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dacamili
i thought this course was an interesting and unexpected change, and i must say hat it was refreshing. i think more than any other course so far, it has made me think about the role university should play in terms of our education and development of critical thinking. at this point though, i find my attempts to be critical to be overwhelming at times, especially with the final paper. writing it, i find that i often have to be quite critical of my critical thinking. it's not as confusing as it may sound. i just find that i often come to contradict myself or fail to see the consequences of what i'm saying, and it turns into a neverending cycle of being critical of my being critical of my being critical.

still, i value that because in the end, i think it'll do a lot more good than bad, and not only in terms of literary analysis but in all aspects of life. that's where i feel this literature course differed from those that i've taken in the past. it made me think outside the box, past the literary jargon and analysis, and connected literary analysis with the real world. thinking about the consequences of reading "latinamerican" literature for the sake of embracing the "other" ,or not being critical of "latinamerican" literature in order not to be perceived as a supporter of colonialist, ethnocentric, racist, etc... agendas and views. it gives literature and its analyis a place outside of the academic realm only, and gives food for thought to all readers and writers.

i really appreciate that this course itself was really food for thought for many of us. i may not have agreed all the time, i may have agreed a little too uncritically at times, i may not have figured it all out (definitely didn't and i don't think i even should be able to), but it definitely worked my brain out. excellent exercise for the mind.

oh, and the blogs were a great idea. everyone was given a voice, though some were maybe not heard as well as others. poor blake (and other anonymouses). we'll more than make up for it this week.

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wow, i guess in this case i am finding it very hard to separate my taste from my evaluation of quality. how can something i find so uggggggggggh be good? well, let me walk you through my experience with soapoperas/telenovelas. first 20 minutes i find myself laughing nearly hysterically..... next 20 minutes i find by laughter getting a little rarer and when i hear people laughing in the background, i wake up and look around and think "oh, i guess it was another funny moment....either i got really caught up or i dozed off....i have to be more alert and make sur ei don't fall into the trap"............and then, grrrrrrr ,i start falling into the trap. and i haaaaaaaaaate it. i don't like telenovelas. i really don't. i think they're cheap and suck you in if you stick around long enough. the fact that i start getting quite immersed in them has NOTHING to do with my taste, and that's what makes me feel so insecure with them. the reason most people watch them is NOT because they like them...at leats not most people i know. it's quite a distinct matter. they don't like them, they think they're shit as genny says, and they want to kick themsleves for it because it's a waste of time....suddenly, they're in front of the screen, and the show starts and ....click....brain off...shutdown.....you are no longer yourself. if you're lucky, you're questioning the whole process as you watch and have the strongest urge to just STTTTTTOOOOOOOOOOOOP! sadly, really sadly you can't. but i have.

my grandma sometimes likes to watch "telenovelas" .....and strangely enough, when i watch them with her, i feel like i'm speding quality time with her. she seems to appreciate it. but sometimes, i see myself being forced into that surreal world, and i act on my urge to leave. i sense danger. so i get up and leave. and very quickly forget about the whole thing. i think i've seen the same general plot and array of characters in every soapopera and i think they're absolutely useless to me. offer me nothing but a good laugh....and of course, the suspense, the secercy, the tum tum tum music..."oh what can possibly happen next" (i ask it even though i am fully aware of the answer most of the time).

so what to say? sure...literal when they're written as scripts. written. characters, plot (exasperatingly slow), themes: family, love, politics, low class/ high class/ women/ men, mother's role, dictator father, etc................................... etc....... etc.....
but literature? NOOOOOOOOOO! i reject the possibility!

