody in this community discovered that we were digitizing these, and they've been using them to hunt for treasure. I don't read Russian, so it's hard to tell exactly. We had over 100,000 hits to this collection just in the last year—not just from Russia. A lot of academics and researchers use them all around the world. It's just so fascinating that all of a sudden the use of this collection just exploded, and it took us a while to figure out what was driving it. They're not really available anywhere else in the world.

Green: Can you tell me something surprising about your job?

Quill: The spirit of collaboration at IU and the fact that everyone seems to like their job here. Before working in libraries, I worked in retail for a while and taught in Bulgaria. It's amazing, and really uplifting, to be around people who like going to work everyday and being able to see specific ways where your input has helped someone else's research in some way. When I was younger, you'd hear people talk about work like it's this horrible drudgery of a thing that you tolerate and then you come home and live your life."

[See also: http://www.mhpbooks.com/your-average-librarian-was-never-average/ ]
libraries  libraraians  2016  adriennegreentheresaquill  maps  mapping  literature  books  archives  internet  web  coding  online 
july 2016 by robertogreco
100 African Writers of SFF — Part One: Nairobi | Tor.com
"An African writer who makes mix tapes of game soundtracks. A Nairobi filmmaker with Nietzsche on his smart phone. A chess champion who loves Philip K Dick. An African SF poet who quotes the Beatniks… meet the new New Wave in Nairobi, Kenya. Part one of our series 100 African Writers of SFF.

About that title…

100: Because it’s easy to remember. More like 120 or 130 writers, but many I won’t get to meet. I’ll list as many as I can by location, by social scene. Because people, even writers, succeed in groups.

AFRICAN: Meaning mostly people with African citizenship in Africa, but I’m not going to be draconian. Writers like Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar are beacons to young Africans. They take an active role in African publishing projects—Nnedi with Lagos 2060 and AfroSF and Sofia with the Jalada Afrofuture(s) anthology, which she helped edit. “African” itself is a dubious concept. I will try to use more precise terms—nations, cities, and peoples.

WRITERS: Will include filmmakers, poets and comics artists. Not all of them have published frequently. Some have only published themselves, but given the lack of publisher opportunities, I think that’s enterprising. They’re still writers.

SFF: Stands for science fiction and fantasy. I use the term in its broadest sense to include generic SF and fantasy, horror, alternative histories, speculative fiction, slipstream, variations on Kafka, fables, nonsense and more.

Some of the most powerful African writing has elements that would be fantastical in the West, but which are everyday in traditional cultures. I use two distinct terms to describe some of the works by these writers—“traditional belief realism” as distinct from “traditional belief fantasy.” The first category includes Tail Of The Blue Bird by Nii Parkes and Kintu by Nansubuga Makumbi. Traditional belief fantasy is actually the older genre, exampled by The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola or Forest of a Thousand Demons by D.O. Fagunwa.

However, many of these new writers bear the same relation to oral literature that (in a different context), Bob Dylan bore to folk music. Family stories are a springboard to something original, that mashes together any language or material that helps these writers express themselves.

What may be special to Nairobi—and perhaps to countries like Nigeria as well—is the way in which monotheistic, traditional, and scientific belief systems hover in proximity to each other, often without a sense of contradiction."
africa  sciencefiction  scifi  lists  literature  nairobi  kenya  toread  2016 
july 2016 by robertogreco
BOMB Magazine — Edwidge Danticat by Garnette Cadogan
"Despite her accomplishments, it is clear from talking to her and reading her books that her ambition is to be nothing less than an attentive observer—her works display exemplary watchfulness and empathy. Over the course of a weeks-long correspondence about her writing, she kept gently nudging me to listen more closely, to be the kind of reader on whom nothing is lost, a reader who recognizes people as irreducibly various and complex. And she made it seem so simple. Except it’s not. (Relatedly, her prose’s deceptive simplicity is part of its appeal.) She has been described as “the bard of the Haitian diaspora,” but, really, her terrain is whatever world her fertile imagination takes her to. Her latest stop is the fictional town of Ville Rose, in which Claire of the Sea Light is set—a heartbreaking-yet-wondrous world."



"GC Claire, this “luminous child,” comes to us in a fable-like series of interrelated stories. Why that structure? Was there something about the themes you wanted to tackle, or about the way you wanted to delineate linked lives in Haiti, that made you choose this form?

ED Initially I wanted to write a book that was like a transcript of a popular radio show in Haiti, featuring news, gossip, interviews, and testimonials. I was not going to use the transcript format, but each chapter was going to be a story that was an episode of the show. The book is as much about Claire and her father as it is about the other residents of Ville Rose. We meet many different characters and get into each of their houses and heads. There is a schoolmaster and his wayward son. There is an undertaker, as well as Louise George, the radio hostess, and others. I imagine the reader as a visitor to Ville Rose on the one night that the book takes place. You arrive on the beach and you start meeting people and you try to piece all the pieces together. I like books, like mysteries, that leave something for the reader to do, a puzzle to solve. I hope this book does that.

GC Were you worried that the fantastical elements of your story might be taken as allegorical and therefore lessen the blow of the horrors you describe?

ED There are not that many fantastical elements in this book. Everything that is mentioned can and actually has happened in different parts of the world. Rogue waves happen. Supernovas happen. Frogs die en masse in many places. Also, even when fantastical elements appear in stories, in my experience, they often highlight rather than reduce horrors.

GC The tiny seaside town of Ville Rose is painted with magical strokes that point to a life beyond the one we can see. They reveal the townspeople’s connection with each other and also their connection to the world beyond. How do you perceive the world that we can’t see shaping the one we do see?

ED I am certainly of the belief that there is more to us than what we see. This is why I would resist the notion of death as ultimate exile. I believe that we remain connected to our ancestors long after they’re gone. It is a deep spiritual connection that is hard to explain. I sometimes think, for example, that I see traces of my grandmother in my daughter’s expressions. This is both genetic and magical at the same time. We are all part of a cycle of life, shaped by all that has come before. Some call it evolution. Some call it God, by whatever name they call God. In Haiti you might say Gran Mèt la, the Grand Master or Creator, which would be part of most religions, even ones where people have trouble agreeing what God should be or look or sound like.

GC In an essay published on the year since the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, you quoted a saying of your grandmother’s: “In Haiti, people never really die.” The dead are still among us, you pointed out. How does your awareness of your ancestors and your intimate connection to the dead influence your writing?

