Author Archives: victoriagarafola

“Do you speak English?” Representations of the American Woman Abroad

   Within modernist literature, readers have been fascinated by travel writing literature and the culture created by the modernist expatriate movement. This interest is amplified and is invariably more controversial when the protagonist of these works is female. Modernist literature has since been dissected for its commentary on both the culture it portrays and the lives of the authors who have created these societal representations. The underlying theme of the expatriate has been personal to both the authors who have chosen to leave America and the characters that they portray leaving America. These representations highlight assumptions about traveling women and work to solidify stereotypes within both the male and female characters. 

When examining Henry James’s Daisy Miller: A Study in Two Parts, the actions and attitudes of the American and European women convey clear sentiments about the transgression of gender roles and class boundaries. The ongoing conversations pertaining to Miller offer a variety of critiques of her character. Some critics believe Daisy is an antifeminist coquette who deserved her unfortunate ending. Others claim Daisy to be a feminist heroine for her ability to independently navigate the social circles of European culture. In addition to these views, Henry James’s biography plays an important role in his characterization of the Millers. In order to highlight the experiences described in Miller’s narrative, I parallel her voice with my own experiences traveling abroad. 

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Coffee Shop Anxiety

Christopher Freeburg spoke to me. Not literally but through his essay, “Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbucks.” You see, I spend a lot of my time toiling away at a coffee shop. Perhaps Northern Light Espresso Bar isn’t an evil, mutant mega corporation like Starbucks but the sentiment is there. Freeburg starts his essay “I have spent far too much time in coffee shops…” (25). My eyes light up with the familiarity of understanding my author. You see, as I read that line, as I soured his essay, I was also in a coffee shop. Surrounded by caffeinated luxury and a couple bookshelves, I’ve always thought of “Northern” as a sort of sanctuary. The point Freeburg ultimately makes is one that I intimately understand. Freeburg writes, “As at any good bar, the Baristas at Starbucks, many of them students, get paid to listen to me talk about my research and interests” (25). As I read these words, I realized just how true his statement was. The regulars that come into the café come for friendship. They come to talk to us, they come to talk to each other and many of them are, in one way or another, involved with one of the local colleges. Just last week I had the privilege of making the perfect latte for the dean of my college. As I tamped the espresso, I told her about what I was working on with my thesis paper. The grinder caused me to raise my voice as I proclaimed “The modernist expats were really on to something…” and as I pour her skim milk over the crema of that perfect shot she had enough time to give me her feedback on my paper. These interactions, my causal run-ins with literacy, wouldn’t be possible if Northern Light didn’t exist or if I decided to do something better with my time than sit at a coffee shop.

 My point, much like Freeburg’s point, is that these atmosphere’s invite the intellectual conversation that may otherwise not exist. They create the casual environment where a barista can ask Freeburg what good there is in what he teaches or why he even bothers (25). While these questions might come off as rude in a more academic setting, they are perfectly acceptable at the coffee shop. Strangely, I ended Freeburg’s essay with a pit in my stomach. I enjoy my job as a barista and I’ve loved my life as an English major but I couldn’t help to know exactly what Freeburg meant when he said, “The bitter truth about Starbucks is obviously not the taste of black coffee.  I do not want my students to continue to work at a coffee place when they graduate unless they want to” (30). In these lines, Freeburg sums up the anxiety of the English major. The fear of uselessness that was coupled with the heckling of unsupportive family members four years before graduation. The stigma that the English major is an unemployable consumer of novels and poetry, doomed to pour lattes for the rest of her life. While Freeburg doesn’t say this is the be all end of the English major, he does put pressure on the professors to make sure the English major understands how to apply all these fancy skills we learn.

 

Freeburg, Christopher. “Teaching Literature and the Bitter Truth about Starbucks.” Profession. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2012. 25-30. Print.

Calling All Traveling Spinsters!

This year the Travel Cultures Seminar Series presented by the University of Oxford is focusing on the perennial topic of traveling women. The conference, ‘Navigating Networks: Women, Travel, and Female Communities’ is sure to excite feminists, women’s studies majors, and lady-likers from all over the world. Oxford  is looking for papers that expel the stereotype that travel writing is a man’s field and to widen the perspective. After all, it’s 2013 and women still hold up half the sky. Interestingly, they aren’t looking for a bra-burning haiku, either. The University of Oxford is interested in looking at papers that disregard the idea of gendering the travel and to see traveling as the human experience that it is. According to the website, they are looking for papers that focus on connection from any historical period. The muse can be anything from letters and diaries to paintings and photography… GO!

I was happy to read that they are looking to focus on wealthy women, women traveling “independently” from men, like Daisy Miller or, even more hilariously, “Spinsters Abroad.” The conference seems just perfect for my paper “Representations of the American Women Abroad.” On top of the of everything I’ve already mentioned, the website also welcomes papers with the following topics or themes:

The Act of Travel:
• access to exclusively female spaces abroad (harems, baths, spas, circles of gossip)
• development of alliances between the female traveller and the female local
• issues of ‘othering’ – do women have an imperial agenda or do they sympathise with foreign women?
• bonds of sisterhood, friendship, and partnerships
• communities of female expats; salons and social scenes abroad
• feminine self-fashioning: creation of female travel identities abroad
• negative associations with female travel networks: women’s aversion to being lumped together with other female travellers; their desire to break free from collective identities and stereotypes

Many of these ideas coincide with what I’ve ready written about the class issues and female dynamics within Daisy Miller. Other topics and ideas that haven’t been exactly addressed in my paper are also featured and could have relevancy if I was to reconstruct my long paper as a conference paper. All this and more will be presented at the Navigating Networks: Women, Travel, and Female Communities’ conference in Oxford on October 4, 2013!

