Events Organized or Endorsed by the Caucus The Graduate Student Caucus organizes on average two panels at the annual meeting of the MLA. For more information on the panels, please contact the First Vice-President of the caucus. The CfPs will be circulated on familiar listservs, and any graduate student in the modern languages is eligible to participate. Additional events relevant to graduate students will also be posted below.
At the 2015 MLA annual meeting (Vancouver, January 8-11, 2015) the Graduate Student Caucus is sponsoring a panel and a roundtable discussion. The panel and the roundtable have been organized by Kristal Bivona, and all questions and comments regarding these should be directed to her.
Travel, Translation, and Circulation in Latin America Friday, 9 January 8:30–9:45 a.m., East 18, VCC East Presiding: Kristal Bivona, Univ. of California, Los AngelesVice-President, the Graduate Student Caucus
This panel examines the movement of people, cultural forms, capital and the movement of ideas and texts from one language to another in the context of Latin America. Travel and translation play a central role in the history, self-awareness, and dissemination of Latin American culture. From the first publication authored by an individual born in the New World, a 1595 translation by Inca Garcilaso, to centuries of turbulent relations of power and dictatorships, to contemporary language politics affecting the Indigenous languages of the Americas, questions of translation and the circulation of bodies, cultural production, and capital have always proved central to Latin American culture.
1. "Macunaíma as a Traveling Literary Practice: Tactics of the Untranslatable between São Paulo and Caracas," Isabel Gómez, Univ. of California, Los Angeles
Abstract: This paper examines the 1979 Spanish translation of Mário de Andrade’s Macunaíma (1928) as an example of a significant literary conversation between Latin American capitals. My broader aim is to understand the extent to which translation can serve as a decolonial tool to undo epistemological dynamics of colonial or neocolonial appropriation, erasure and isolation. To this end, archival work that studies the unpublished letters of editors and translators is necessary. This edition of the Brazilian avant-garde novel Macunaíma was produced by Ángel Rama, the director of the Biblioteca Ayacucho’s “Colección Clásica,” a project sponsored by the Venezuelan government that commissioned critical editions of Latin American texts in a new literary canon that rejected nationalist frameworks. To redraw the literary map, Rama included works translated from Brazilian Portuguese into Spanish. I analyze letters between the editor and translator to understand their divergent approaches to untranslatables: the spoken register of Brazilian Portuguese and words from cultures indigenous to the region. Rama makes heavy use of scholarly notes to contextualize these untranslatables. Translator Héctor Olea argues against this ethnographic approach because it obscures the lightness and irony with which the original created an experimental Brazilian Portuguese. Drawing from translation theories by Octavio Paz and Haroldo de Campos, he defends what I am calling his tactics of the untranslatable. Their debate about how to use literary translation as decolonial tool is only readable through these unpublished letters. My praxis-based approach reveals the ethics negotiated through translation in redefining the scope of Latin American letters.
Isabel Gómez is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA. Her research interests include translation theory, literary translation in Latin American letters with a focus in Brazil and Mexico, Hemispheric American studies, and experimental poetics. In the 2014-15 academic year, she was selected by the Collegium of University Teaching Fellows (CUTF) to teach a course based on her dissertation research titled “Found in Translation: North/South Poetic Friendships and the American Idiom.” She co-organized the Latin American Institute Working Group on Travel, Translation and Circulation and co-directed the 2013 HEMI-GSI Convergence “Experimental Collectivities” hosted at UCLA and USC. In 2014, she published “To Be 130 Years Old! Updating the Language of University Culture and Race in Machado’s Short Stories. A Review of a New English Translation by John Chasteen” in Machado de Assis em Linha.