ED Again, not to sound too mysterious, but there is so much happening when I am writing that I don’t quite understand. In many ways this is linked to the fact that your subconscious is doing most of the work when you’re in the middle of any creative act. Yet sometimes, on good days when the writing is going well, you feel like there is someone on your shoulder whispering things in your ear that you are just transcribing. You’re a vessel. You don’t even notice time going by. The words just flow. On those days, some people say that the muse has been by. I like to say that my ancestors have been by, sharing with me some of what they have learned over several lifetimes, because there is no way I can individually know what everyone in my bloodline has known together, collectively."



"GC You seem to carry the burden—and liberation—of being from multiple worlds, Haiti and the United States, and speaking to and on behalf of both. Do you see yourself speaking from one world to another, or speaking to both worlds simultaneously? Or speaking to both worlds and the diaspora, that homeland caught between the two?

ED I carry no such burden, frankly. If you give yourself that burden, that is your burden. If I thought of myself as this person “being from multiple worlds,” then I would probably just shut down and do something else with my life. No one elected me to speak on their behalf either in Haiti or the United States. I’m certainly not going to assign myself that role because it would be presumptuous and arrogant and just plain too much. To express an opinion, I would have to take a survey first. I can add my voice to someone else’s. I can help raise other voices. But I can’t take on this massive undertaking that you’re suggesting. I would fail miserably. I don’t have the personality for it or the stamina. Also, the idea of this great anguish of living between two worlds has diminished somewhat for many immigrant people, artists and non-artists alike. Not that there is not some uneasiness, but it is no longer the single most urgent anxiety of every immigrant’s life. And honestly, maybe it never was—except, perhaps, in literature.

Recently I read Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, in which a father wants to convince his daughter to join the family business, but she wants to be an artist. He says to her that all immigrants are artists, that the overall action of recreating your life in another country is a work of art. That was a wonderful intergenerational moment about the pressures of immigration—something I personally needed to hear, something that moves the conversation beyond culture clash and “I am neither here nor there,” to a more nuanced situation where people are talking intimately about immigration and not screaming, “I don’t know where I belong!” I would like us to move beyond these tropes of speaking to or for, and of being only between two worlds. We are at the same time speaking to no one and everyone."



"GC One truth that stands high in your work is that love is a potent combatant to loss. Elaborate on the hopefulness that runs through your recent novel and your work in general.

ED I don’t know how to do this without singing a corny love song, but if you have ever suffered a loss, or have been deprived of a love, or have watched someone’s life slip away—of course all positive emotions can offer some kind of comfort. Love is certainly one of the best for that. When things are difficult, the love a parent has for a child, romantic love, or the love a neighbor has for a stranger or a friend, can sustain a person in ways that even the person being sustained might not fully understand at the moment. The year my father and uncle both died, I can’t imagine how I would have survived if not for the love of my friends and family who got me through a pregnancy, a birth, and all the craziness—mostly with words. Words of comfort in cards, texts, and emails, when I could not even pick up the phone. Not to sound too corny, but sometimes love can also be the difference between life and death. Countless poems, novels, essays, and films vouch for this."
edwidgedanticat  garnettecadogan  writing  literature  haiti  2014  interviews  immigration  migration  howwewrite  whywwewrite  exile  motherhood  subconscious  identity  patriciaengle  nikkigiovanni  love  childhood  fiction  alienation  history  ancestry  noticing  observing  listening 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Página/12 :: libros
"Referencia imprescindible en la literatura brasileña, Ana Cristina César aparece con la fuerza de un impacto condensado en una vida breve (nació en 1952 en Río de Janeiro y se suicidó en 1983 en la misma ciudad). Para entonces ya había logrado consolidar una voz particular inscripta en la poesía, en la correspondencia, artículos críticos, ensayos y traducciones. Definió su modo de escribir como “el método documental”, que involucra una concepción de la literatura: “Recrear los vínculos de afinidad espontánea entre textos y autores diversos dentro de la ficticia intimidad del propio escrito”, según señala en el prólogo a esta antología de textos de entre 1975 y 1983 Bárbara Belloc. Junto con Teresa Arijón se encargó de traducir y seleccionar intervenciones de Ana César que delinean una nítida imagen de poeta e intelectual, evadiendo los mitos de la “hagiografía en torno de su figura, una sacralización ciertamente acrítica que es producto del impacto causado por su muerte trágica y prematura”, como expresa Renato Razende en “Para un apunte biobliográfico de Ana C.”

En su clara conciencia de la construcción ficcional, Ana sigue a Pessoa y enuncia una frase clave: “el poeta es un fingidor”. Tema que recurre cuando se refiere, remarcando la distancia entre las palabras y las cosas, a modos de escritura muy ligados a la expresión de lo subjetivo, así la correspondencia o el diario personales. En sus deslindes puede señalar que hay una intimidad inescribible, lo cual a su vez se vincula con el método documental que implica hacer literatura (no desligada de lo que apela e incide en la circunstancia vital, sino por la conciencia que tiene respecto de la distancia entre lo individual y biográfico, y la configuración de un texto literario donde cuentan y mucho la lectura, las voces de otros poetas como material compositivo), actitud reacia por tanto a interpretaciones biografistas que intentan “explicar” o aun validar o edificar una obra en función de los avatares de la vida del autor con “muy poco de literatura y mucho de confesión”.

En “El poeta fuera de la República” se refiere al mercado. Ese artículo de 1977 trata acerca del escritor vinculado con un circuito de producción y circulación, para poner en escena cuestiones ligadas al pago por un trabajo (el de la escritura), así como para señalar otras posturas: una marginalidad elegida, esto es situarse en un lugar ajeno a los circuitos de consagración, promociones, etcétera. No poco importante es señalar este aspecto si se considera que por los años setenta en Brasil la llamada “generación del mimeógrafo” (en la que se la quiso incluir) definía una pro-puesta de modos de escritura y de difusión que desafiaban el ahogo cultural ligado a una concreta situación política.