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Good or bad literature? to ask or not to ask? i think not. literature or not literature? that is the question.

i'm really looking forward to our discussion this week because i'm pretty sure it's going to reveal some more thought-provoking things. i cannot compare the first half of the semester with the second. the more confusing the borders and criteria become, the more questinable the role of the works and their grouping into "literature" the more i am seriosuly enjoying this class. i really liked our discussions or arlt and i would be surprised if the same didn't occur with 10 anos con Mafalda. Is this comic book literature? As far as I am concerned and to the extent that I've thought about this, I wouldn't consider it literature. And I far as I am aware, Quino's purpose was not writing literature, though perhaps, drawing it. Nor does anything in the book or on the book suggest that he is rebelling against traditional perceptions of literature? So, this is a whole other discussion it seems.

This is an adult comic book. A bright green cover with a picture of Mafalda, drawings and child protagonists, a separation between the world of adults and children, in the point of view of child characters, written for adults. And what is it that the adults on't already know. The comics deal with important and pertinent themes: idealism, realism, philosophy, politics, gender roles, international relations, etc... presented in a light that the middle-class can relate to and understand. I think it's safe to assume that, this being a very popular comic and printed in the newspaper, it presents the readers with nothing significantly new.... but it takes waht they know and gives it back to them in a new, humurous, symbolic, ironic, childishly simplified, ingenious way.

What't the main difference between what we've read so far and this? The stories could not live without nor be told without the drawing. Writing is the next layer, and is often absent. Literature? written, no? So what does Mafalda offer us? Aside from the many laughs that I innocently partook in? Another form of saying something. So why should it want to be literature when it can be somethig different? Or, should be ask literature a question? Is there room for the idea of much said with little words?

But I definitely needed Mafalda in the midst of the end-of-semester insanity. Thank you Mafalda.

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from what i recall of the critiques offered for the last 3 books we read, some suggested that that being able to relate to a work is characteristic of a good book; consequently, not being able to relate to the unrealistic character of some of these books (related to magic realism) took away from their being qualified as good literature. Of course, with time we did come to distinguish a little more between personal taste and quality, but being able to relate to a work still seems to be a significant factor in our evaluation of books, judging by the comments on Arlt. Yet, I find that this book is much more realistic than the previous three.

In fact, the confusion and relationship between fantasy and reality in Los Siete Locos is, as far as i am concerned, a realistic portrayal of one aspect of the human condition. This book seems much more relatable to in the context of today's world and the questioning of our purpose in it. As far as theme is concerned, I prefer this book to the last three, but, of course, that is preference, and says little to me about the quality of the work. It also says little about my opinion of it, because I did not like it very much. I have actually found myself thinking that, in all its confusion and 'locura', this book is generally quite clear and simple to me, or at least as clear and simple as the reality we are living in...one which often seems to be wihtout a purpose. Sometimes I felt that this book was perhaps too realistic, and I could relate to it (not of course to its context and specific situation, but rather, to its treatment of the sociological within the context of capitalism, and its questions of existentialism, etc...)so much so that it didn't seem to take me by surprise. It didn't spur my imagination too much (in fact, the boredom of the 7 locos was directly transferred to me, as if I ate one of Tita's specialties made with a touch of boredom).

With this, I'd like to say that I feel the book was meant to be related to by those whose voices were represented, or by those being spoken to. I don't think that Arlt meant for this book to represent "good literature" as defined by the elites and academia..... but rather to give writing another purpose and perhaps define what's "good" within the context of the broader public- those who should also have access, dry martini or no dry martini. preferably no dry martini, but perhaps good old argentinian mate.

what do you think?

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a diferencia de los otros tres libros, esto no me entretuvo en ningun momento. ni me cautivo. para mi, este libro no es resulto de un proceso creativo por parte del escritor sino que la locura de los personajes es es lo que dirige y escribe la narrativa. no hay que pensar mucho, ni tener ideas claras, ni ser coherente en el escribir cuando el enfoque de la obra es la locura y la perdida de la capacidad de racionalizar las cosas. el libro parece un laberinto con muchos "dead-ends", ningun de los cuales presenta Erdosain con una solucion, hasta que llegue a la ultima puerta que en si misma parece abrirse a un mundo de soluciones basadas en la irracionalidad e ideas ridiculas con vista de transformar el sistema social.