2. "Creolizing Freedom, Translating Citizenship: French-Creole Translations of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Proclamation de St. Domingue," Annette Joseph-Gabriel, Vanderbilt University
Abstract: Since CLR James’ 1938 The Black Jacobins, an increasing number of scholars have read the French and Haitian revolutions as inextricably intertwined events. The role of translation in linking the political debates of revolutionary France and Saint-Domingue has received significantly less attention. During the Haitian Revolution, members of the French government produced official proclamations containing laws that sought to regulate liberty and define citizenship for the ex-slaves. The proclamations were in turn translated from French into Creole to be read aloud. This project examines the fluid discourse on the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity articulated and contested in French legal decrees and their Creole translations. Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1802 Proclamation de St. Domingue and its Creole translations—one produced in 1802 and the other in 2010, are particularly interesting case studies because they present a rare opportunity to analyze questions of authority, authorship and translation in a Creole language text bearing Bonaparte’s signature. Examining the earlier translation reveals that the anonymous translator subverts French power and authority through rhetorical strategies like omissions, repetition, and call-and-response. The resulting “original copy” in Creole was more inclusive and created a space for the audience of ex-slaves to participate in debating and defining their liberty, equality and citizenship. The 2010 version allows us to analyze the linguistic evolution of Haitian Creole, forged and shaped in the pivotal moment of revolution.
Annette Joseph-Gabriel is a doctoral candidate in the department of French and Italian at Vanderbilt University. She is the author of “From Tropiques to L’isolé soleil: Suzanne Césaire’s Politics and Poetics of Liberation” forthcoming in the International Journal of Francophone Studies, and “Creolizing Freedom: French-Creole Translations of Liberty and Equality in the Haitian Revolution” forthcoming in Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies. She is a recipient of the 2013 Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics.
3. "Catatonic Movement: Funes and Bartleby in Conversation," Jaime Brenes Reyes, Univ. of Western Ontario
Abstract: Based on a comparative reading of Borges’ “Funes, el memorioso” (1944) and Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (1856), I argue for the relevance of corporeal and literary movement in the Americas within a context of catatonia; that is, to what extent the impediment to communicate and move freely may open up new possibilities for language and community building. Among other similarities, both Bartleby and Funes are described as misfits. For instance, Bartleby’s language is depicted in the story as “queer” because of the way he responds to his boss’s requests by saying “I would prefer not to.” Is the inability to communicate ‘properly’ the same as the loss of language? Or, rather, does it invite to an ever-expanding notion of language? How does this theme relate to current migration flows within the Americas? I aim to challenge the presumption of a natural relation between language and communication by considering the aspects of language circulation and body mobility that both authors touch upon in their respective stories. As a thought experiment, I will invite an open discussion of what a conversation between Funes and Bartleby would look like, and the implications that such dialogue may bring to the study of Latin American as well as North American literary studies. I will conclude by turning to Borges’s own translation of Melville’s story from the perspective of what Borges names the fantastic: the impossibility of the character’s actions, with the reader becoming an accomplice – in movement and coming to a halt with the story.
Jaime R. Brenes Reyes is in his second year of PhD in Hispanic Studies at Western University. Currently, he is working on a pedagogical project on how to teach the revolution as a figure in Latin American literature and visual art. He is interested in the fantastic and short-story writing, especially in Julio Cortázar, Horacio Quiroga, Felisberto Hernandez, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Carlos Fuentes and Juan Rulfo. He is an editor of the journal Entrehojas, and program coordinator of Public Humanities @ Western.
Pursuing Two Passions: On Being a Graduate Student and Something Else Thursday, 8 January, 3:30–4:45 p.m., West 217, VCC West Presiding: Kristal Bivona, Univ. of California, Los AngelesVice-President, the Graduate Student Caucus
This roundtable explores the challenges and rewards of pursuing another passion concurrently with graduate study. Participants reflect on what it means to be a student and "something else," to lead a “double life,” in order to share approaches and tactics for being successful at both passions. Topics include alt-ac careers, having a family, activism, and hobbies.
Dominick Rolle is an interdisciplinary scholar and Ph.D. Candidate in English Language and Literature at Emory University. His areas of research include 20th century and contemporary American and African American literature, Anglophone-Caribbean and Afro-Cuban literatures, literature of war, and gender studies. As a former U.S. Navy sailor who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, he possesses a keen interest in illuminating the diverse needs of America’s veterans in community-based organizations and the academy. Rolle’s intervention will interrogate the intricate ways in which his social activist background complements his research and pedagogy. Rolle will speak to his experience as the graduate assistant for the Emory-Men Stopping Violence (MSV) Initiative. Rolle’s diverse professional and personal experiences will enrich the perspectives of graduate students seeking to build intellectual strengths in community-engaged scholarship while focusing on their research goals.
