Monday, April 9, 2007

One man's pulp is another man's literature

When I first enrolled in this class I had no idea what to expect. My initial thoughts were that it would be an interesting, and even easy class. The class was interesting, but it was not easy. To clarify, I am talking about the lectures only, not the literature.

The literature we studied was, on the other hand, mainly, exceptionally easy to read (with the exception of Los Siete Locos), which was different from the "good" literature class I took, Span 365. This has made me think (though perhaps wrongly so), that "bad" literature can distinguish itself from good literature as being easier to read/comprehend. The books as well were, more or less, interesting to a point; however, upon dissecting them in class, they became less and less interesting as it became apparent that there was little to dissect.

This class was interesting because the concepts challenged my ideas of literature, and covered things that I had never thought about before, such as the idea of the culture and financial marketplace. What I found compelling though, was that the books we read were not necessarily "bad" in the usually accepted way. They were not the pulp fiction that one might find in someones garage sale, but more, books that one would find in a decent bookstore, worthy of buyback. They give promise of being good, but don't completely live up to that promise, as opposed to pulp fiction, which doesn't hide the fact that it is trashy and mass marketed. What I found difficult about this course was that concepts were not so cut and dry and, as a whole, we found it difficult to agree on any one idea. What one person thought made a bad book, another thought made worthy of a good book. The lines of objectivity and subjectivity were blurred and I though I have come to a more substantial definition, I still don't think I truly know what constitutes "bad" literature. I think that subjectivity plays too much into the ideas of good and bad, and though worthy of discussion, these concepts are rarely solidly defined.

Reflections on Spanish 365

I found the texts in this class to be rather enjoyable, and thus, the class as a whole to be enjoyable. My favorite part however, was the final half, as we were studying Cien Años. There was so much to discover in this book. I feel, though we examined the themes in this novel extensively, we barely scratched the surface.

Regarding the other texts we studied, I felt that they were interesting to discuss, though not always interesting to read (I am thinking of Cumandá), and I would have liked to have studied Neruda more extensively as we didn't cover much poetry. Although, I know we did not have much time to fit everything in.

What I found most enjoyable was the approach the class took in surveying the texts, finding themes and analyzing them as well looking at certain aspects of human behavior and relationships between the characters and their roles as members in their families as well as the difference in the family units themselves. As well, I thought the blogs were a great part of the course and should be use in more classes. I think this is good way to first, make reflections on the texts we are studying etc, second, be able to go back and reread these reflections as a reminder of the thoughts we had along the way, and the third and most useful reason, to be able to peruse the ideas of your classmates in order to get a more full interpretation of the texts studied. I found this last reason to be most helpful as people brought up things I hadn't thought of, which encouraged me to go further in my analysis and challenged my ideas.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

100 years more

warning: contains spoiler

Alas, I have finished, and I didn't want it to end.
I closed the covers of Cien Años and said goodbye to all the characters that I have grown to love. *sigh. I know that I have truly enjoyed a book when I am sad to finish it. Though as well, the ending is sad and tragic, especially the part where the ants carry off the dead newborn baby. Yikes. And those Beundía's, they sure can't stop falling into bed with each other. I wonder if it was a bit of a moral statement that the unbridled passion between Aureliano Babalonia and his aunt, Amaranta Ursula ended in the death of their pig-tailed newborn, not to mention the end of the whole town itself? The significance of Aureliano's last name I think plays into it a bit (as we discussed in class). It is interesting that the town went from it's origins of just a quiet place where the founders lived with hardly any access to the outside world, to a place of wars, commerce, whorehouses and a massacre (though, after writing whorehouses, I questioned whether it really belonged in the list as Marquez doesn't seem to have a real problem with whorehouses and puts them in almost every book; though, I'll leave it in anyways), mimicking Babylon somewhat (thanks to Mikael for filling me in on a more complete version of the story of Babylon). Though are the two punished for incest? They weren't aware that they were related. Maybe were they punished for being so madly in love? It seems to be more the trend in the novel. Those who fall madly in love are somehow punished. Starting with Aureliano and Remedios (who dies), Arcadio is killed after falling in love with Sofia de la Piedad, Meme is sent to a nunnery for falling for Mauricio, Pietro Crespi is punished twice over for his love of Rebeca and then Amaranta. I could go on, but you read the book. Just a thought, but I feel that the Buendía's were never destined for happiness and love, but for loneliness and solitude.


I think that it is too obvious to just say that the telenovela, Corázon Salvaje, is bad media/literature. This is apparent for so many reasons... it's overdone, overdramatized, melodramatic, poorly acted, Juan de Diablo had terrible hair... I could on, but I would rather talk about something else: such as, why are telenovelas so popular?

Though, first of all, I would like to address the issue of whether or not this is literature. I think it's arguable. I don't believe the series could fall into the category of literature if we were to only look at it as visual media, however, I will admit that, in some context, the screenplay could be considered literature as it was written. But we are not reading the screenplay so I would argue that what we are viewing is not literature.

Second, Why are telenovelas so popular? I can't say I didn't enjoy watching it, but only because it made me laugh. I didn't take any of it seriously. Like American soap operas however, the telenovela seems to be addictive and watched religiously. My own mother records her soap opera every day while she is at work. She has been watching it for over 15 years. The few times that I have watched it with her I have had to stifle laughter at how silly the whole thing is. It's so phony and overdone, but she loves it, just like so many other women. (I think that it should be mentioned that this genre is aimed primarily at women, especially housewives). I think that these housewives maybe feel that there lives are mundane and they turn to these shows as a way to escape. The melodrama and the luxuries appeal to them because it is world so far from theirs.