En igual sentido, se visualizan otros temas polémicos. Entre ellos, dos, cuya persistencia sirve para apreciar la actualidad de sus reflexiones: la llamada literatura femenina y la traducción. Aparecen entonces facetas del acto de traducir como una suerte de performance cuando remite a la Elegía del poeta metafísico inglés del siglo XVII John Donne, interpretada por Caetano Veloso. Y también con las refe-rencias a Walt Whitman, Dickinson, Mallarmé, que ofrecen simultáneamente afinados comentarios sobre la composición poética en general y sobre estos autores en particular, focalizados según esa especial forma de escritura que es la traducción. Comparaciones en fin que también anclan en un cotejo entre Poe y Herculano, donde analiza cuál es la función del bufón respecto del poder.

En consonancia con una tarea que, en el recorrido por los géneros, funde lucidez y sensibilidad, Ana César no puede dejar de preguntarse qué sucede con esa recurrente cuestión de la literatura femenina, y aquí también, da muestras de su rigor analítico al emplazar la instancia de “lo femenino” en la literatura, más allá del género sexual de quien la produzca.

Recorrer este conjunto de artículos, con sus valorables citas (Mario de Andrade, valga el ejemplo), no sólo permite apreciar el justo lugar que la obra de Ana César está ocupando con creciente firmeza por el mérito indiscutible de instalar un sólido lugar de enunciación, una voz que expresa la confluencia en la que arte, vida, ideologías y política hallan su ajustado punto de enlace."

[via: https://twitter.com/DoloresDorantes/status/724971981708226560 ]

[See also: https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ana_Cristina_Cesar ]
anacristinacésar  brazil  brasil  writing  capitalism  books  toread  literature  methods  poetry 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Parliament of Things: Into Latour and His Philosophy
"Researching the conversations between Things, Animals, Plants and People and design the House of The Parliament of Things."



"The Parliament of Things is a speculative research into the emancipation of animals and things. It acknowledges that mankind has reached the end of an anthropocentric world. We can no longer maintain the distorted dichotomy between culture and nature. We share this world with many. Law should not be centred around Men, but around Life. We are just one party, among all animals, plants and objects. What if we welcome all things into our Parliament? What would be the plight of the planet? The reasoning of a fish? What claims would trees make, and what future would oil see for itself?

Do you you want to join? Send us an e-mail: info@theparliamentofthings.org

We at Partizan Publik have invented the Parliament and are playing the role of clerk by bringing it to you. The writer’s contest was a collaborative project that was organized by several partners. In the winter and spring of 2016 we invite several organizations to build the Parliament with us."



"We Have Never Been Modern and the Parliament of Things

Introduction

In We Have Never Been Modern (1991) Bruno Latour criticizes the distinction between nature and society. He states that our sciences emphasize the subject-object and nature-culture dichotomies, whereas in actuality, phenomenons often cross these lines. As an example, he mentions the hole in the ozone layer, and the different ways the sciences should look at it: ‘Can anyone imagine a study that would treat the ozone hole as simultaneously naturalized, sociologized and deconstucted?’ (6). With this mentioning of the hole in the ozone layer (as well as, among other things, computer chips, Monsanto, and aids) he gives an example of things or phenomena that are not merely objects, but that are hybrids between nature and culture.

With regards to the title of this work, Latour argues that this dualism between subject and object is a ‘modern’ mode of classification, and that this modern mode does not actually correspond with the practical ways in which we live. Thus, this modern dualism actually has never existed: we have never been modern.

The Constitution

‘Modernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because (…) [i]t overlooks the simultaneous birth of ‘nonhumanity’ – things, or objects, or beasts (…)’ (13)

In this chapter, the question at hand is about the constitution. ‘Who is to write the full constitution?’, Latour asks (14). For political constitutions, this is normally done by jurists and Founding Fathers; for the nature of things, this is the task of scientists. But, if we want to include hybrids as well, who is going to write the complete constitution?

Latour calls this complete constitution the ‘Constitution’ with a capital C, to distinguish it from the political one. It defines ‘humans and nonhumans, their properties and their relations, their abilities and their groupings’ (14).

Hobbes & Boyle

When discussing the separation between science and politics, Latour uses the dispute between Robert Boyle and Thomas Hobbes as an example. Boyle can be seen as the founder of modern science – he developed the methodology in which scientists observe a phenomenon produced artificially in a laboratory (in Boyle’s case, the workings of a vacuum pump, in our case, for example, CERN).

Hobbes, on the other hand, rejected this manner of analysis, and focused on theorizing social and political order in terms of human conflicts and agreements. ‘Boyle and Hobbes, then, jointly constructed the program for purifying the discourses of nature and society – expunging from each the traces of the other’ (Pickering). This distinction between science and politics is not just typical for ‘modernity’, but actually defines it, as Latour argues: ‘they are inventing our modern world, a world in which the representation of things through the intermediary of the laboratory is forever dissociated from the representation of citizens through the intermediary of the social contract’ (Latour 27).

Hybrids

Latour established that the modern constitution ‘invents a separation between scientific power charged with representing things and the political power charged with representing subjects’ (29). However, he states we should not think that subjects are far removed from things. Even though Hobbes and Boyle create this distinction, they still speak about the same things: God, the politics of the King of England, nature, mathematics, and spirits and angels, to name a few. It becomes clear that in practice, this separation between science and politics, and nature and culture, does not hold. As Latour states:

Here lies the entire modern paradox. If we consider hybrids, we are dealing only with mixtures of nature and culture; if we consider the work of purification, we confront a total separation between nature and culture.’ (30)

The paradox of modernity, thus, is that we divided the world into two groups –

nature (science) and culture (politics) – but at the same time, in our daily lives, we constantly deal with hybrids between these two groups. But this division renders ‘the work of mediation that assembles hybrids invisible, unthinkable, unrepresentable’ (35). As Latour succinctly puts it: ‘the modern constitution allows the expanded proliferation of the hybrids whose existence, whose very possibility, it denies’ (35).

We Have Never Been Modern

‘Modernity has never begun’, Latour argues. Instead, he calls himself a ‘nonmodern’: ‘A nonmodern is anyone who takes simultaneously into account the moderns’ Constitution and the population of hybrids that that Constitution rejects and allows to proliferate’ (47). He states that hybrids – also called monsters, cyborgs, tricksters – are ‘just about everything; they compose not only our own collectives but also the others, illegitimately called premodern’ (47). So only minor changes separate our era from the periods that were before, Latour states.

