Sunday, March 14, 2010

100 years of solitude part 3

My sentiments regarding the 3rd part of this novel haven't quite distilled to the point of being able to say anything particularly coherent, but there are a couple examples that I found poignant.
In class we discussed how war had become a way of life, and that so much violence had made the characters desensitized to it. Eventually when Coronel Aureliano Buendia realized that with all the concessions, the Liberals had become just like the Conservatives, and that they were only fighting just to fight, or was it for pride? But on pg. 351 he says "Hicimos tantas guerras y todo para que no nos pintaran la casa azul", which I thought summed it all up in a nice simple way. Freedom.
Another bit of perspective on pg. 348 that I think was particularly insightful and seemed to ring true - in fact peal resoundedly, was "una vez satisfecha la pasion no habia un hombre capaz de soportar asi fuera por un dia una negligencia que estaba mas alla de todo comprension"...No great illumination here, apart from my admiration of Garcia Marquez in that he obviously was a careful observer of the human condition.
Finally, I found the sentence on pg. 336 containing "nadie podia saber a ciencia cierta donde estaban los limites de la realidad" to be a little tongue-in-cheek in that it refers to the people of Macondo, but obviously also has something to do with the literary style that in this novel was reaching a peak in its refinement. Ha ha - nice.
Oh yeah - what's with all the references to Wednesday??

100 years of solitude part 2

I'm surprised at the development of the character of Aureliano Buendia. When he was a child I thought him to be introspective, thoughtful and sensitive, but he grew to become a dispassionate tyrant. The premonitions that he experienced were an interesting facet that for me imbued a sense of the Divine in him, a validation of a future omnipotence. Indeed as an adult he rose to a great height of power within the rebel military. Eventually his power left nothing further to be challenged, no personal goals nor ideals to be achieved. Colonel Aureliano Buendia's apathy that resulted I think was a very realistic portrayal of the consequence of ultimate power. Of course Garcia Marquez was building on the theme of solitude and how eventhough one seems to have everything they want or need around them, one will probably also feel very isolated.
An aspect of the novel found throughout that I find controversial is the inter-generational relationships. It is kind of shocking. So far it is dificult for me to reconcile why Garcia Marquez would include this line of topic in his novel, eventhough it contributes greatly to the sub-theme of "power" - this concept being perhaps the overriding factor resulting from the aforementioned kind of relationship. Despite the fact that the book is a work of fiction, the vast majority of us would find the inclusion of inter-generational sexual relationships to be offensive. Garcia Marquez took a great risk in deciding to go down this questionable path. However, any work of art should push the envelope a little and maybe spark a cultural debate. In this way a work of art can find immortality.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cien Años de Soledad (primero cuartito)

Ahora es tiempo para echar mi opinión de nuevo sobre la lectura de hoy. Este ejercicio es importante aunque no le doy importancia a impresionar al profesor ni cualquiera persona con mis *revelaciones profundas*, pero hay que decir que la novela de Cien Años de Soledad es una novela tremenda. Para entender mejor decidí que vale la pena de leer cada capítulo dos veces.
Desde la primera página he encontrado que es fácil a meterme por completo. Me gusta la organización del escrito. Por ejemplo, la primera frase tiene una declaración con mucha intriga que tengo que seguir para aprender lo que pasa, o como pasaban las cosas para llegar al punto de conocer el hielo, o estar frente al pelotón de fusilamiento. Esta declaración está en el presente, entonces García Márquez sigue con la historia de la gente y el pueblo hasta conocía el hielo, pero este punto no es la cima. Durante toda la narración G.M. ha sembrado muchas semillas que crecen poco a poco. Hay un ciclo que nos muestra alguna consecuencia en el presente, y explique cómo llegar al punto por hablar en el pasado, y repite. Cada vez que se repite, progresamos más en la tela de la historia.
Estoy interesado en el trabajo de José Arcadio Buendía con su laboratorio, el crecimiento de los niños, las relaciones entre los ciudadanos y los gitanos, la fluidez de la narración, y muchos detalles más que no voy a analizar por peligro de perder la hermosura del sentimiento artístico.
Yo creo que el peligro es cuando alguna persona analiza cada palabra de la obra, vomita sus opiniones que sueñan educados y conforman al corriente, y luego recibe un premio de crítica aunque había cambiado la calidad estética de la obra por un entendimiento sintético y casi científico.
Yo quiero desarrollar un método de análisis que se basa en la apreciación del arte (la literatura, la música, etc.) por su propio bien, por sus calidades intrínsecas, no solo con la manera de investigación rigurosa que advocan en los pasillos de esta institución en lo que gastamos todo nuestro tiempo, dinero, y confianza.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My opinions about the 1st half of the Spanish 365 course