This reminds me... there seems to be a gender issue here that irks me. Why is it that the literature/media that appeals to women that we have studied in class are considered bad, and the one book that appealed to the men in the class was not really bad?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

10 años con mafalda??!!!

OK, what's going on Jon? I didn't buy this book at the bookstore originally because I thought, no, this can't be for our literature class (bad or not), there must be some mistake.
But no, this is what we are supposed to be reading.

I don't think the question here should be--is this bad literature or not, but, is this literature at all? This is a comic book. I mean, I'm not complaining, it's easy reading, it's cute. Some comics are funny, some not as much (though I realize this is personal taste), and some I don't understand because of their references to things in Argentina that I am not aware of. Personally, I don't think comic strips are literature, though I do think a graphic novel could be considered literature. However, I wouldn't put 10 Años de Mafalda under the graphic novel category because it doesn't have a plot, though maybe it does have subtext.

Although, I do think that this book can be studied. Like literature it has themes and characters and sometimes even, a political message. Also, I think a lot can be said about a country by it's popular culture so I am interested to discuss this in class, and perhaps, also learn something about Argentina. I think though, when you study popular culture, you are studying the preferences of what Jon would call the "middlebrow", and perhaps that was his intention of choosing this work. I think, especially now, there is a lot of debate as to whether popular culture has cultural merit. Is it "cultured" culture? If it isn't high culture, though it is popular culture, does it have cultural worth and can we say it defines a country or a people because it is popular?


I have been creating a list of character traits that go along with each character and their namesakes in order to keep them all straight in my head, and to see if certain personality traits are handed down from characters to their namesakes. This what I have come up with:

In the José Arcadio Buendía line:

José Arcadio Buendía
is an inventor, careless in his dress, obsesses over his ideas and creations, takes an interest in his sons educations, is a careless dresser, unusually strong, clairvoyant and of course, goes crazy in the end and is tied to a tree in the backyard.

José Arcadio (married to Rebeca) is said to have his father's character (p.14), though, unlike his father, lacks imagination, he enjoys excess (drinks, gambles and sleeps with many women until he marries Rebeca) and is also unusually strong and dies young, shot in his own house.

Arcadio (son of Pilar and José Arcadio and Pilar) does not recieve the full name of his father because he is illegitimite, takes an interest in education like his grandfather, but unlike his father, also has tremendous hereditary strength and dies very young. After impregnating Sofia de la Piedad with the twins, José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo and fathering Remedios the beauty, he faces a firing squad, and is killed.

Aureliano Segundo (son of Arcadio). I put him in the José Arcadio line because the wise Ursula suspects that, during their mischievous games of pretending to be the other, they became confused and never changed back to the other. He was also a big, burly and strong man like his grandfather and great grandfather, was excessive, also like his grandfather. He had a good sense of humor and was very lucky. He marries Fernanda and fathers José Arcadio, Ursula Amaranta, and Meme.

In the Aureliano line:

Colonel Aureliano Buendía (who marries the young Rebeca) is silent and withdrawn, thinner than the Arcadios, is clairvoyant like his father, very proud, intense, brave and doesn't have the capacity for love (as observed by Ursula). He dies of old age against the tree in the backyard.

Aureliano José follows his father to war and I think he doesn't return? If anyone remembers this, I am missing a characterization of this Aureliano.

The 17 Aurelianos have the same intensity as their father and the same eyes.

José Arcadio Segundo (who was probably born Aureliano Segundo) follows in his Great uncle's footsteps and organizes a strike against the banana company. He is also quiet and reserved like the Colonel and spends his later years locked in a room reading Melquíades writings, similar to the same obsession Aureliano had over his gold fish.

(their are two more Aureliano's but I haven't gotten that far yet. I will fill the rest in perhaps at a later date)

My conclusion then is that, there are definite personality traits that are handed down through the names. The first José Arcadio Buendía seems to hand down traits to both his sons, but then after that, the José Arcadios seem to be strong and burly and drawn to excess. And the Aurelianos are more reserved, thinner and more intense, but are driven to fight (for the war and strike) and are natural leaders. This seems to be the same with the women as well but I will end this here because I could go on for another hour or so I am sure of I wanted.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


(Arlt looks like a pretty intense guy)

I have no idea what else I can say about Los Siete Locos, except maybe that Arlt tried a little too hard to be both high brow and low brow at the same time. Though people's reactions to this book in their blogs and in class has made me think...

One thing that I have noticed about the books that we have studied in this class is how some of the books, namely Como Agua Para Chocolate and Eva Luna, were liked by some of the women in the class, but maybe none of the men. With Los Siete Locos, there seemed to be the opposite reaction. Not that this is a surprising revelation; however, it did make me wonder, especially after reading the Jane Austen article, if this contributes to what makes a book a bad piece of literature. Though, the opposite could be said about The Alchemist.

Take for example, a book that other members of the class and I are studying in Span 365, Cien años de soledad. This book, along with most others that we have been studying, are books readily enjoyed by both genders. Though, the books that we are studying in this class have generally been liked by only one gender. Does the exclusion of half of a potential audience make a book "bad"?

The Alchemist, I am sure you will agree, would be exempt from this list as it is not aimed at any one gender. But it is extremely accessible. As we discussed in class, this book is universal. It doesn't really leave out anyone, from child to elder, Muslim to Christian, man to woman... So, can it also be said that a book that swings too far in the other direction and becomes too universal is also a "bad" book?

Just postulating theories, I am interested in what the rest of you think...