Leah Middlebrook’s most recent essay, “Poetry and the Persiles: Cervantes’ Orphic Mode” appears in the most recent issue of the journal eHumanista (eHumanista/Cervantes (5). 2016. Ed. María Mercedes Alcalá Galán). Over the past number of years, she has been exploring intersections and divergences between poetry and genre; this new essay makes the case for considering Cervantes’ prose romance _Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda_ through the lens of the twenty-first century poet William Carlos Williams. Middlebrook is wrapping up her term as President of the MLA Forum on 16th and 17th century Spanish and Iberian Poetry and Prose, and she was elected to the Executive Council of the Cervantes Society of America this past Fall, for a two-year term (2017-2019).
Associate Professor of French Fabienne Moore was awarded a 2017 College of Arts Summer Stipend fellowship for the Humanities and Creative Arts to work on a new project, titled “Gustave Doré’s Histoire de la Sainte Russie (1854): The Invention of Graphic Rhetoric or the Artist At War.”
Back in 2012, Moore had received an Oregon Humanity Center Teaching fellowship and a Sherl K. Coleman and Margaret E. Guitteau Teaching Professorship in the Humanities to develop an experimental course in French on War in French Comics. After teaching the course every other year, Moore wanted to contribute to the scholarship on the emergence of comics (bande dessinée) in Europe and study one of its pioneers, Gustave Doré (1832-1883). While Doré is famous for his spectacular illustrations of masterpieces of world literature (Rabelais, Dante, Tasso, Cervantes etc.), his early “comic strips” are hardly known. “I view his Histoire pittoresque, dramatique et caricaturale de la Sainte Russie (1854) as a tour de force of what I call ‘graphic rhetoric.’ Borrowing from Rabelais’s supersized characters and humor, from Jacques Callot’s minute illustrations of war miseries in the XVIIth century, from Töpffer and Cham’s recent innovative comic strips and albums, and from his contemporary Honoré Daumier, a brilliant, twenty-two year-old Doré pioneered a new telling of history to appeal to a broad audience: it caricatured both the form and the substance of traditional historical discourse, and it offered a humorous, subjective interpretation of the enemy Russian Empire, all the while exposing the fundamental absurdity of war—its politics and its violence. With the phrase “graphic rhetoric” I wish to capture Doré’s invention of a large, complex rhetorical system imbricating text and image, in other words a language meant to persuade via a playful exchange between figures of speech and visual figures: metaphors, comparisons, hyperboles, synecdoques, ellipses, etc., are translated into images where from figurative they often become literal.”
Moore will conduct her research in Paris and in The Doré collection of the Bibliothèque des Musées in Strasbourg, which houses all of the original editions of Doré’s works, as well as hundreds of engravings of XVIIth century artist Jacques Callot, one of Doré’s source of inspiration. She will present her work this fall at the “Bibliography Among the Disciplines” conference in Philadelphia, PA in a panel on “Graphic Representation.”
Professor of Spanish David Wacks has published “Translation in Diaspora: Sephardic Spanish-Hebrew Translations in the Sixteenth Century” in A Comparative History of Literatures in the Iberian Peninsula, vol. 2. (ed. César Domínguez, Anxo Abuín González, and Ellen Sapega, Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2016, 351–363).
Spain’s Jews in 1492 were faced with the ultimatum of converting to Christianity or leaving the kingdom. Many chose to leave, but despite beginning new lives in Italy, North Africa, or the Ottoman Empire, continued to speak Spanish and consider themselves culturally Spanish Jews. Some of these ‘Sephardic’ (Sepharad is the Hebrew word for Spain) Jews translated popular Spanish novels and histories into Hebrew for diffusion among the non-Spanish Jewish communities where they lived. Their translations go further than just translating words from one language into another: they alter the values of the texts to better resonate with non-Spanish, non-Christian readers, sometimes in ways that seem heavy-handed to modern readers. What this means is that translation, for these writers, was not simply a way to gain access to new things to read; rather, it was a way to bring new materials in line with the culture of the reading community.
It is an apocalyptic take on modern-day Mexico: Conquering angels rule the nation, indigenous groups stage a vicious revolt, widespread bloodshed ensues and no clear victor emerges.
This is Edgar Clément’s Operación Bolívar, a graphic novel with themes of conquest and foreign influence that resonate just as well now as when the book was published in 1990.
Amy Poeschl first came across Clément’s highly political project in a class on Latin American comic books last year. Long a fan of graphic novels, she instantly fell for Bolívar.
So for her, it was a no-brainer to use the book as the basis for a research project in senior lecturer Amanda Powell’s class on literary translation. Students were assigned to translate a Spanish text, such as a poem or part of a book, into English.
