Now that we’re at the end of our second week and more or less halfway through the class, people are beginning to feel more comfortable with each other and the course material, which means that we’re able to have deeper conversations with participation from a greater number of people! Yay! I’m really looking forward to weeks three and four and the discussion we’ll have then because we’ll all be even more comfortable and we’ll be reading more novels. This week we’ve focused on short stories, which has been fun because I think short stories are a really good way of developing analytical skills without overwhelming students with too much material to work with. But I almost always want more from short stories, so I’m definitely looking forward to novels because they contain a greater amount of complexity because they have more space and time to develop ideas, relationships etc!
For me, this week has reminded me of two very important things. The first is the skills required for a strong close reading assignment. I don’t think I’ve done a legitimate close reading assignment since my first year of college, so even though I use close reading concepts every time I write a paper, I forgot the absolute attention to detail required by a close reading. While writing these close reading papers, I keep finding myself wanting to make connections to other parts of the text or to other texts I’ve read. Although those connections will definitely help me out in the long-term, they are NOT the point of a close reading where you’re meant to stay within a specific passage and flesh out what you have in front of you! So lesson learned! It’s always a good idea to go back to the basics even when those basics challenge you do to things differently!
The second thing I’m taking away from this week is that just sometimes disliking a text is actually a sign of a good writer! We read Tomas Rivera’s Y no se lo trago la tierra (And the earth did not devour him for those who need the translation) earlier this week and I really, really struggled with it! Although quite short, it took me quite some time to read it because I would get so frustrated with how destabilized I felt while reading! I honestly felt like I wasn’t understanding what Rivera was writing, but after a little bit of reflection I decided that the instability of the text and narrative is quite intentional and helps give readers a better idea of the lives of migrant workers. After a few minutes more, I realized that I’d learned this lesson earlier in the school year when I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita for a class. Sometimes not liking a text simply means that the author has done exactly what he or she set out to do! As a reader and English major, we sometimes have to take a step back from our personal feelings and take a moment to appreciate an author’s craft.
Lastly, I noticed myself thinking about religion and spirituality with regard to almost every single thing we read. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was Easter this past weekend or maybe that was just a fun coincidence! Either way, I fixated on religion quite a bit and probably had a better time than I should have thinking about the various ways the authors and texts treated religion and spirituality. Both Rivera and Américo Paredes seemed to have a more cynical view of religion than some of the other authors we’ve read in the past few weeks, such as Sandra Cisneros and Jovita Gonzalez. The authors presented both traditional Catholicism along with spirituality not based on religion (i.e. curanderismo in Bless Me Ultima [we watched the movie]). Although I found the authors’ portrayals of Catholicism interesting (thank you to my roommate who is always willing to answer any questions I have about Catholicism!), I was more intrigued by depictions of spirituality, probably in part because it is something I am less familiar with. I thought the way of interacting with the world and forming an intimate connection with the earth and those around them really stood out in the texts and movie. We also went to the Fine Arts Center to look at devotional art on Friday, which gave us another perspective on religion and spirituality. I thought the art pieces we looked at and the activities we participated in while at the center reinforced what we’ve read. Seeing the themes replicated in a different medium and across several hundred years was powerful indeed!
On a note not really related to this class, I was recently informed that in my first post I erroneously wrote “blogging world,” when I should have said “blogosphere,” so my apologies for that! The same person also pointed out several writing errors (or at the very least slightly sloppy instances of writing that I should probably avoid), so I apologize in advance for any further “mistakes” in any of my posts! In my defense, blogging is fairly informal and I haven’t had any glaring errors to really embarrass me!