Revolution

In this part, Latour discusses the action that has to be undertaken to acknowledge the existence and the importance of hybrids:

When the only thing at stake was the emergence of a few vacuum pumps, they could still be subsumed under two classes, that of natural laws and that of political representations; but when we find ourselves invaded by frozen embryos, expert systems, digital machines, sensor-equipped robots, hybrid corn, data banks, psychotropic drugs, whales outfitted with radar sounding devices, gene synthesizers, audience analyzers, and so on, when our daily newspapers display all these monsters on page after page, and when none of these chimera can be properly on the object side or on the subject side, or even in between, something has to be done. (50)

Latour calls for the need to outline a space that encompasses both the practice of purification as well as that of mediation. ‘By deploying both dimensions at once, we may be able to accomodate the hybrids and give them a place, a name, a home, a philosophy, an ontology and, I hope, a new constitution’ (51).

Quasi-Objects

Latour tries to locate the position of hybrids, quasi-objects and quasi-subjects by first problematizing the status of the social scientist. He argues that the social scientist, on the one hand, shows that ‘the power of gods, the objectivity of money, the attraction of fashion (…)’ have no intrinsic value, but ‘offer only a surface for the projection of our social needs and interests’ (52). To become a social scientist, Latour states, ‘is to realize that the inner properties of objects do not count, that they are mere receptacles for human categories’ (52).

On the other hand, social scientists also debunk the belief in the freedom of the human subject: they show how the ‘nature of things (…) determines, informs and moulds’ humans (53). So, Latour states that the social scientist ‘see[s] double’:

In the first denunciation, objects count for nothing; they are just there to be used as the white screens on to which society projects its cinema. But in the second, they are so powerful that they shape the human society, while the social construction of the sciences that have produced them remains invisible. (53)

The solution to these contradictory beliefs is dualism, much to Latour’s disapproval. The nature pole is divided into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ parts, the same partition is made for the subject/society pole. ‘Dualism may be a poor solution, but it provided 99 per cent of the social sciences’ critical repertoire’ (54).

Latour, instead, states objects are society’s co-producters. ‘Is not society built literally – not metaphorically – of gods, machines, sciences, arts and styles?’ (54). He argues we should not focus too much on dialectics, as dialectics foreground the existing dichotomies; instead, he focuses on quasi-objects.

Quasi-objects are in between and below the two poles (…) [and] are much more social, much more fabricated, much more collective than the ‘hard’ parts of nature (…), [yet] they are much more real, nonhuman and objective than those shapeless screens on which society (…) needed to be ‘projected’. (55)

By focusing on the two poles rather than on that what is in between, ‘science studies have forced everyone to rethink anew the role of objects in the construction of collectives, thus challenging philosophy’ (55).

Relativism

In this chapter, Latour treats the function of anthropology and the role it might be able to play, as well as the concepts of symmetry and asymmetry. If anthropology is to become symmetrical, ‘the anthropologist has to position himself at the median point where he can follow the attribution of both nonhuman and human properties’ (96).

To analyse this new field of study, anthropology … [more]
multispecies  objects  plants  animals  brunolatour  robertboyle  thomashobbes  hybrids  modernity  nonmodern  modern  quasi-objects  law  biology  anthropology  entertainment  science  architecture  campainging  literature  things  theparliamentofthings 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Nigerians are writing steamy romance novels to escape religious violence | Public Radio International
"The books shift between morality tales and classic pulp romance. Often written by hand in small composition books, the stories find a wider audience after they are transcribed and published online.

People also buy the books in crowded marketplaces, where you can buy thousands of different titles for a dollar or two. They're called littattafan soyayya, which roughly translates to “love literature."

The littattafan soyayya industry is the subject of photographer Glenna Gordon’s new photo book, "Diagram of the Heart."

The stories are mostly written by women, for women. And amid Nigeria's political turmoil, they provide an escape of sorts.

The chaos in Nigeria became much more widely reported after the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped 276 school girls from their dorm in 2014, but the group has been around since 2002. At the same time, the government faces huge amounts of corruption and the country is split because of religious tension.

Gordon says escaping the stress of that instability is one of the reasons women turn to romance novels. But it's certainly not the only reason.

Gordon first heard about the genre after a friend suggested she read a book called “Sin Is a Puppy That Follows you Home,” which describes itself as an Islamic soap opera.

The book has a pretty complicated plot.

First a man brings home a second wife. That second wife turns out to be a prostitute. The first wife ends up separating from him, and is kicked out of the house along with the couple’s children. After time, she opens a restaurant and builds a new life. Meanwhile, the husband loses everything he has in a fire and his second wife leaves him.

At the end of the book, the original couple gets back together. But their power dynamic has shifted.

“Even though it doesn’t really look like a traditional feminist text in the way I might think of one, there has been a significant change in the course of the book,” Gordon says.

Gordon says most people don’t know about Nigeria’s thriving publishing industry and culture of literature because of a language barrier. Books are often written in Hausa, and while the language is extremely popular — it’s one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa — the books are rarely translated into other languages.

They're also controversial.

Some local governments in Northern Nigeria censor the books, and in 2007, the minister of education publicly burned many books that he said were corrupting young people and encouraging moral indecency.

Today, authors are forced to register with the Hisbah, the morality police, as well as government officials. Gordon says at this point many authors self-censor to avoid the hassle. But their books used to be much more risqué.

There are people who don’t register and publish anyway, she says. Also the government is somewhat irregular in how it enforces the rules.

“So some things get through and some things don’t,” she says."
nigeria  literature  feminism  2016  bokoharam  books  hausa  morality  islam  women  publishing  photography  glennagordon 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Arcade, Episode 44 with William Gibson by Hazlitt Magazine | Free Listening on SoundCloud
""I have already told you of the sickness and confusion that comes with time travelling." H.G. Wells wrote those words in The Time Machine, but that quote also begins author William Gibson's new novel, The Peripheral. He speaks with Hazlitt audio producer Anshuman Iddamsetty about resonance, Health Goth, and how infrequently we hear of the 22nd Century."