Never mind that none of Powell’s students had ever tried to translate a graphic novel before. Or that Bolívar is filled with complicated subtexts referring to the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the United States’ presence in Latin America. Or that Poeschl was committing not just to the translation of text, but making her new English-language version align with the original book’s visually lavish and often pointedly satirical images.
“I knew it was a big challenge because I had to deal with graphics as well as the words,” said Poeschl, who graduated from the UO earlier this year with a degree in Spanish. “But I adored the graphic novel so much that it was worth it.”
In Latin America, authors have used graphic novels to tackle serious subjects for decades. Through sharp writing and detailed imagery, they’ve pushed for economic and cultural reform, provided alternate views of the region’s history and pointedly criticized authoritarianism in government.
In Mexico, officials have distributed graphic novels widely to promote literacy among the nation’s citizens, particularly the poor, and to teach the country’s history. These trends laid the groundwork for the medium’s acceptance as a legitimate form of literature by a large swath of young people; they have carried that respect and love of graphic novels into adulthood and broadened the appeal of the medium.
Putting a Puzzle Together
Poeschl translated 20 pages of the 164-page novel. She started her project with comparatively strong chops in Spanish—she’s been studying the language since middle school and her family hails from Puerto Rico.
She pored over the 20 pages she translated roughly 100 times. It was like putting a puzzle together—one that helped Poeschl realize that translation is what she loves most about Spanish. “If I could do nothing but this for the rest of my life,” she said, “I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
First, Poeschl did a rough translation of a section, then she refined it over and over. She researched each word’s meaning in English and Spanish, referring to translation dictionaries and then repeating the process panel by panel. She spent days analyzing even a single image of an angel’s body before she began writing an interpretation.
“Researching words and their etymologies was fascinating,” Poeschl said.
Given Clément’s penchant for playing with words, Poeschl felt an obligation to be meticulous even with seemingly obvious translations.
Consider the phrase “la recuperación de la conciencia.” It could be interpreted as “coming to awareness” or “reawakening,” but Poeschl ultimately translated it as “the recovery of the conscience.” That might seem to be the most logical, literal choice, but it was one that Poeschl arrived at only after revisiting the important phrase repeatedly with her classmates and Powell.
Poeschl’s solution, Powell said, subtly drew attention to how Clément skewers the corporate commercialization of basic human activities like making art, healing the sick and seeking spiritual consolation. Thus the need for a recovered conscience.
Along with weighing possible word choices, Poeschl sought to craft each English sentence to match the author’s tone—which presented another layer of challenge. In Bolívar, Clément switches freely between a colloquial voice and a professorial style of the kind you’d find in a history book.
Poeschl also decoded and translated metaphors and puns that have no English equivalent, while ensuring that the translation accurately reflected the accompanying illustrations.
In one passage, Clément, in describing angels, uses a word—“ligeros”—that means both feathery and light, but also trivial or frivolous. There is no single word in English that even comes close to all these shades of meaning, Poeschl said—but the metaphor “light as a feather” fit perfectly.
“That was one that I worked on for weeks before I finally went, ‘Oh, that’s so obvious,’” she said. “You want so much to find that perfect word and you know it’s out there.”
Shades of Meaning
Powell praised Poeschl for skillfully navigating an exceedingly complex and multifaceted novel. Bolívar interweaves allusions to indigenous, Mexican, American and European cultures with Biblical references and political satire.
Translation is more than pulling out a dictionary and plugging in a word that fits, Powell said. For Poeschl’s project, it required looking at the translation within the theme of the novel, while taking into account the particularities of the Spanish language.
“Even within a language, we have instances where no two synonyms denote or connote exactly the same thing,” Powell said. “Each has a shade of meaning, and the history of usage implies a certain thing. That’s all the more true between languages.”
For her part, Poeschl hopes her research will resonate with a larger audience than simply her teacher and classmates. She wants to reach US Latinos and Hispanics who are losing their Spanish fluency, which includes some of her friends.
She chose to translate Bolívar in part because it is filled with important ideas about Mexican history and politics that, she hopes, her friends will more easily grasp in English than Spanish.
“Part of the motivation for me to do this was I had so many friends whose Spanish wasn’t great,” Poeschl said. “I wanted to make it available to them because I knew it was going to be right up their alley.”
Literary translation is valuable as more than just a research exercise, Powell said. It can serve as ideal training for a wide range of careers, including the legal, medical and diplomatic professions.
“It is one of best preparations for any field where the language is nuanced,” Powell said.
Beyond translation, undergraduates in Romance languages have pursued many other avenues of research. Some have studied French- and Spanish-speaking communities in the US, looking at questions such as bilingualism; they have investigated how language shapes communities and how communities that share a language change over time. They have delved into topics as diverse as medieval romance and postmodern performance.
Research in Romance languages also exposes students to often-overlooked parts of the French-speaking world such as Africa, areas of the Caribbean and the Middle East and regions of Africa and South Asia that speak Portuguese.