Tengo que confesar que no entendi muchas de las cosas, o por el vocabulario o por el hecho de que son presentadas por unos locos. Ademas, la condicion miserable de Erdosain se presenta de una forma tan redundante, y su angustia y tristeza, que es siempre la misma esencialmente, se presenta y explica siempre de la misma manera. No sentia sus penas porque se explicaron unas mil veces; sin embargo, entiendo que eso es la realidad de un hombre en angustia; que vive en su condicion miserable y es todo que sabe ademas de sus ideas para escaparla. Cuando un hombre es reducido por la realdad social que lo rodea a una existencia como la de Erdosain, cuando su vida se hace miserable solo por las acciones de otras personas, resulta la angustia y la locura sin salida. La salida de Erdosain no garantiza una salida permanente; es responsable por la muerte de un hombre, es un criminal que esta intentando crear un mundo mas justo, un mundo basado en un acto injusto. Es una concepcion del mundo muy triste y preocupante.

El libro presenta esta realidad y la critica de una manera satirica y algunas veces comica, exagerada. Sin embargo, tendria sentido que la manera en que se presentan estas ideas fuera una de locura. Si fuera una de locura, no hay mucho que pensar en cuanto a la calidad del libro. Si no fuera una de locura, entonces, hay que preguntarse como un libro sobre el pensamiento de siete locos puede ser entendible por lectores supuestamente razonables. Y aunque las ideas de los locos son tan extravagantes, choqantes, y parecen estupidas o comicas en alguons momentos, el proposito de los locos parece demasiado racional; en un mundo que no funciona y que produce locos, hay que cambiar algo. Son de verdad locos? De hecho, el titulo del libro no es muy preciso, porque la amyoria del libro se enfoca en Erdosain. De verdad, no se que estoy escribiendo. Creo que es evidente que el libro me hizo muy confusa. Hasta el proximo domingo...

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again, good or bad? so far, my opinion is that this is a nice story. though it has been suggested that in it's creativity we might indeed find a lack of it, which i do see in part, it is evident that the approach is unique. and if we are not left to roam through the book with our own imagination, reason being that everything that results from the imagination takes on a very literal form within the novel, at least we may credit the author with a very imaginative approach and style. Everything she says takes on a literal meaning. Though some might argue that the literary movement of which Esquivel is a part would tend to decenter the author and emphasize each individual reader who takes on the role of interpreter, here we are, as Jon suggests, given exactly what she means, with little left to imagine. I'm not sure how I feel about this, because I'm not sure where the line is to be drawn between imagining what she says (metaphorically, as an expression) and what is materialized from that metaphor. Would we be left with much more to imagine if it wasn't so literal, or would we have missed the meaning.....for example, those who are initially unsure what the simile "como agua para chocolate" means, the imagination might lead them astray....perhaps the fact that she accompanies these expressions with very literal representations relates to the targeted audience. While Mexican readers will probably appreciate recognizing the recipes and expressions, the expressions would be pretty self-explanatory for them without a literal explanation, which seems to help some of us out. but then again, the fact that the book is so culturally-loaded as well seems to create a greater appeal to those who will recognize the elements. Still, is a good novel supposed to immerse one in the familiar, or take them out of that element and be able to surprise them as well? Again, what is the role of a novel? And is there just one? Probably not. Is this book bad? I don't think so. But I don't think it's very good either. It's nice for story-telling, that's for sure. And that's an art of its own. But then what's the difference between literature and story-telling? zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

