Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics, Danny Erker’s linguistic research on the Spanish spoken in Boston is featured in BU Today.
Among 2013 Ph.D. graduates were Ariane Ngabeu (pictured), Leslie Harkema, Alison Carberry and Peter Mahoney. Ngabeu directs Middlebury College’s C.V. Starr-Middlebury School in Cameroon. Harkema is Assistant Professor of Spanish, Yale University; Carberry, Lecturer in Spanish at Boston University; and Mahoney, Assistant Professor of Spanish at Stonehill College.
At our end-of-year-party, a number of graduate students were awarded essay prizes in Spanish and French. Spanish essay prizes went to Vasileios Ioannou, Aura Dovidjenko, Adel Faitaninho, and Gerry Dunn, and French essay prizes to Sophia Mizouni and Isadora Nicholas.
In “Mudarra González, un héroe castellano,” Vasileios Ioannou brings to the fore the problem of characterization and poses questions relevant to the growth of Mudarra González, from minor character in Estoria de España, into full personhood in Crónica de 1344. Vasileios associates this textual transformation with historical circumstances of medieval Spain, showing how Mudarra González became the first great Castilian hero.
Close to the topic of characterization is Aura Dovidjenko’s analysis of “presence” in Golden Age theater and narrative, through the case of Aldonza/Dulcinea. In her essay “Dulcinea y el problema de la presencia,” Aura studies the relationship between natural and arbitrary signs in the realm of theater and poetry showing how, in the age of Cervantes, the human body was presented both as a text of artificial signs and as a representation of nature. Aura studies the Second Part of the Quijote through a creative and insightful exploration of the somatization of the actor’s body.
“No ‘we’ should be taken for granted when the subject is looking at other people’s pain”, wrote Susan Sontag in her classic book Reading the Pain of Others. Adel Faitaninho picks up this universal theme in her essay “Vallejo y Picasso: ‘en humanidad su arte, en arte su guerra’”, a comparative study of Vallejo’s España aparta de mi este caliz and Picasso’s Guernica, works which bring the resistance and dignity of victims of war near to us; they make us engaged with the pain of others despite the inevitable distance, in space and time.
Gerry Dunn explores similar ethical concerns within the context of the American cinema of the Mexican Revolution. Gerry studies the way Sam Peckinpah deals with the theme of war and violence through a reworking of an American foundational myth, the far west, in The Wild Bunch. Gerry highlights Peckinpah’s critique of violence through the paradoxical enactment of graphic violence.
In “De Mise en bouche à Eye Candy,” Isadora Nicholas analyzes the transition of Philippe Dijan’s 2003 novella, Mise en bouche, into a graphic novel. In the story based on the terrorist takeover of an elementary school in the outskirts of Paris, Isadora shows how the illustrations highlight certain elements of the novella and transform its impact. Its visual representation of the modern isolation and dehumanization of the characters allows it to communicate our immersion in hyper-media coverage and the commoditization of violence, and to reveal the dangers they bring to society, in a way that pure literature cannot.
Sophia Mizouni’s “Microcosme parisiennes sous verre: la serre dans Renée de Zola” studies Zola’s representation of the effects of Haussmann’s transformations of Paris on the lives of those who interact with the city. This new Paris transforms everyday life into a spectacle, and Sophia shows how the main character, Renée, has become a spectacle who needs to be displayed in order to be validated. For her theater stage, she chooses the greenhouse in her new showcase mansion, a miniature version of the new Parisian iron and glass structures; however, instead of a validation of her reality, her scenes in the greenhouse merely reveal the artificiality of her existence, end in her death, and reveal the dehumanization of machine age technology and life.
Prof. Adela Pineda of B.U., Prof. Jaime Marroquín of George Washington University, and Magdalena Mieri have co-edited an important book, Open Borders to a Revolution, offering new perspectives on the immediate and long-lasting effects of the Mexican Revolution in the United States in such spheres as diplomacy, politics, and intellectual thought.
Prof. Pineda contributed an essay on the American film industry’s Pancho Villa: “Hollywood Villa and the Vicissitudes of Cross-Cultural Encounters” as well as a co-authored introduction and interview with John Womack, Jr.
Open Borders marks both the bicentennial of Latin America’s independence from Spain and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, an anniversary with significant relevance for American history.