[via: "I guess it’s here that @GreatDismal closes the loop and says jet lag is a time-travelling disease: https://soundcloud.com/hazlittmag/the-arcade-episode-44-with-william-gibson "
https://twitter.com/yayitsrob/status/717762111699431424 ]

[See also: "I kept remembering this @GreatDismal story about how globalized video games => time travel. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:stJe8tBoy "
https://twitter.com/yayitsrob/status/717761063828242432

"There was a period where my daughter was always sort of vaguely jet lagged because she had to stay up to 3:00 in the morning until the Japanese, or maybe it was the Australian players came on in whatever multi-player first person shooter she was really into because she said they were the best players and they were several time zones away. It's just a little bit of jump from this girl's jet lagged because she's playing online shooters to this girl's got PTSD because she has been playing online shooters."]
jetlag  williamgibson  timetravel  theperipheral  anshumaniddamsetty  technology  fashion  sports  storytelling  books  annerice  politics  2015  jimgaffigan  conradblack  scaachikoul  princelestat  literature  scifi  sciencefiction  videogames  games  gaming  international  global  timezones 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Generation Anthropocene: How humans have altered the planet for ever | Books | The Guardian
"We are living in the Anthropocene age, in which human influence on the planet is so profound – and terrifying – it will leave its legacy for millennia. Politicians and scientists have had their say, but how are writers and artists responding to this crisis?"



"Warren’s exhibit makes Bateley’s crackly recording available, and her accompanying text unfolds the complexities of its sonic strata. It is, as Warren puts it, “a soundtrack of the sacred voices of extinct birds echoing in that of a dead man echoing out of a machine echoing through the world today”. The intellectual elegance of her work – and its exemplary quality as an Anthropocene-aware artefact – lies in its subtle tracing of the technological and imperial histories involved in a single extinction event and its residue."



"Perhaps the greatest challenge posed to our imagination by the Anthropocene is its inhuman organisation as an event. If the Anthropocene can be said to “take place”, it does so across huge scales of space and vast spans of time, from nanometers to planets, and from picoseconds to aeons. It involves millions of different teleconnected agents, from methane molecules to rare earth metals to magnetic fields to smartphones to mosquitoes. Its energies are interactive, its properties emergent and its structures withdrawn.

In 2010 Timothy Morton adopted the term hyperobject to denote some of the characteristic entities of the Anthropocene. Hyperobjects are “so massively distributed in time, space and dimensionality” that they defy our perception, let alone our comprehension. Among the examples Morton gives of hyperobjects are climate change, mass species extinction and radioactive plutonium. “In one sense [hyperobjects] are abstractions,” he notes, “in another they are ferociously, catastrophically real.”

Creative non-fiction, and especially reportage, has adapted most quickly to this “distributed” aspect of the Anthropocene. Episodic in assembly and dispersed in geography, some outstanding recent non-fiction has proved able to map intricate patterns of environmental cause and effect, and in this way draw hyperobjects into at least partial visibility. Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014) and her Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006) are landmarks here, as is Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (2014). In 2015 Gaia Vince published Adventures in the Anthropocene, perhaps the best book so far to trace the epoch’s impacts on the world’s poor, and the slow violence that climate change metes out to them.

Last year also saw the publication of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins, by the American anthropologist Anna Tsing. Tsing takes as her subject one of the “strangest commodity chains of our times”: that of the matsutake, supposedly the most valuable fungus in the world, which grows best in “human-disturbed forests”. Written in what she calls “a riot of short chapters, like the flushes of mushrooms that come up after rain”, Tsing’s book describes a contemporary “nature” that is hybrid and multiply interbound. Her ecosystems stretch from wood-wide webs of mycelia, through earthworms and pine roots, to logging trucks and hedge funds – as well as down into the flora of our own multispecies guts. Tsing’s account of nature thus overcomes what Jacques Rancière has called the “partition of the sensible”, by which he means the traditional division of matter into “life” and “not-life”. Like Skelton in his recent Beyond the Fell Wall (2015), and the poet Sean Borodale, Tsing is interested in a vibrant materialism that acknowledges the agency of stones, ores and atmospheres, as well as humans and other organisms.

Tsing is also concerned with the possibility of what she calls “collaborative survival” in the Anthropocene-to-come. As Evans Calder Williams notes, the Anthropocene imagination “crawls with narratives of survival”, in which varying conditions of resource scarcity exist, and varying kinds of salvage are practised. Our contemporary appetite for environmental breakdown is colossal, tending to grotesque: from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) – now almost an Anthropocene ur-text – through films such as The Survivalist and the Mad Max franchise, to The Walking Dead and the Fallout video game series.

The worst of this collapse culture is artistically crude and politically crass. The best is vigilant and provocative: Simon Ings’ Wolves (2014), for instance, James Bradley’s strange and gripping Clade (2015), or Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake (2014), a post-apocalyptic novel set in the “blaec”, “brok” landscape of 11th-century England, that warns us not to defer our present crisis. I think also of Clare Vaye Watkins’s glittering Gold Fame Citrus (2015), which occurs in a drought-scorched American southwest and includes a field-guide to the neo-fauna of this dunescape: the “ouroboros rattlesnake”, the “Mojave ghost crab”.

Such scarcity narratives unsettle what we might call the Holocene delusion on which growth economics is founded: of the Earth as an infinite body of matter, there for the incredible ultra-machine of capitalism to process, exploit and discard without heed of limit. Meanwhile, however, speculative novelists – Andy Weir in The Martian, Kim Stanley Robinson in Red Mars – foresee how we will overcome terrestrial shortages by turning to asteroid mining or the terra-forming of Mars. To misquote Fredric Jameson, it is easier to imagine the extraction of off-planet resources than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.

The novel is the cultural form to which the Anthropocene arguably presents most difficulties, and most opportunities. Historically, the novel has been celebrated for its ability to represent human interiority: the skull-to-skull skip of free indirect style, or the vivid flow of stream-of-consciousness. But what use are such skills when addressing the enormity of this new epoch? Any Anthropocene-aware novel finds itself haunted by impersonal structures, and intimidated by the limits of individual agency. China Miéville’s 2011 short story “Covehithe” cleverly probes and parodies these anxieties. In a near-future Suffolk, animate oil rigs haul themselves out of the sea, before drilling down into the coastal strata to lay dozens of rig eggs. These techno-zombies prove impervious to military interventions: at last, all that humans can do is become spectators, snapping photos of the rigs and watching live feeds from remote cameras as they give birth – an Anthropocene Springwatch.