My opinions of the course thus far are very mixed. I think the projects are interesting and worthwhile, but overestimated in the expectation that the students will be able to give satisfactory attention to anything. I think the students are spread very thin, and consequently their understanding of the material is merely superficial.

For myself, I originally wanted to take this course because it was required for the Spanish minor. That is it. Secondly, I would like to get off on the pure pleasure of reading some great literature. I do not want to use this opportunity to try to become a "super researcher", write articles, or work on group projects.

I think the course far overreaches what is considered to be a decent and challenging student workload. Just completing the readings I feel to be sufficient enough in getting exposure to the material.
Reading a couple hundred extra pages of didactic academic criticism is beyond tedious and somewhat circumstantial as a definitive source of interpretation.
I realize that students must learn to manage their time well and accept a heavy course load, but after 6 years as a full-time university student I can say that this course has been the heaviest. Don't forget this course is just one out of five that we're taking this semester!

However, in theory I think the objectives are worthy.

Writing weekly informal blogs forces us to quickly digest the readings and consequently we are more prepared for class discussion.
Writing comments to other's blogs gives us the chance to "tap in" to the general consensus and maybe gain insights from more astute peers.
Writing a WIKI article is an excellent way to absorb and regurgitate the material.

There are some problems with this class:

The workload is too ambitious: How are we supposed to understand deeply when we only read the material once & quickly? (because of obvious time constraints)
Class discussions are not productive when the instructor spends a very long time giving a monologue, then expects small groups to just pick it up where he left off:

What comprises a group of 4 students in our class? 1-2 people haven't even done the readings, 1-2 people are terrified to speak because of poor Spanish ability, and 1 person is a super keener who talks non-stop and intimidates the rest of the group.

I think it would be beneficial for the instructor to engage the class immediately, start eliciting general responses to the readings while guiding the questions in real time instead of during the last 15 mins. of class.

Also, because the students are juggling many different class responsibilities, I think the least amount of time is given to thoroughly reading the literature - we're compelled to worry about writing blogs & comments (700-900 words/week is ALOT) and researching secondary readings.

Why are we even given the choice to write in English? Most if not all but one WIKI group is doing their article in English - why? This is a Spanish course is it not? We should have the ability to think and express ourselves adequately in Spanish by now, but given the choice, we will choose English because it is easier. So there shouldn't be a choice.

The course is hard, but not in the ways that it should be - and yet it cops out and lets us default to English...strange...

I dread coming to this class more than going to the dentist even though Spanish is one of my strongest and favourite subjects. I feel like I'm just holding my breath and all I want is to finish this course the best I can given my current state of exhaustion and GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

El Reino De Este Mundo I, II

Las cosas que me gusta en El Reino de este Mundo son los aspectos históricos, las prácticas espirituales contrastantes de las dos culturas representadas, y la continuidad entre cada capítulo.

Antes de leer, yo siempre pensaba que Haití estaba afuera de la historia Latino Americana. Supe que su historia estaba llena con conflictos, y que Francia y España tenían presencia allí. Pero parece que Haití fue un país muy importante con la liberación y la abolición de la esclavitud.

Disfruto la manera en que Carpentier pinta el paisaje social. En la superficie él presenta los detalles de su obra con imparcialidad, pero el hecho de escribir sobre la Revolución Haitiana parece decir que él es un defensor de ser consciente de la crueldad de los blancos. El tono de su escrita es gráfico e implacable. La misma atención se ha puesto en los detalles de los eventos clave y la vida cotidiana que sobre todo revela el ámbito en Haití en este momento poco antes de la revolución.