“When you learn about Africa in high school, you may learn about French-speaking Africa, but rarely do you learn about Portuguese-speaking Africa,” said Amalia Gladhart, department head. “Undergraduate research in Romance languages exposes you to new worlds you never knew existed.”
Photo caption: In Operación Bolívar, indigenous people in Mexico wage an all-out war against a ruling class of angels. The book is filled with subtexts referring to the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the United States’ presence in Latin America.
This article appears in CASCADE http://cascade.uoregon.edu/fall2016/humanities/light-as-a-feather/
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Ph.D. candidate Erin Gallo has recently published a piece on Club de cuervos, the first Spanish-language TV series produced by Netflix and devoted to soccer. While Gallo’s dissertation deals with issues of gender in the works of Rosario Castellanos, she is also an active researcher and practitioner of soccer. The article can be accessed here: http://rmargen.com/2016/06/10/club-de-cuervos/
Senior Instructor of Spanish and SHL advisor Amy Costales’ micro-cuento (microfiction or short-short story) has been accepted for the upcoming anthology Basta: 100+ Latinas Against Gender Violence by the University of Nevada, Reno, Latino Research Center.
Basta! is a project that began in Santiago, Chile in an effort to create awareness and reduce gender violence. The project has grown to other countries and continents. The Latino Research Center at the University of Nevada, Reno will publish the U.S. anthology of 100+ Latinas in the U.S.
With her upcoming contribution, Costales joins Senior Instructor of Spanish Emerita Alicia Epple and Emeritus Professor of Spanish Juan Epple whose works were included in the anthologies ¡Basta! + de 100 mujeres contra la violencia de genero [Enough! over 100 women against violence to women] (Santiago: Editorial Asterion, 2012) and Basta! + de cien hombres contra la violencia de genero (Enough! over 100 men against violence to women) (Santiago: Editorial Asterion, 2012). These anthologies were published as a contribution to a national campaign to stop domestic violence in Chile and elsewhere. Professor Juan Epple introduced Costales to the power of micro-cuento when she w
as an M.A. student.
Spanish MA student Elizabeth Valdez published “La ideología revolucionaria en los versos de Ernesto Cardenal” in the latest issue of Blogoteca de Babel, online journal of the Department of Romance and Classical Studies at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
In this article Valdez examines how the resistance poetry of Ernesto Cardenal conveyed ideology during the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution. Using a new historicism approach, “COMUNICADO” (communiqué), a Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) document, serves as the textual reference for analyzing the poems, “Final Offensive” and “Busy” from Cardenal’s Flights of Victory. Juxtaposing the two types of texts illustrates that while Cardenal was committed to the FSLN ideology, he also upheld his own utopic democratic ideology by locating power among the Nicaraguan people and not entirely with the FSLN leadership. In this way, Valdez shows how “Final Offensive” and “Busy” may be used as alternative archival resources critical to understanding the transitional phase of the revolution.
Professor Emeritus of Spanish Juan Epple has just published the article “El microcuento en los Estados Unidos” (microfiction in the United States) in the journal Quimera 386, Barcelona, January 2016. This article describes the evolution of US microfiction from nineteenth century writers Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Kate Chopin to modern and contemporary authors Ernest Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith and Lydia Davis
Brown Walker Press just published Poets on the Edge: Vicente Huidobro, César Vallejo, Juan Luis Martínez, and Néstor Perlongher by Senior instructor Jesús Sepúlveda in a 200-page edition on January 2016 with cover art by Chilean artist Ivo Vergara.
Poets on the Edge critically explores the relationship between poetry and its context through the work of four Latin American poets: Chilean Vicente Huidobro (1898-1948), Peruvian César Vallejo (1893-1938), Chilean Juan Luis Martínez (1943-1993), and Argentine Néstor Perlongher (1949-1992). While Huidobro and Vallejo establish their poetics on the edge in the context of worldwide conflagrations and the emergence of the historical avant-garde during the first half of the twentieth century, Martínez and Perlongher produce their work in the context of the Chilean and Argentine dictatorships respectively, developing different strategies to overcome the panoptic societies of control installed throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. Martínez recreates the avant-garde tradition in a playful manner to avoid censorship and also proposes a philosophical poetics to stage a utopian project oriented toward redesigning the house of civilization that has fallen apart. Perlongher unfolds his peculiar Neobaroque sensitivity in order to reshape the complex Latin American identities, culminating his poetic project with two collections written under the influence of ayahuasca-based ceremonies. Poets on the Edge offers the reader a new understanding of the hybrid and edgy nature of Latin American poetics and subjectivity as well as of the evolution of poetry written in Spanish during the twentieth century.
The book is available at the UO bookstore, Amazon, as well as at the publishing house website. Stay tuned for a book party!
For more information, see http://www.brownwalker.com/book/1627345760