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Love in Translation: The Conference

A Report by Thato Magano, Paulina Barrios, Shawn Gonzalez, Rafael Vizcaíno, Rudrani Gangopadhyay, and Penny Yeung

On March 2nd and 3rd, 2018, the graduate students of the Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature organized their biennial conference on “Love in Translation.” The co-chairs, Rudrani Gangopadhyay and Penny Yeung, hoped that the conference theme would foster conversations about how love figures in and is transfigured by translation by way of thinking about how love disrupts and transforms the ways in which literary imagination functions across languages, time, space, borders. Some of the questions the conference hoped to (and did) address were the following: How is love translated? Can love be a methodology in translation? Is it a hindrance or is it generative? Is love a theme or a product of translation?

The first panel of Friday, on the “Poetics of Translation,” commenced after introductory remarks by the conference co-chairs, by the Program Chair Prof. Andrew Parker, and the Graduate Director, Prof. Anjali Nerlekar. The first paper was by Paul Franz, a doctoral candidate at the Department of English at Yale University. His paper, “To leave my love – alone: Alliances and Realignments in Geoffrey Hill’s versions of Anne Hébert,” examined the complex history of the English poet Geoffrey Hill’s translation of a poem by the French-Canadian poet Anne Hébert, by studying the affiliations between Hill and Hébert as an effort to create an international counterpublic resistant to American hegemony. Paul explored the fact that Hill typically performed Hébert’s poem alongside Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66, which employed a similar litany structure, yet which introduced the key term—“love”—absent from Hébert’s account of popular resistance to Fascist authority. The other two papers were presented by Rutgers Comparative Literature’s own doctoral students, Josué Rodriguez and Penny Yeung. Josué’s paper, ‘The Ethics of Translation in Vicente Huidobro’s “El Hermoso Juego,” or “The Beautiful Game”’,  examined Vicente Huidobro’s microficción, or micro-fiction, “El Hermoso Juego,” or “The Beautiful Game,” (1940) as an example of how Huidobro’s movement, Creacionismo, is able to performatively render Surrealism’s aesthetic, cultural, and political codes in its playful appropriation of automatic writing. Huidobro’s familiarity with the stylistic and cultural codes of the French movement allowed him to playfully build what Gayatri Spivak called an inhabitable textual world for the other in her 1992 essay “The Politics of Translation.” This ultimately embodies a shift from the ideals of revolutionary love towards an ethical relationship to the other, one that foregrounds a text’s access to all through its universalized translatability.The last paper of the panel, presented by Penny, was titled “Partial Translation and World Building,” and argued in favor of “partial translation” through theoretical and creative engagement, by way of her own translations of several poems lifted from French academician Dany Laferrière’s book, L’art presque perdu de ne rien faire (The Nearly Lost Art of Doing Nothing), an untranslated work. By considering Dennis Tedlock’s proposition of a poetics of translatability in his eludication of Mayan poetics, and KE Bishop’s argument that a relationship of metonymy and contiguity, and not metaphor and comparability, underlies a written text and its invisible, unwritten text, she argued that rather than destroying networks of signification, a partial translation can partake in a more hopeful endeavor of world-building.

The second panel of the conference, titled “Queerness” saw two presentations from Duncan McKinnon, a Rutgers University senior in the Comparative Literature and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies programs, and Lubna Abdul-Hadi, a PhD student in the Translation Instruction and Research Program at Binghamton University. The panel kicked off with Duncan’s paper “Feeling the Erotics of Queer Diaspora: Translating the Sensorial in Zami by Audre Lorde and The Book of Salt by Monique Truong.” Duncan’s paper explored how the sensorial, as a medium that exceeds the discursive, can be translated to understand the meanings and experiences between bodies and subjectivities in relation to love and lovemaking in the texts. For Duncan, because the protagonists are often failed by the discursive as a result of the social and economic conditions that impact their lives, they see translating the sensorial facilitating an escape of the limitations in their experiences across linguistic, national and racial difference. Lubna’s paper “Love, Hatred, to Love Again – Translating Female Same-Sex Relationships in Medieval Arabic Literature” explored how the translation of Western hegemonic categories of identification presented limitations of language for non-normative sexualities in the Arab-Islamic community. Exploring the limitations of the western norms of sexuality identification as they have come to be understood under the banner of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans- gender, Questioning/Queer, + (LGBTQ+), Lubna turned to Medieval texts exploring female same-sex sexuality to show the expansive vocabulary that existed to think through and identify same-sex sexuality. Her work then, propositions how a turn to the past might be productive to contemporary conversations in the Arabic world in relation to same-sex sexuality. Prof Preetha Mani was the discussant for the panel and spoke to the interconnecting themes of both papers as it relates to translation. In one sense, there is an investment in translating what cannot be easily translated as it demands bringing the inexpressible to the fore, while in the other, there is a recognition of the limitations of bringing to the fore that which is translated. Prof Mani further inquired on what queering translation might look like and how scholars might relate to the practice of translation approached from a queered perspective. The panel engaged in a lively debate around temporality and periodization, translation in the Arab world and how translation might enable a return to the self. 

