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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Gold Mine

I got a fund-raising letter from the University of California Study Abroad Programs:  Dear Jonathan, it has been 38 years since you studied abroad. That means that I have been a Hispanist for 38 years, in that I began a very systematic study of Spanish poetry at that point (really, before that, since I learned Spanish for this express purpose). I still remember poems from memory that I memorized at this point: "El alma tenías / tan clara y abierta / que yo nunca pude / entrarme en tu alma."  Yes, I was a babe in the woods. It was a junior year program but I was a year younger, since I started college at 17. I turned 19 in Spain, right after we had arrived in a group flight that went non-stop from LAX.

I am sitting atop the proverbial gold mine. I've found a vehicle, the study of translation, with an automatically generated archive: you simply have to find the translations, which isn't hard to do. There is a sophisticated body of theory that allows you to look at this material critically, and the project has a historical sweep to it, both in the original texts, and in the translations. I don't have to be an expert in every original text, either. I can rely on accidental erudition and on a store house of ideas I have been developing since before graduate school, including two papers I wrote in grad school.


I realize I am not necessarily like other people.


Thomas said...

Sometimes the idea that other people are not like me feels as uncanny as imagining that they are automatons. What would it be like to be unlike me? Strange.

Jonathan said...

There is solipsism. But I was referring to the fact that my assumption that other people will be like me often gets me into trouble.

Thomas said...

Yes, I was trying to say that sometimes ordinary difference is as strange to me as outright solipsism.

The wide variety of ways of being human should be source of wonder and pleasure. And trouble. To be sure. Sometimes trouble.

Jonathan said...

Yes. I am interested in this, because it goes to the heart of who we are. For example, I could interpret the golden rule in the following way: "since I would like women to approach me randomly and offer their sexual services to me, then I should do the same thing to them." That is doing to others as you would have them do to you, right? But somehow it doesn't work like that. Now someone would say, well, you don't really want that, and I would agree with them, since social convention is that we aren't supposed to say that we would like this, even if we really do. So the ethics of reciprocity don't even work very well.

Say a parent trying to raise a child in a strictly religious way. In a sense, the parent is thinking that *I* would want this. It works / worked well for me, so for the child it is the same thing. But it is not.

Or: I expect my students to do their real reading outside of what I assign them. What I assign them is simply a few things that they might want to have read. I am assuming they will think like me, but they won't, and I can't tell them to.

Thomas said...

One of the most jarring differences between teachers and students is no doubt their differently distributed curiosity.

I think a religious upbringing is a bit different, at least in a Christian context. After all, here we can assume that we are alike in being sinners. The parent can think, "Of course, the child doesn't want this. Nor did I." There are healthy and unhealthy ways of implementing this.

Then there are the differences between men and women! I guess the Christian solution here is to assume that women are as sinful in their hearts as you are and then to help them avoid actually falling into it. I imagine this is the reason Mike Pence doesn't dine alone with women. He is presuming likeness in human weakness.