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As I read all the blog entries, I am really starting to question whether we are at all being critical independently of what we hear in class. Before we really started to talk about the Alchemist and make speculations concerning simplicity/complexity, religious overtones/spirituality, self-help/fiction, etc, the blog entries seemed to be predominantly optimistic as to the quality of the book. However, after Thursday's class, it seems that this optimism has met some disappointment and suddenly, the blogs are based on the same critiques. I wonder whether the general perspective would have changed had Jon not brought up some of the points that made us adopt a more crticial outlook. I definitely believe that we should consider all of these points, but in the midst of that, I think we need to be a little more self-critical and ask ourselves whether we would have come to the same conclusions had we not signed up for this class. Many are now (after the second part and coincidentally after thursday's class) asking "why on earth would so many people enjoy this book?" and I would like to suggest that they enjoyed it for the same reasons we initially did; they knew no better, or did not have its flaws pointed out to them. Subsribing to the opinion and taste of the "masses", such as some of our friends who get offended when we tell them that we are reading the Alchemist as part of a course on Bad Lit, seems just as easy as subscribing to the opinion of our professors. And I am beginning to be more and more aware of our tendency to do so. I am not suggesting that we are blindly following Jon's trains of thought and not at all thinking independently when we listen to a lecture. I am suggesting that we need to be careful and critical, and ask ourselves why we never thought of it on our own. I finished reading the Alchemist last Sunday so my interpretation of the conclusion was not influenced by class discussions.... but I am certain that it would have been otherwise. As for the treasure at the end of the book.........I don't think it's as simple as "one's personal legend is finding..... gold" .....To be honest, I think in the end the gold didn't even matter so much. And the message, however profound or cliche, seemed more concerned with the fulfillment one feels at having overcome so much, having taken so many risks, having lived through something once unimaginable or new, and having survived only to look back with a sense of accomplishment and wonder. The gold is a minor part of it, judging by the little emphasis given to it at the end of the book. Mind you, I tend to be an idealist, and maybe I'm choosing not to see the treasure as something materialistic.

I guess, just as much as I like to point out the other side to the masses who like a best-selling book, I like to do the same to those masses who don't like a book. Whether or not I agree with either of the "masses" seems less important to me. I think we all need to be a little more critical of ourselves and how much of our opinion is really ours. We should be informed by others, not guided. It's late and I no longer know if I am making sense. Good night to all! This was a rant...

Oh one more thing... in regard to what Jon was saying about Coelho's high standards (hotels, food and star-treatment,........luxury), I just wanted to throw it out there that on his website he makes his books available to print ...for free. That makes his Personal Legend all the more difficult to decode. Is it really the quest for riches? I dunno. Food for thought. I am sleepy.

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since i haven't gotten any closer to an idea of what literature is, and what constitutes good and bad lit, i have decided to let the contemplation simmer a little... and instead of pondering the quality of the Alchemist, i would just like to write whatever comes to mind. the first thing is the simple style and language that everyone tends to attribute to the novel. i read a little bit of the novel in serbo-croatian and spanish, and i must say that there are obvious differences in the impact of the style represented in coelho's writing. unlike english, these two languages seem to have a special place and do justice to this style of writing, and i am now convinced that one cannot judge this book by style and language alone. what impresses me in books written in english is often far different from what impresses me in various other languages. that is certainly a problem with translation, especially when one translates from a very expressive language like portuguese to a language like english which requires elaboration and what some call prestigous style, complicated and vast vocabulary, etc..... i like to think that the right kind of simplcity is far mre difficult to achieve than elaborate wordy writing, not that i don't enjoy the latter as well. so how can we then judge the style of the alchemist, having read it in english. i am certain i woudl have enjoyed the book far more in a poetic language like portuguese or my own.

if we then try to define 'literature', we must consider these limitations and understand wat exactly we are trying to define. are we trying to define a univesral concept or just what we have been exposed to? may of the ideas offered in calss today as definitions did not seem to me to fit any unviersal definition. can literature have an over-arching definition at all? i have begun to think of it as a word....a word originally selected to represent something that has changed over time, and we rigthfully expect that the meaning of the word has changed with time as well. what it means i do not know, nor do i believe i will ever know.

as far as the Alchemist goes, i did enjoy it, but as i said, a poetic language would have done the journey more justice. at times i was almost embarassed with the english translation, but wondered "could it have been said differently" and in an endless search of words, i could not offer anything....

to be continued...

