Last … papers … ever!

I had three classes this semester and I’m teaching two, sort of analmost-unheard-of load for a graduate student – we’re only supposed totake one to two classes when we teach two, and two to three when weteach one. So yeah, I had a heavy workload this semester. It alwaysmakes me laugh when I remember that our graduate advisor asked me whydidn’t I just go ahead and take four? Heh. Not only would I have had topay for the overload tuition (our tuition remission only covers creditsup to the maximum full-time load), but I don’t know anyone who’staken four in one semester while teaching two.

But anyway, I took three and am doing fine… relatively sane for the end of the semester, I guess. I finished one paper and got it in early – it was the one about the power of the word in Palma as a constructor of national identity; I didn’t study the processes of identity construction per se, but rather the effect that the highly self-conscious, almost metafictional focus on the writing process had on the articulation of national history and self. So that’s over and done with.

Now I’m working on another paper, this time for my medieval class. It isalso about the word – but not much like I had originally envisioned itearlier in this blog. I figured out that the feminist debate that thesetwo works supposedly take part in is more a “cover” than anything else,to distract the eye away from the real topics: not even just the powerand failure of the word as communication in social relations (which wasa fairly acceptable topic at the time and might provide a second”hidden” layer to satisfy inquisitive eyes), but rather the theme ofreading people’s words – and, of course, misreading them.

What changed my mind about the topic was that no matter how muchinformation I had to back up my original assertion that the books wereabout the destructiveness of women’s words (words which, in the mouthsof women, initiated and maintained long chains of bloody violence andchaos), I couldn’t escape the bitter fact that the two main femaleprotagonists themselves (one in each respective novel) said nothingat all to merit being assigned such blame. Which frustrated me to noend until I realized that many people considered the authors to beconversos (Jews forced to convert to Christianity in the1400’s… the people whose existence gave rise to the institution of theSpanish Inquisition as the Christians suddenly realized that not all ofthe conversos were actually christian at heart, that some -gasp-were judaizers – and thus a taint on society that caused the rise of theplagues, etc. and must be found out and burned for perverting theChristian religion) So anyway, given the mighty power that theInquisition held over the conversos in the 1490’s (when these works werepublished) and the rampant fear of the time that some neighbor would ratyou out to the Inquisition because he thought you smelled funny anddeserved to be burned, well… the theme of the mala lectura orof being misread, and the fact that this misreading causes long seriesof violence, becomes pretty darn significant.

I’m super excited because though people have written about theimportance of the word as a theme in these novels, it seems no one hasgone that extra step and seen that no, it’s not necessarily the wordsthemselves he’s talking about, but rather the way words can betwisted and aquire a malignant power in other’s mouths, and theimportance of silence, and the ability to create a false languagethrough duplicitous physical actions, and blah blah blah… all couchedin the reassuring and not-at-all socially critical language and themesof the sentimental romance and the feminist debate. Which is, of course,what a “converso reading” is: the understanding of the possibility of atext as being the vehicle for two simultaneous and possiblycontradictory messages at once; at the same time a popular literary text(otherwise how would it have survived the Inquisition – which lastedinto the 1700’s?) and at the same time a text which acidly (butobliquely) critiques the society of its day.

So anyway, I’m going on and on and I only meant to write a short littlenote. I’ve got my rough draft of this paper about halfway done (eventhough it’s in English, which means I’ll have to translate it later-sigh-… I just couldn’t articulate my ideas in Spanish easily enough).And I think I have my paper topic for the paper that’s due on the12th… yeah, procrastination. -grumble- The professor is an easygrader, but I really wanted to have a good paper for him since he’sgoing to be administering a section of my doctoral exams and I wouldhave liked to obliquely “provide” him with a question through my finalpaper. Oh well.

Before Cancún comes more deadlines on top of thepapers, like a presentation I have on Thursday – Josh’s birthday! – andtomorrow we have a round table debate in medieval, which everyone isfreaking out about because we don’t know what to expect – it seems it’ssomething that she just thought would be cool and decided to do… itmight be interesting but the fact that it’s 20% of our grade makes usmore likely to get scared than get enthusiastic about it. So I guess Ibetter go study…

But the good news is, these are the last papers ever! The lastpapers of the last classes of the last semester of the last year inwhich I will ever have to take classes! (now comes the hard part!-laugh-) So once I’m done… and I’m halfway there… Woo hoo!Cancún!!!! I’m so ready!!!

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