The third, and final, panel for Friday focused on the “Ethics and Politics of Translation.” The panel included presentations from three different graduate students: Coco Xu from Rutgers University presented ‘On the Ethics of Translation’; Ali Almajnooni from Binghamton University presented on ‘Empire, Drones, and the End(s) of Translation’; and Tuhin Bhattacharjee from New York University presented on ‘The Tragic in Translation: Planetarity and a New Ethics of Reading’. The three presenters shared thought provoking works that questioned the role of translator, how they build bridges, but also constitute threats; translation as an inter-cultural interaction, part of a ‘politics of love’; as well as reflections on temporality and translation. Ali began with his presentation, which focused on an analysis of the drones the United States has been using in the Middle East and how this may be a reflection of a transition from using translation as a form of conquest of ‘the other’ towards a complete rejection of comprehension, an annihilation of ‘the other’. Coco’s presentation followed, which sought to respond to the pessimism and frustration that oftentimes accompany translation studies with a refocus on curiosity. She focused on the idea of translation as hospitality, world construction, and productive curiosity. Thus, considering translation as the moment of reaching a new world and inhabiting ‘in-betweenness’. Tuhin closed the table suggesting a move towards a format of comparative literature that would be planetary instead of global. Through this focus connections with ‘the other’ would be through love and tragedy, with translation as part of this risk and tragedy surrounding the ethical and political connection with others. After the presentations, Prof. Janet Walker congratulated the presenters on their papers and followed with some comments on the panel as a whole, as well as specific observations for each of the presenters. She began by reflecting on how ethics surrounds translation, translators, and the praxis itself. Related to Ali’s reflection on empires, US imperialism, and language, Prof. Walker stated that his link to drones as well as the hierarchy and distancing from the other they establish was particularly interesting. She added also how critical languages are constantly being defined by the State Department and how U.S. citizens are incited to learn them, thus emphasizing the politics behind language. Regarding Coco’s work she linked the element of curiosity to subversiveness and how it was viewed as dangerous by empires throughout the world, connecting this text to the first presentation. Finally, she ended with comments on Tuhin’s use of Spivak, bringing in the tragedy of knowledge, the pessimism of the intellect, and optimism of the will. The questions and discussion that ensued were a testament to the quality of the presentations, focusing on broad topics such as machines/drones, mediation and distance in translation, the specificity of translation, audience and translation, bilingualism and self-translation, ethics surrounding translation, linguistic choice and the politics behind this, among many others.

The first day of the conference concluded with a keynote lecture by Sandra Bermann entitled “Love in Translation: Let Me Count the Ways.” Professor Bermann’s lecture centered on tracing several trajectories for considering the relationship between love and translation. She began by introducing a poetic perspective on this issue through readings of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, W.H. Auden, and Adrienne Rich. Then, she introduced a translation studies perspective, considering the role of love and gender in the work of various translation theorists. Next, she approached this question from the perspective of recent changes in the field of comparative literature. This portion of the lecture challenged the audience to question how translation has been marginalized by the field’s commitment to reading in the original and to reconsider the role of translation in future directions of the discipline. After establishing these different trajectories, Professor Bermann proposed migration both as a way of theorizing translation and of imagining how translation can contribute to the future of comparative literature. This case study drew on the previous trajectories to consider the role of love as a hopeful response to the contemporary linguistic landscape. Professor Bermann’s presentation was followed by a lively discussion that considered how these ideas related to the day’s other presentations. These questions continually returned to the role of translation in graduate students’ teaching, research, and plans for their careers.  