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Tengo que confesar que la segunda parte de la novela me gusto mucho mas que la primera. Los cambios de personajes y de lugares en los que se encuentra Eva no se pueden prever tanto y hay mucho mas enfoque por el que podemos perdernos por fin en una parte especifica de la novela. Podemos perdernos porque, al contrario de la primera parte, nos da bastante tiempo para conocer la situacion o un personaje, y los cambios de contexto no son tan rapidos. En un sentido, para mi la historia comienza en esta segunda parte y de pronto llegue a sentirme mas cautivada e interesada. Es cierto que la novela todavia tiene sus fallas pero mas frecuentamente que no me pregunto, por que los considero fallas? Entonces, mi ultima impresion sobre la historia es que si me gusto de una manera; era facil de entender y leer, no habian desafios intelecutales o emocionales.... lo malo es que a mi tambien me gustan los desafios en la literatura porque prefiero crecer con lo que leo. A mi Eva Luna no me ofrecio nada nuevo, por eso dije en mi ultimo blog que no me habia dejado "a mark"..... no voy a recordarla. Con eso no quiero decir que puedo contender que la buena literatura tenga que hacer precisamente eso.... pero para que yo disfruta mas de una novela, esto suele ser parte de mi criteria. Por supuesto, a lo largo de la novela habia momentos en los que pense "esto me gusta mucho, sea un personaje, una historia de Eva, o la manera en que Allende (o Eva?) expresa algo" y me dio placer en algunos momentos que "appealed" a mis emociones, pero en mi opinion eso no hace Eva Luna un buen libro. No crea "impact".... Pero sinceramente me gusto tanto como no me gusto, y con esto quiero decir que depende de mis criterios. Es importante distinguir lo que nos gusta y los que es bueno..... y la distincion se forma por pensar en el por que nos gusta.

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For the last few days I have been contemplating the concept of 'literature' and 'literary value' and the line between story writing and literature seems very unclear to me. When I began reading the book, I wanted to be careful not to judge it by the expectation of it being 'un libro pesimo' and its being a part of our course on bad literature. If I was to come to the decision that it was a bad book, I wanted to be able to justify my conclusions, not my expectations. What I noticed was that the more I read and simultaneously pondered the definition of literature, the worse I thought the book was. Some say it's unrealistic, but that I don't mind. There's nothing wrong with that. Then there is the story that is easily recognizable about an orphan who moves from home to home, job to job; nothing wrong with that either as some piqaresque novels are masterfully written. Repetion is the way of life; ideas do not come from nowhere but are reworked and creatively so by good writers. So what did I think of the first half of the novel? Not much. An easy read. A simple and straight-forward story that perhaps lives little room for the imagination with its stereotypical and easy to visualize descriptions. Allende colors her books with political, historical and cultural details that are not at all profound and easily found in the database of knowledge possessed by the most part of readers who contribute to its being a bestseller. To sum up, this book does not stimulate me intellectually at all, and only reiterates the little lessons of life that we all know but like to hear and read as expressed by others who happen to share our realizations, which are not so hard to come by in the case of this book. It's not that I dislike the book, it's only that I don't think much of it at all. It's a nice little story to read after a whole day of skiing which makes mush of my brain and my thinking capacity. I have not read Allende's work and cannot thus judge her as a writer, but I can say that this book has not and will not leave its mark on me. It's when I read the last page of a book and think "Oh I wish I had not read it only so that I could read it again right now....this feels like goodbye", that I know that I have read a good book, and those are usually the ones that have confused me and made me think and re-think and learn and contemplate; books where I feel like I am reading them even when they're not in my hands.............. no, I would certainly not call Eva Luna literature. I think the work of a brilliant or exceptional writer cannot reach or engage the masses....I think it is just impossible. That is not to say that I think literature is for the elite and well-educated...... because then I would see it as unnatural. It's just that, in the world we live, the uniquely exceptional is often only unique to the unique. Perhaps I have confused myself..... And you?

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