MLICOM/My Life is Comp Lit.

Call it an attempt to "reclaim Comp Lit" for myself, but I've decided to write a blog about my multilingual and multicultural exploits. Comparative Literature is an experience that is very different depending on the person, but I'm hoping that all those who read this blog can relate even just a little bit to what it is I'm talking about when it comes to studying and conducting research in COM.


I joined the Department of Comparative Literature in Fall 2009, deciding to concentrate early, get my Junior Papers done early, and go abroad my Junior Spring 2011. Unfortunately, that never happened, but I'm hoping that my thesis research into China and Brazil will take me abroad for a good portion of Summer 2011. So this semester has been a reflective time in which I learn as much as I can, while I can, about different languages and cultures in order to create that mandatory magnum opus called the Senior Thesis.


So here's what I've been up to lately:


1. Speed-dating with potential thesis advisors. I've been in touch with a ridiculous number of people, and the list will inevitably expand as time goes on:
  • Lynn White-Politics professor specializing in Chinese politics.
  • Thomas Christensen-Former Deputy Secretary of State to East Asia, my Spring '09 professor for the Woody Woo Course in Chinese Foreign Relations
  • David Bellos-Head of Princeton's Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication, French and Comp Lit Professor, all-around British baller.
  • Deborah Kaple-A sociology professor with fluency in Chinese and Russian-"rare as hen's teeth," in Bellos' words-who knows a lot about Sino-Soviet clashes in the modern era
  • Everett Zhang--An East Asian Studies professor specializing in Chinese anthropology
  • Susana Draper--Academic year 2010-2011 COM department representative and professor specializing in Latin American urban development.


    I'm hoping to find someone who's interested in what promises to be an interesting project. As of now, I'm planning to analyze Chinese development with respect to the Olympics and use the information to evaluate to what degree we may predict the impact of the Olympics on Brazil, given the similarities shared between the two countries. I'm planning to look at the history of sports in both countries and the connection of sports to domestic and international politics. I'm also planning to do a literary analysis of the architecture of Beijing, as well as of the performances in the 2008 opening and closing ceremonies. All the while, I'm going to be doing my best to keep my finger on the pulse of Rio with regard to developments on the Olympic committee, with some attention to the World Cup, as well.


    2. Preparing a translation of Mahmoud Darwish's  "ريتا و البندقية" ("Rita and the Rifle") for tomorrow night's Comparative Literature event: Word of Mouth. "Rita and the Rifle" was first published in Darwish's collection آخر الليل (At the end of the night) in 1967 and describes a love affair between a Palestinian man and an Israeli woman. The Israeli, who is comes off as an enemy and an oppressor in Darwish's earlier works here transforms into a beautiful lover. Despite the two characters’ origins, their story of a dangerous and powerful love under fire is one that defies national identification. In portraying the sweetness and the passion of the love affair, Darwish forces his readers to fall under Rita’s power and love her despite her  identity, or at the very least to sympathize in a Palestinian tragedy involving an Israeli woman.  In addition to being one of Darwish’s best-known poems, it has also been transformed into a song, Darwish's words set to music by Marcel Khalife.


    3. Creating a small anthology of selected poetic works of Argentine writer Silvina Ocampo for my Spanish-English translation class. Ocampo would often write a poem under a given title and then use that title again on a second poem. In a few cases, she marked these second poems as "second version" of the first, but for many she did not. It stands to reason that when Ocampo reuses the same title on a new poem, she is deliberately and specially binding the new poem to the old poem. And so, my anthology will be based on these title-sharing new poem-old poem pairs, with the hope of illuminating the bonds between them. I also hope to draw attention to and to recast the idea of translation as "rewriting" within a single language as well as across two languages.



    4. Writing a paper for my Near Eastern Studies class comparing the portrayal of the clash between Islamic Civilization and Christendom in La chanson de Roland and Cantar de mio Cid. I don't know French, which is becoming more and more of an issue, as I look to potential jobs in circles where French is desired or even required. That said, for literary study purposes, it's obviously useful. I think the majority of COM majors know French, perhaps more than those who know Spanish.


    As the title of this post says. MLICOM.
    And so it will be until further notice. Or at least until June 4, 2012.