Rebecca A. Lippman received her MPhil in Latin American Studies from the University of Cambridge and is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She works on the relationship between literature, technology and music in the context of 20th century Latin America and Brazil. Lippman’s intervention considers opportunities for students to engage in alternative work experiences on-campus, such as archival research, as opportunities to rethink the potential contributions of doctoral candidates who may wish to transition into the private sector upon graduation. Lippman will speak to her experience indexing collections and the unique skill set that archival research gives graduate students to promote a consideration of “professional” and “academic” career tracks as paths that are not disparate poles of a field in crisis, but instead two options that are intrinsically related to one another and can be taught together.
Julie Williams is a PhD student in American Literary Studies, with a focus on Western American literature, Native American literature, landscape and the environment, atomic culture, and discourses of health and embodiment. Williams will speak about her experience pursuing a private pilot’s license while in grad school. Rather than positioning one to be an obstacle to the other, Williams will discuss how learning to fly has actually strengthened her academic work, and vice versa.
Jessi Snider is a graduate student working on her doctorate at Texas A&M University. Her areas of research include Victorian and gothic literature, young adult fiction, and critical theory. Her forthcoming article “‘Be the Tree’: Classical Literature, Art Therapy, and Transcending Trauma in Speak” will appear in the Children’s Literature in Education in fall 2014. Snider, a divorced mother of four and doctoral student in English, will speak about the challenges and rewards of being a parent and a grad student, which is a topic that dominated the Caucus’s panel last year on being a graduate student.
Alison Reed is a PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she serves as Graduate Fellow of the Antiracism Inc. program. Her academic work on performance and social justice movements has been published in several journals including Digital Creativity, Media-N, and Women & Performance. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Taking seriously George Lipsitz’s call, in “Breaking the Chains and Steering the Ship,” for amplified dialogue between academics and activists, Reed’s intervention examines the stakes of being an academic and an organizer. A Graduate Fellow of the Antiracism Inc. program directed by Dr. Felice Blake of UCSB, Reed has experience organizing with the Coalition for Sustainable Communities for the prison abolition movement. Reed’s intervention argues for the impossibility and necessity of engaged scholarship that moves outside of institutional boundaries, recognition, and support—reminding us that social justice-oriented scholarship should not leave us in a place of hopelessness but should (re)invigorate our coalitional commitments.
Matthew Sherman is a graduate student of Medieval and Modern languages at St Hilda's College, University of Oxford. He holds a master's degree in German Studies from Michigan State University. Sherman will discuss life as a graduate student athlete, and what he calls “the baggage of (hyper)masculinities. His intervention explores a “double life” that not only competes with grad school for time devoted, but that engages with “something else” that can threaten one’s intellectual reputation.
Derek S. McGrath is the recipient of a doctoral degree in English literature from Stony Brook University (May 2014), where he specialized in nineteenth-century American literature with additional research and teaching interests in gender studies, digital humanities, and contemporary popular culture. As he begins to revise his dissertation “American Masculinity and Home in Antebellum Literature” for publication, he has completed two forthcoming articles: “Bad Romance: Teaching Poe’s Women with Lady Gaga,” and “Some Assembly Required: Joss Whedon’s Indecisive Gendering in Marvel Films’ The Avengers.” Mr. McGrath can also be found on Tumblr and WordPress (user name: dereksmcgrath), which he uses as online platforms for his courses on composition and nineteenth-century United States literature—and to re-blog posts on Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, and other fandom nerdiness. McGrath will speak about academic and personal interests in fandom, contemporary forms of cultural production that include science fiction, comic books, and animation, and how these interests play off of his dissertation topic: literary representations of masculinity and domestic ideology in the nineteenth-century United States. McGrath will share how cosplaying, writing fan fiction, and designing Tumblr fan sites, his involvement in fandom has been instrumental towards successful teaching, conference organizing, and publishing.
Sessions organized at the 2014 MLA annual meeting: "Exile, Death, Sacrifice: The Poetics of Suffering in Francophone Literature" (organized and moderated by Loic Bourdeau) "Compromising, Negotiating: Roundtable Discussion on Being a Graduate Student" (organized and moderated by Loic Bourdeau)