Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Exploring the First Half

Half way through the term, and I’d say that we have accomplished quite a bit: two novels, 20 poems and two short stories. With one important novel remaining, there is no doubt that I have read more Spanish since second week of January than in all the years prior to the start of this term. So far, I really think the online blogs are an excellent way to communicate ideas regarding the literature. Before this course I had never used an online blog, and now I think that it is a great educational tool and an effective way to practice writing.

There is a noticeable transition from Spanish 364, where we studied mostly historical documents from colonial America, to Spanish 365, where the language is more sophisticated and also more open to interpretation. This progression and development in Spanish literature can also be seen within the works studied in this class, with significant changes in the language from Cumanda to Las memorias de Mama Blanca to Piedra Callada and Las Hortensias. From what I can tell, it seems that not only the language, but also the overall stories have increased in complexity and examine in more depth the emotional and social aspects of events. For instance, in Piedra Callada and Las Hortensias, the two most recent stories that we have interpreted, and also my favorite so far, controversial and somewhat twisted themes are revealed.

In all of the works that we have studied so far a variety of key themes arise. La Familia and everything to do with family is visited in most of the works, especially in Las Memorias de Mama Blanca and Piedra Callada (we also wrote our first blog about family). Even Las Hortensias examined a warped and convoluted idea of a family, where the dolls can be treated as the desperate couple’s very own children, or possibly where the lack of a family is considered. However, it is hard to argue that Neruda’s poems are concerned with the workings of family.

The role of women could also be an overlying theme of these works. In all the literature that we have interpreted to date, female characters have played different roles, where they have been treated differently and where different social attitudes are presented. Cumanda, for instance, illustrated how a young ‘indigenous’ woman was the link between two cultures, until she was dramatically sacrificed to the gods. In Pablo Neruda’s poetry, he suffered continuously from his intense passion and his fierce desire for women. Las memorias de Mama Blanca examined the life of a young girl who grew up in a very feminine world and Piedra Callada shocked us with the violent actions of the mother, where her strength, determination and conniving behaviour are emphasized when she murdered Bernabe. And finally, Las Hortensias could be seen as a story where women are presented as physical objects that can be easily manipulated by their ‘owner’.

There is without a doubt a wide variety of individual themes examined within each of the novels or short stories, and there most likely are many other overall themes connecting all the works. At any rate, these stories are, as always, open to a multitude of interpretations.


Dave said...

I kind of see a connection with Neruda and the family. Often families are formed through love, and broken up through a loss of love. There was something poetic in the love from Cumanda. Hence, I see the poetry of Neruda as the starting and ending points of families and potential families.

Niall said...

I agree with you that the theme of woman seems more predominant than that of family in what we have read so far. It would be interesting to compare the treatment of la mujer as object of desire (and also of fear) in both Neruda and Felisberto. Regarding Spain, I think it's amazing that what was until recently one of Europe's most backward countries has become, as far as gay rights, one of Europe's most progressive. !Viva España!