Sobre los detalles, las prácticas espirituales de los Negros son muy interesantes. La fe que tienen y el misticismo obscuro me fascinan. Parece que actúan según los instintos naturales. Hay una fluidez en su comportamiento. Todo lo que creen es opuesto de las creencias de los Blancos, que avanza como una gran máquina contraria al orden natural.

La continuidad de la historia entre los capítulos cortos de la novela hace que sea fácil de leer. Es decir que más fácil de meterse para el lector. Hay tiempo suficiente para formar relación e interés en el desarrollo de los personajes. Antes de leer la novela, encontraba un análisis por un autor, que debe quedar desconocido, que dijo que los capítulos no tenían nada que ver entre sí. Supongo que refiere a los cuatro largos capítulos que constituyen la forma de la novela entera, pero Carpentier captura perfectamente un momento de la historia mundial.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magic-Realism began as a natural accident.

A thought occurred to me about the birth of magic-realism in Latin American literature. Obviously it was an accident.

Certain authors had an interest in anthropology, especially as a means to explain their own cultural roots. Their meztiso-blood determined that they would need to take two avenues in their research. The European half of their heritage was very well documented and easy to trace back in scrupulous detail at least 1,500 years. Ok, no problem.However, researching their indigenous roots was going to be quite more arduous.

First of all, any random information that they could have gleaned from deciphered sun calendars, excavations of ruins, and partial integration into the lives of actual living descendents of full-blooded indigenous people, was going to leave many gaps in the big picture. There was going to be a lot of unknown elements. That which was known would ring true as factual & realistic. Piecing together that which was not entirely known or understood would actually smack of magic or fantasy because of the many unexplained details.

Latin American writers took upon themselves the task of creating works of fiction in order to abstractly explain their modern culture's origins. Thanks to either a fertile imagination or short-sightedness, the results were abstract, ambiguous & enigmatic. However it came about, these works proved to be an interesting read and spawned a new genre that in itself became a reflection of the identity that was initially being sought.

Now, of course, the academic world has analysed and dissected ad nauseum the works of Asturias, Carpentier, Garcia-Marquez, et al., to the point of mass exploitation.

Although I believe we live in a "Three minute world" where people in general, (and especially young, over-worked undergraduate students!), have only an iota of the previous capacity for maintaining a reasonable span of attention, it is possible that with a healthy commitment of time & energy, the initial profound fascination that gripped the international readership can once again be regained!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

La caja es tan importante como el regalo que hay dentro!

Solo quería comentar sobre la forma del libro entero de Leyendas por Asturias. Tiene una forma muy organizada y lógica, y a pesar de todo, muy artística.

Al principio tenemos tres cuentos, más o menos sencillos y cortos, que lleva cuidadosamente al lector a la segunda parte lo que consiste en las leyendas. Las cinco leyendas aunque son breves, tienen aspectos del escrito que son difíciles entender y sabemos que ya estamos en un mundo irreal. Luego el libro contiene la obra ´Cuculcán´. Este es mucho más largo que los demás, trata profundamente con el mágico-realismo como las leyendas del anterior, pero es una obra de teatro, un estilo nuevo hasta ahora en el libro. Al final tenemos el índice de modismos que explica las frases alegóricas y los términos desconocidos.

Así ´Leyendas´ ofrece una variedad que sigue un progreso artístico aparte de los detalles de la prosa. Creo que al lado de decir algo impresionante, es importante como presentar la información. La manera de que Asturias ha presentado sus cuentos y leyendas tiene mucho impacto porque no asusta al lector, a quien puede meterse poco a poco sin ahogarse por la fuerza de tratar de entender.

Es como la cena de Navidad, primero tenemos la ensalada (los primeros 3 cuentos) para dar ganas de comer algo más substancial, luego viene la carne y verduras (las leyendas y el teatro), finalmente el postre (el índice) que nos da exacto lo que queremos – ¡las respuestas!