The book originated in a series of cultural events organized by The Smithsonian Institution, among them an academic symposium whose program was envisioned and developed by those who edited this volume: “Creating an Archetype: The Influence of the Mexican Revolution in the United States.” Contributors include John A. Britton, Helen Delpar, Mary Kay Vaughan, Theodore Cohen, Rick. A. López, Yolanda Padilla, David Dorado Romo, Oswaldo Zavala, Elaine A. Peña, Alma Martinez Carranza, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Gilbert M. Joseph.
Adel Faitaninho has been awarded the Department’s first TF Teaching Award for Portuguese.
Adel, a doctoral student in the Hispanic Language and Literature program, taught LP 123 (Intensive First Year Portuguese) this Spring. She participated last summer in our Department’s StarTalk program –a professional development program for instructors of Portuguese– and will do so again this summer.
Professor Nancy Harrowitz, who is offering a course this semester on the Holocaust “as historical reality, metaphor, and generative force in literature,” wrote last week to her students in LX281/RN385 Holocaust Literature and Film, who were deeply affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. Together, they pondered the meaning of the recent events in relation to the Shoah. A Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi was among three people killed in the Marathon bombing, and another student was among the injured.
Here are Prof. Harrowitz’s letter and that of one of her students.
To my students:
In the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston, I’ve had some thoughts and questions that I’d like to share with you during this devastating time.
I’ve been asking myself about where we stand in relation to this tragedy, as we were already so intensely engaged in the study of atrocity this semester. How does it potentially change or alter our reading and engaging with Holocaust testimonies–texts of trauma– to have death and destruction, massacre, arrive on our own doorstep? Does it bring home what we are studying in a different way than what we were already experiencing?
Do the events of last Monday make it harder to study our subject, or does it make the topic more relevant, in a way that then makes it more bearable, because of the questions regarding the nature of evil that we were already exploring? Does looking at these painful issues make the emotional sacrifice worthwhile? Because make no mistake about it: there is emotional sacrifice in studying trauma. I’ve always believed that learning about the Shoah was well worth the toll it takes, as the topic is relevant in so many ways, not only to an understanding of history and a commemoration of its victims but to an understanding of contemporary life as well.
The world has changed significantly since then: we are now, unfortunately, much more aware of the presence and effects of terrorism. Still, what most of us are not used to is terrorism happening so very close to us. I imagine that some of you may well know some of the injured, or some of the traumatized witnesses, or even be among that number yourselves. I hope that this is not the case, that you are all safe and were away from the danger.
But we also have the effects of secondary witnessing to consider: watching the news reports, listening to the families of the victims and to the doctors and nurses treating the wounded, hearing about the atrocities, looking at the disturbing images recycled over and over again on the news. This exposure to suffering is not unlike what we can experience reading testimonies and watching documentaries this semester.
The situation in which we now find ourselves brings to mind 9/11: that semester, I found it excruciating to re-read the testimonies that I was teaching. The pain emanating from the pages of the testimonies felt so fresh. My emotional defenses had been shattered, and every word I read was like a knife. But still, there was a geographical buffer of sorts: that event happened in New York, my students and I were in Boston. We no longer have that shield.
What happened on Monday is now an irrevocable part of Boston’s history: both the evil act of the bombing and the heroism that people showed at the scene. So many literally ran towards danger in order to help rather than running away in fear. People opened their homes and their hearts to complete strangers in need of help. I hope that this can sustain us at least a little through the difficult days ahead, as the perpetrators are sought and we regain our equilibrium. At a moment like this it’s crucial to stop and reflect, so I ask you to do that with me.
In the meantime, stay safe and well, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Hello Professor Harrowitz,
First, thank you for reaching out with your message. The past couple of days, I have found my mind literally overwhelmed with thoughts regarding Monday’s attack; and knowing I have an open forum in which to discuss some of these ideas offers a definite sense of security and encouragement. I apologize for the length of my response, but your letter proved to be quite a thought-provoking document.
With that said, the Boston office of FleishmanHillard, the public relations firm for which I intern, is located at 855 Boylston Street, just two blocks from the Marathon’s finish line. As the annual event is an iconic occasion for the city and therefore an incredible sponsorship opportunity for many of our clients, the office’s staff was called into work on Monday while most of Greater Boston enjoyed a vacation day. Given our beautiful fifth-floor view of the race, I hardly minded the responsibility.
Though I had a full agenda of tasks to complete for my superiors, Monday morning felt like a Saturday to the few of us who decided to go into the office while most of our colleagues worked from home to avoid the Marathon crowds. We were constantly in and out of the office, and I reveled in the opportunity to eat lunch at the finish line, walk among the swarms of people that had arrived downtown and generally feel the energy of Boylston Street throughout the day. I usually take my lunch break later in the workday, but for some reason, decided to eat a little after noon. This seemingly meaningless decision may have saved my life.