For more information, check out their website (which I used to help me with this blog post).

http://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/node/49442

Hemingway, Sex, Travel and More Recent Conversations by Victoria Garafola

The Hemingway Review is a member of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ). This membership elevates the quality of the work submitted and imposes specific guidelines for submissions to discourage ill fitting articles. Additionally, as a member of the CELJ, the Hemingway Review outlines specific regulations regarding inclusion notification and publication. On top of the requirements imposed by the CELJ, the Hemingway Review also has its own set of guidelines that help to ensure quality work is submitted. A word limit of 6,250 words is considered “ideal” by the Hemingway Society and works that have been published elsewhere are not accepted. Additionally, while the journal is open to all academic approaches, it does not publish creative writing such as poetry or fiction. Additionally, those submitting work to the Hemingway Review are strongly encouraged to consult The Elements of Style by E.B White as well as George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.” Furthermore, submitters should be very familiar with the existing conversation concerning Hemingway scholarship, his works, and his biography. Each issue of the Hemingway Review contains an updated biography. After observing the past two years in Hemingway scholarship, I have concluded that queer theory, gender identity, and travel are all trends in the most recent Hemingway conversation.
After consulting the past two years worth of issues in the Hemingway Review, I have noticed definitive trends within the current conversation on Hemingway scholarship. The most recent issue, published in fall of 2012, deals with queer theory, lesbian identity, and the works of Ernest Hemingway. These ideas, as observed in Chikako Tanimoto’s “Queering Sexual Practices in ‘Mr. and Mrs. Eliot’” and in Jennifer Haytock’s “Hemingway, Wilhelm, and a Style for Lesbian Representation,” show a clear trend in the most recent Hemingway scholarship and provide a framework for future conversations with this topic.
Last spring’s issue of the Hemingway Review trended several articles dealing with nature in relation to Hemingway’s work. Alexander Hollenberg’s “The Spacious Foreground: Interpreting Simplicity and Ecocritical Ethics in The Old Man and the Sea” and John Voelker’s “Some Post-Fishing Thoughts on Hemingway and Writing” also incorporates Hemingway’s love of the outdoors into its criticism. Another idea trending in this issue is the notion of international travel. It is well know that Hemingway was a proud expat, however these recent articles explore that part of Hemingway’s identity. In “ ‘A Trick Men Learn in Paris’ : Hemingway, Esquire, and Mass Tourism” by Kevin Maier and in “ ‘He Was Sort of a Joke, In Fact’ : Ernest Hemingway in Spain” by Jeffrey Herlihy-Mera one notices a clear renaissance of Hemingway scholarship that deals with his international travels and love of all things foreign.
In the Spring 2011 issue of the Hemingway Review, I noticed clear trends discussing masculinity and race in regards to Hemingway. Josep M. Armegol-Carrera wrote an article titled “Race-ing Hemingway: Revisions of Masculinity and/as Whiteness in Ernest Heningway’s Green Hills of Africa and Under Killmanjaro.” Additionally, in the same issue an article by Andrew Feldman was titled “Leopoldina Rodriguez: Hemingway’s Cuban Lover?” and another article titled “The Elephant in the Writing Room: Sympathy and Weakness in Hemingway’s “Masculine Test,” The Garden of Eden.” These articles all come full circle with the most recent issues’s conversation about queer theory and lesbian representations in Hemingway’s work.
Most important to realize is the gravity of these trends. They are not a coincidence. Rather, they are an insight into the current conversation and new theories circulating around Hemingway’s bibliography. Moving forward, this knowledge will enable me to write about Hemingway in a way that contributes to the current conversation without reiterating someone else’s ideas.

Full text of these and other issues of the Hemingway Review can be found at http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/hemingway_review/

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Reconsidering Our Priorities Through Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

By Victoria Garafola

Speaking as an African American Professor at Harvard University in the Early 1990’s, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has a unique perspective on both the value of literary studies and the need for change within the discipline. Indeed, Gates understands the African American challenge, the barriers that exist both academically and socially between aspiring African American students. Within his powerful essay, Pluralism and It’s Discontents, Gates cites that the “real crisis in American education [is]: a new generation of kids are going to be functionally illiterate” (138). How can we, as students, as scholars, nitpick over an archaic literary canon when our children are not afforded the “luxury” of a decent education? While Gates’ voice may have been drowned out by the blaring boom boxes of the 1990’s it is still clear to educators, parents, and politicians today that the American education system is ‘in crisis’… whatever THAT means. What I do know, through my own observation, is that most of the freshmen coming accepted into my “good” university, tucked into the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, USA, are not prepared to write a basic research paper. Most students struggle through their Writing Skills courses and, time and time again, students shrug off their English courses as “unnecessary,” “unimportant,” “a waste of time.” Students flood our English department every semester begging for pink slips to get into Children’s Literature and Film as Art because, they believe, these courses will fulfill their core requirements without actually making them read a novel. Every semester students spend hundreds of dollars “buying” their degrees through online paper writing websites and the occasional “friend” who writes the paper for less than google can offer. What is the point of a “liberal arts college” if our students are being milled out into a world where their degrees really haven’t helped to enrich their own knowledge or prepare them for the real world that lies beyond the undergraduate doors? If I may quote 1992 Henry Louis Gates, Jr. just once more, “Forty-four percent of black Americans can’t read the front page of the newspaper. Wen we’re faced with some brutal facts like that one, all the high-flown rhetoric about the “canon” becomes staggeringly besides the point” (138).

Gates, Henry L., Jr. “Pluralism and Its Discontens.” Profession 2012. Boston: Modern Language Asspociation, 2012. 135-42. Print.