Most memorable to me is Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel, Annihilation. It describes an expedition into an apparently poisoned region known as Area X, in which relic human structures have been not just reclaimed but wilfully redesigned by a mutated nature. A specialist team is sent to survey the zone. They discover archive caches and topographically anomalous buildings including a “Tower” that descends into the earth rather than jutting from it. The Tower’s steps are covered in golden slime, and on its walls crawls a “rich greenlike moss” that inscribes letters and words on the masonry – before entering and authoring the bodies of the explorers themselves. It gradually becomes apparent that Area X, in all its weird wildness, is actively transforming the members of the expedition who have been sent to subdue it with science. As such, VanderMeer’s novel brilliantly reverses the hubris of the Anthropocene: instead of us leaving the world post-natural, it suggests, the world will leave us post-human.



As the idea of the Anthropocene has surged in power, so its critics have grown in number and strength. Cultural and literary studies currently abound with Anthropocene titles: most from the left, and often bitingly critical of their subject. The last 12 months have seen the publication of Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene, McKenzie Wark’s provocative Molecular Red: Theory for the Anthropocene and the environmental historian Jason W Moore’s important Capitalism in the Web of Life. Last July the “revolutionary arts and letters quarterly” Salvage launched with an issue that included Daniel Hartley’s essay “Against the Anthropocene” and Miéville, superbly, on despair and environmental justice in the new epoch.

Across these texts and others, three main objections recur: that the idea of the Anthropocene is arrogant, universalist and capitalist-technocratic. Arrogant, because the designation of the Anthropocene – the “New Age of Humans” – is our crowning act of self-mythologisation (we are the super-species, we the Prometheans, we have ended nature), and as such only embeds the narcissist delusions that have produced the current crisis.

Universalist, because the Anthropocene assumes a generalised anthropos, whereby all humans are equally implicated and all equally affected. As Purdy, Miéville and Moore point out, “we” are not all in the Anthropocene together – the poor and the dispossessed are far more in it than others. “Wealthy countries,” writes Purdy, “create a global landscape of inequality in which the wealthy find their advantages multiplied … In this neoliberal Anthropocene, free contract within a global market launders inequality through voluntariness.”

And capitalist-technocratic, because the dominant narrative of the Anthropocene has technology as its driver: recent Earth history reduced to a succession of inventions (fire, the combustion engine, the synthesis of plastic, nuclear weaponry). The monolithic concept bulk of this scientific Anthropocene can crush the subtleties out of both past and future, disregarding the roles of ideology, empire and political economy. Such a technocratic narrative will also tend to encourage technocratic solutions: geoengineering as a quick-fix for climate … [more]
environment  geology  literature  anthropocene  speculativefiction  fiction  novels  juliannelutzwarren  extinction  2016  robertmacfarlane  posthumanism  capitalism  economics  systems  systemthinking  technology  sustainability  technocracy  capitalocene  deforestation  chinamiéville  jedediahpurdy  mckenziewark  jasonmoore  danielhartley  jeffcandermeer  tomothymorton  hyperobjects  naomiklein  elizabethkolbert  gaiavince  annatsing  seanborodale  richardskelton  autumnrichardson  rorygibb  memory  holocene  earth  salvation  philiplarkin  plastic  plasticene  stratigraphy  eugenestoemer  paulcrutzen  history  apex-guilt  shadowtime  stieg  raymondwilliams  fredricjameson  glennalbrecht  johnclare  solastalgia  inequality  annalowenhaupttsing  jedediahbritton-purdy 
april 2016 by robertogreco
ONE LIKE = ONE BOOK by @JohnBorghi (with images, tweets) · CarinaDSLR · Storify
"I read a lot of books. I work in a library. I do a lot of science and #scicomm stuff."

[Doesn't contain the full thread, so see also:
https://twitter.com/JohnBorghi/status/706859033060352000 ]
books  booklists  srg  johnborghi  2016  science  fiction  literature  scifi  sciencefiction 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Recovering the Classics
"Recovering the Classics is a crowdsourced collection of original covers for great works in the public domain where anyone can contribute.

As part of a new initiative announced by the White House, we are partnering with the New York Public Library and the Digital Public Library of America to bring these amazing covers to libraries and schools nationwide.

Why? Sadly, many of the greatest classics in the public domain are left with poorly designed or auto-generated covers that fail to capture what makes these books exciting and inspiring to us. So we invited illustrators, typographers, and designers of all stripes to create new covers for 100 of the greatest works in the public domain.

Anyone can contribute, and all designs are available for sale as prints, apparel, and other products to support the artists.

Host your own local Recovering the Classics exhibit as part of our 50x50 campaign."
books  art  design  literature  bookdesign 
march 2016 by robertogreco
By Heart - The Atlantic
"Authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature."
writing  literature 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Telling South Sudan’s Tales in a Language Not Its Own - The New York Times
"JUBA, South Sudan — WHEN dozens of people packed a hall in this capital city to celebrate the publication this year of the latest collection of short stories by Stella Gaitano, a South Sudanese commentator called her “our ambassador to the Arab world.” The audience included writers from Sudan, and when the book went on sale a few months later in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, the author received a glowing reception there as well.

“This is what Stella used to do back in college, bring people together,” said Omar Ushari, a former university colleague of Ms. Gaitano and a moderator of the Khartoum event.

In a relatively short time, Ms. Gaitano, 33, has built a distinguished reputation as a writer who brings to life the experiences of the South Sudanese, who have endured war and displacement as their fragile new country formed and then threatened to disintegrate. More than that, though, she does it in Arabic, a language of the country they broke away from.

“I love the Arabic language,” she said. “I am like writers who write in a language other than their own; I am no different.”

South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011, after a referendum that followed years of conflict with the north. Scores of indigenous languages are spoken here, but the lingua franca is Juba Arabic, a pidgin language. The elite who have studied abroad or with local missionaries generally also speak English, while Arabic is spoken by university-educated people who lived in the north, like Ms. Gaitano.

Her parents, members of the Latuka tribe, fled the town of Torit, in what is now South Sudan, in the late 1960s, as the flames of the first Sudanese civil war blazed. They took refuge in Khartoum, where Ms. Gaitano was born.

She learned several languages there, speaking Latuka at home, Juba Arabic with South Sudanese of other tribes and Sudanese Arabic in the larger Sudanese society. She learned classical Arabic in school, and studied pharmacology in college — in English.

“We were a creative generation that was forced to deal with several boundaries,” she said. “So we created gates into each cultural circle.”