When the first bomb exploded, I was at my desk writing a pitch to a journalist on behalf of a client. I was really frustrated with the wording of my second paragraph and beginning to feel the pressure of an impending deadline. Then, I felt a blast that rocked my foundation. Notice I didn’t say I first saw or heard the explosion. This was a feeling that nestled deep in my stomach and immediately signaled the worst.
Next, came the screams. Then, people running. As I watched, shocked, from a windowed conference room, the street on which I spend the majority of my week became a warzone. Soldiers appeared. Civilians were evacuated; and soon, ambulances hurriedly screeched to a halt in front of my office. First responders then began wheeling casualties to our front door. I watched as people, bloodied and mangled, were loaded into the waiting vehicles and driven away. This was no representation of horror, as we have learned so much about this semester. I stood, motionless, a primary witness to the hell of human violence recounted so eloquently in the curriculum of our class. Yet, this time, there was no film screen or glossy page to mediate the destruction. To play on one of the course’s beloved motifs, the mirror had been shattered, and my colleagues and I were left to stare Medusa directly in the face.
As I huddled in a back office with my fellow staffers and called my parents, girlfriend and brother to tell them I was okay, the now iconic cell phone recordings of 9/11 victims played in the back of my mind. As I spoke, I wondered whether my voice would soon be on MSNBC or CNN, ringing out while some amateur video illustration of my crumbling office building was broadcast to an awaiting television audience. However, we were soon evacuated by a breathless policeman who confessed the authorities were unaware people remained in our building. As he spoke, I began to feel a deep sense of isolation I hope will never return again. Running completely on adrenaline, I then walked back to my dorm by way of Cambridge, hardly processing what I had just witnessed.
You asked how this experience factors into my study of the Holocaust. Truthfully, it only makes the latter far more important. I have now seen firsthand the power of mankind’s capability for evil and, in response, the xenophobia, which can arise from such situations. On Tuesday, I heard reports a Muslim individual had been questioned by police after peacefully boarding an airplane and speaking Arabic with a fellow passenger. I think we both know of what ideological movement I was reminded as people immediately looked to an entire ethnic class of people to answer for Monday’s crime.
Yet, I am prepared. The words of Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Paul Steinberg and so many others we have studied in recent weeks have reminded me of both the power of human fortitude in times of tragedy as well as the need, in the aftermath of these events, to simply stop and think logically. I will not join the masses of my beloved city calling for a scapegoat. I, like any member of this community, want those responsible brought to justice, but no one will find me waiting anxiously for more blood. Due to the lessons I have learned at Boston University, I know it is not just a moral decision but my obligation to think intelligently following this tragedy and avoid the sweeping wave of public opinion, which can often be just as destructive as the tragedy from which it came. I am under no false pretenses the Marathon attack will be the last of its kind in human history. I’m simply hoping we get better at dealing with the aftermath.
Thank you for checking up on us.
Sophia Mizouni wins the Humanities and Social Science award at Scholars Day, April 2, 2013, for her poster presentation: “Haussmann’s Paris Under Glass: The Greenhouse in Zola’s La Curée.” She must now give a five-minute presentation of her work in order to compete for two additional awards. Sophia also won the Outstanding Teaching Fellow for the Academic Year 2011-2012.
Victoria Livingstone has won a Fulbright Fellowship for study in Brazil in AY 2013-2014. The fellowship will allow her to work on her dissertation, which studies certain aspects of the translation and reception of Brazilian and Spanish American narrative in the U.S. Victoria’s doctoral dissertation is co-directed by Professors Adela E. Pineda and Christopher Maurer. Congratulations, Victoria!
Romance Studies made a splash at the annual Massachusetts Foreign Language Association conference in Sturbridge October 25-27. The conference brought together over 600 K-16 language instructors from MA, CT, NH, RI and upstate NY. RS faculty and graduate students offered 3 of the 85 sessions, and all were well attended. Célia Bianconi and Sue Griffin presented ”Effective Reading Strategies for the World Language Classroom.” Grad students Jen López and Paola Calahorrano–in their first foray into conference presentations–presented “Taming Technology: Achieving the 5Cs through Free Web Applications.” Angelica Avcikurt (photo) had the hall rocking with “Teaching Puerto Rican Culture through Music.”