She grew up in El-Haj Youssef, a poor neighborhood on the perimeter of Khartoum, as the third of seven children. Her interest in the stories of her grandmother, mother and other female relatives from the south kindled her imagination.

“The south, for me, was an imaginary place,” she said. “It was represented to me in the stories of those who went there and came back to Khartoum.”

HER early love of reading, which included the works of the Sudanese novelist Tayeb Salih and Arabic translations of works by Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende, inspired her to write.

“Writing is the legitimate child of reading,” she said.

At the University of Khartoum, she came into contact with writers, intellectuals and activists, and she began developing her literary niche. “I started writing about myself, my family and my people,” she said.

One afternoon, inspired by her grandmother, she wrote one of her first short stories, “A Lake the Size of a Papaya Fruit,” in just 30 minutes. “It was like a revelation,” she said.

It is the story of a girl and her grandmother in southern Sudan who are left to fend for themselves after the girl’s mother dies in labor, her father is killed by a wild buffalo and her grandfather is executed by the British colonial authorities. The story won a Sudanese literary prize in 2003.

“It was important for me that northern Sudanese realize that there was life, values and a people who held a different culture, who needed space to be recognized and respected,” Ms. Gaitano said.

In “Wilted Flowers,” Ms. Gaitano addressed the challenges faced by people who had fled murderous conflicts in southern Sudan, Darfur and the Nuba Mountains, and were living in shantytowns near Khartoum.

Struggling mothers, drunken fathers and pregnant teenagers living in poverty far from their homelands with little or no government assistance became the characters and setting of the story “Everything Here Boils.”

“I was trying to shed a light on these matters, and send a warning that ignoring people this way would make them feel that this is not their country,” she said. “But the message was understood too late.”

Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese exiles returned to the newly independent country with high hopes, but the paradise many thought they would find was chimerical.

“When we came to the south, we found ourselves discussing the same issues that we did in the north: racism, tribalism, corruption, nepotism and political failure,” Ms. Gaitano said.

In her latest story collection, “Homecoming,” Ms. Gaitano reflects on the hopes and disappointments of returning families.

The story “Escape From the Regular” centers on families reunited after independence; the clashes between local people and those from the diaspora; and the irony and power of a commonly used phrase that became both a lament and an excuse: “Don’t you know we were freedom fighters?”

“South Sudanese saw themselves in the mirror,” Ms. Gaitano said. “They did not think that their own brothers, who look like them, could do the same things that others did to them.”

Her husband, who works at the University of Khartoum, and their two children are Sudanese, but like others from the south, Ms. Gaitano lost her Sudanese citizenship with independence. She spends as much time with them as she can. She lives in Juba, and works as a pharmacist, even as her literary career continues to bloom.

CHOL DENG YONG, a professor of Arabic at Upper Nile University in South Sudan, describes Ms. Gaitano’s work as “narrational,” with “an economic use of words” that combines “classical Arabic, colloquial Sudanese Arabic and Juba Arabic.”

Ms. Gaitano said that some of her South Sudanese colleagues, many of whom write in English, have criticized her privately for writing in Arabic, a language they deem a “colonial tool.” English is an official language in South Sudan but Arabic is not, and its cultural future here is uncertain, making some among the Arabic-educated intelligentsia uneasy.

Victor Lugala, a South Sudanese writer who writes in English, offered some insights: “Stella may be the last generation of South Sudanese to write in Arabic,” he said. “Her publishers could promote her work better if her works are translated into English.”

He went on to compare Ms. Gaitano’s association with a language with that of the Kenyan author Ngugi wa Thiong’o. “Since Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o decided to write in his mother tongue, Kikuyu, he has had the burden of translating his own works into English,” Mr. Lugala said.

And regional publishers are starting to notice her.

“Without doubt, having read Stella’s short story ‘I Kill Myself and Rejoice,’ ” said Lucas Wafula, an editor for the East Africa Education Publishers, “she will gain great readership once readers get to interact with the themes in her stories.”

Ms. Gaitano said that she was working on improving her English writing and that her works were being translated. Yet she also hopes that Arabic will retain a place in her country.

“Language for me is the soul of the text,” she said. “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.”"

[Story refreenced in article:
“I kill myself and rejoice!”
http://www.theniles.org/en/articles/small-arms/2575/ ]

[Other stories here: http://sudaneseonline.com/board/12/msg/Stella-Gaitano-Translated-into-English-By-Asha-El-Said-1449061495.htm ]
stellagaitano  southsudan  literature  language  languages  translation  africa  arabic  jubaarabic  tayebsalih  isabelallende  writing  reading  victorlugala  sudan  ngugiwathiong’o  kenya  storytelling  howwewrite  gabrielgarcíamárquez  ngũgĩwathiong'o  ngugi  ngũgĩ 
december 2015 by robertogreco
« earlier      
per page:    204080120160

related tags

00s  1Q84  3d  4chan  9/11  1960s  2000s  2014lesliejamison  @mayoremanuel  aaronbady  aaronmishara  abduladan  aboriginal  abraancliffe  abstract  absurdity  academia  academics  academonia  accents  access  accessibility  accomplishment  accountability  achievement  acknowledgement  aclu  activism  adamjohnson  adamlevy  adampollock  adaptability  adaptation  adaptive  addiction  adelinenieto  adjacentfuture  adolescence  adolescents  adolfobioycásares  adoration  adriennegreentheresaquill  ads  adventure  advertising  advice  aeschylus  aesthetics  affection  africa  africaisnotacountry  africanamericans  africans  africanstein  afrofuturism  agamemnon  age  agency  aggregation  aggregator  aging  agnosticism  ai  aimécésaire  aiweiwei  akirakurosawa  alainmabanckou  alangarner  alanjacobs  alanlightman  alanmoore  alanpauls  albertcamus  alberteinstein  albertomanguel  albums  alcohol  alcoholism  aldoushuxley  alejandrozambra  alejocarpentier  aleksanderhemon  aleph  alexanderikawah  alexandernazaryan  alexismadrigal  alfonsolmo  alfonsoreyes  alfrednorthwhitehead  alfredostoessner  algeria  alicemonroe  alicemunro  aliceoswald  alienation  alinear  alismith  alisonentrekin  altermodern  alternative  alternativefacts  altheamcnish  amandalewis  amateurism  amateurresearch  amazon  amberalert  ambiguity  ambition  ambrosebierce  americanindians  americanpsycho  americanstudies  americanwest  amiribaraka  amnesia  amychua  amytan  anacristinacésar  anagnorisis  analog  analogies  analyasis  analysis  anarchism  anarchy  anathem  anatpick  anaïsnin  ancestry  ancient  ancientcivilization  ancientgreece  ancienthistory  andreasheinol  andrewmathews  andrewmiller  andrewsalkey  andrébazin  andrésneuman  andyhunter  andywarhol  anecdote  angst  animalfarm  animalrights  animals  animalstudies  animation  anime  animism  anitifeminism  annakarenina  annalowenhaupttsing  annatsing  annecarson  annegalloway  annemoraa  annepringle  annerice  annetrubek  anniedillard  annotation  anonymity  anshumaniddamsetty  anterogarcia  anthonycarnevale  anthonydunne  anthropocene  anthropology  anticipation  antoninscalia  anxiety  apex-guilt  apexams  aphorism  apollo  apple  application  applications  appollonius  appropriation  ar  arab  arabic  araucaria  arcades  archaeology  archigram  archinect  architecture  archive  archives  archiving  archyandmehitabel  arg  argenchino  argentina  argonautica  aristotle  arneduncan  arnesabuljusmic-kustura  arnoldvanbruggen  aroundtheworldin80days  arrival  art  artcriticism  artdirection  artefacts  arthistory  arthurpease  artificial  artists  artleisure  arts  artschool  artschools  artworld  arundhatiroy  asceticism  aschoycollective  askingquestions  asl  aspirations  assemblage  assessment  astronomy  atemporality  atheism  athens  atlasshrugged  atmosphere  attack  attention  aubreywilliams  audience  audio  audiobooks  augmentedreality  augmentedrealityfiction  augmentedvalue  augustoroabastos  aural  australia  authenticity  authority  authors  authorship  authorvisits  autobiography  autodidacts  automation  autonomy  autoritarianism  autumnrichardson  aynrand  aztec  babdydoc  backwards  balzac  bangladesh  bangwithfriends  bankruptcy  barackobama  barbarabogaev  barbarahui  barbarakruger  barcamp  barclay  bargains  baroque  barriers  barryduncan  baudelaire  bayarea  beards  beauty  behavior  beingwell-read  beirut  belatedness  belesshelpful  belief  beliefs  believability  bellhooks  belonging  benalpers  benchmarks  bendolnick  benjaminanastas  benjaminmoser  bennybufano  bensegal  beowulf  berg  berglondon  berkeley  berlin  bertrandrussell  bestiary  bestof  bethgibbons  bethpovinelli  between  betweenness  bias  bible  bibliography  bibliotherapy  bigdog  bilbobaggins  bildungsroman  billbryson  billgates  billlynn  billmacmillan  billmanhire  billycollins  binarylogic  binyavangawainaina  bio-techno-capitalism  biodiversity  biographies  biography  bioinformatics  biology  biopolitics  bioshock  biotechnology  bioycasares  birds  bitcoin  björk  blackness  blackpantherparty  blackpanthers  blandness  bldgblog  blindness  blink  blockchain  blogging  blogs  bobdylan  bobkaufman  bodies  body  bodycams  boelwestin  bokoharam  bolivia  bookcovers  bookculture  bookdesign  bookfuturism  booklists  bookmaking  bookmarking  bookmarks  bookreviews  books  booksellers  bookstores  bookworm  bookworms  border  borders  bordersbooks  borges  boston  bots  boys  brackets  braid  brain  branding  brasil  brazil  breakfastofchampions  bretanthonyjohnson  breteastonellis  brevity  briangreene  bricolage  briongysin  britishlibrary  browser  browsers  brucebenderson  brucemcallister  brucesterling  brunolatour  brunoschulz  brutality  buckminsterfuller  buddhism  buenosaires  builtenvironment  bullies  bullying  burnout  burritojustice  business  bwesigyebwamwesigire  byanalexander  california  callofthewild  calricelispector  cam  cameras  campainging  camus  canada  canaryproject  canon  cantkeepup  capitalism  capitalocene  capri  captcha  care  careers  caribbean  caring  carlafreccero  carljung  carlosfuentes  carloshaag  carlsandburg  carolblack  cars  carterwheelcock  cartography  cascadia  casparhenderson  cassandra  caste  catalog  cataloging  catalogs  catcherintherye  categorization  catholicchurch  catholicism  cats  caves  cbc  cctv  ceciliacheung  cedricprice  cellphones  celsolafer  censorship  certainty  cervantes  chadharbach  chang-raelee  change  changemaking  chaos  chaostheory  characterdevelopment  characterization  characters  charity  charlesdarwin  charlesdeemer  charlesdickens  charleseames  charleslamb  charlessimic  charlestranströmer  charts  chat  chatteringmind  cheguevara  chekhov  chemistry  cherylstrayed  chicago  childhood  children  childrenliterature  childrensbooks  childrensliterature  chile  chimamandaadichie  chimamandangoziadichie  china  chinamieville  chinamiéville  chinuaachebe  choice  chooseyourownadventure  chriscleaves  chrishecker  chriskraus  chrislehmann  chrismarker  chrismoss  chrispckham  chrissantella  christianbök  christianity  christinebuci-glucksmann  christophercolombus  christopherhitchens  christopherwinks  christysh  chrisying  chroniclesofnarnia  cicelymarybarker  cinderella  cipher  citation  cities  citiesaspeople  citizenship  cityofsound  civics  civilization  clandestine  clarencethomas  claricelispector  class  classes  classical  classics  classideas  classification  classiseas  classism  classresources  classroom  classrooms  claudiaabreu  claudiajones  clayburell  clayshirky  clichés  cliffordparallels  cliftoncachagua  climatechange  clivethompson  closereading  cloverfield  clrjames  cocreation  codespace  coding  coercion  cognition  cognitiveillusions  coldwar  colinedickey  collaboration  collaborations  collaborative  collage  collapse  collections  collective  collectiveamnesia  collectiveintelligence  collectivememory  collectivism  collectivity  colleges  colloquialisms  colloquialwriting  colmtóibín  colombia  colonialism  colonization  colors  combinatorywriting  comedy  comics  comingofage  commandline  commencementaddresses