The first panel of the conference’s second day was titled “Transgressions.” Amritha Mohan from the University of Hyderabad (India) presented a paper titled ‘Love in the Call of God: A Translation of Sithara S’s Daivavili’ where she analyzed the task of translation as a “manifestation of the creator’s madness” and sought “to emphasise on the importance of translating non-mainstream love narratives, putting into context the resistance they face from the mainstream Malayalee society, thereby making them as an act of protest in itself.” Karen Jallatyan from the University of California Irvine presented a paper titled ‘Diasporic Love: Writing the Impossibility of Translation in Krikor Beledian’s The Palimpsest Man’, where he illustrated the “the impossibility of fully encountering, thus translating, the other.” For Jallatyan, “Beledian’s work suggests that in the face of catastrophe, love, as enchantment with, faith in and dependence on the other, consists in liberating the alterity of the other in one’s self and in others.” At last, our very own Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez Beltrán presented a paper titled ‘Decolonial love in the US Virgin Islands’, where she asked, “what happens when incest becomes a symbol of liberation from colonial powers and opens the possibility for decolonial love?” For Rodriguez Beltrán, Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning “makes use of several Biblical figures and transforms them by feminizing and reversing them as a way of decolonizing western religion.” The subsequent discussion, moderated by 4th year PhD Candidate Rafael Vizcaíno and started by the sharp commentaries of Professor Nelson Maldonado-Torres, centered on the issues of love in the time-space of catastrophe, diasporic subjectivity, and secularism.

The last panel of the conference’s second day was titled ‘Task of the Translator’. Kiawna Brewster from the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented a paper titled ‘Censoring Love in Translation: In Defense of the Translator’s Preface’, where she illustrated the importance of the Translator’s Preface by considering its role in rewriting the course of literary history and promoting cultural understanding. She examined the Prefaces to Lara Gochin Raffaeli’s translation of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s decadent Italian novel Il Piacere in order to illustrate the morality of translations. Raffaeli tries to introduce the 19th century text for the first time without sanitizing or purging it in any way, thereby undoing the problematic liberties taken by translators. Mariam Rahmani from the University of California Los Angeles presented a paper titled ‘What to do when sexuality doesn’t translate? The Pitfalls of Pronouns and Other Questions’. Ther paper presented an excerpt from a work in progress —an authorized translation of Mahsa Mohebali’s award-winning novel, Don’t Worry (originally in Persian: Negaran nabash, 2008) —and reflected on the difficulties of translating with attention to the politics of gender and sexuality. Some of the questions she explored through her reading include: how English gendered pronouns limit narrative possibilities and unwittingly force an identity-based framework on texts that do not adopt such a conceptualization of gender and sexuality in the original? How does a translator negotiate questions of distance and familiarity? The final paper was presented by Jan Steyn from Cornell, whose paper was titled ‘The Conjugal Translator’. Steyn’s paper explored the Maryse Condé-Richard Philcox author-translator marriage, and reflected on how Philcox’s textual philandering shows how he justifies his infidelity through his conjugality. The subsequent discussion, moderated by 2nd year PhD student Rudrani Gangopadhyay, and was started by the sharp commentaries of Prof. Anjali Nerlekar, centered around the questions of the presence of translator as well the translator’s gender. Questions that came include: can the notion of conjugality in translation degendered? How can slangs and curses be translated? What is the role of paratexts in translation? 

The conference concluded with a translation workshop led by Professor Susan Bernofsky. Professor Bernofsky led the group through a series of activities that engaged participants in thinking about translation from various angles. In one activity, sets of two texts—one original and one its translation—were placed side by side but unidentified, and participants were tasked to determine which text was which. More often than not the group was divided in opinion, and having access to both the source and target languages did not necessarily make the evaluation easier. This sparked lively discussion on what marks a translation, while also providing ample examples that counter the notion of translations as inferior texts. Another activity simulated the operations of an editorial board. The group was given different translations of the same text to look at and had to decide which was the preferred version as well as what editorial changes might be made to improve upon them. It was later revealed that all the versions were drawn from published translations of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The group compared the strategies employed by different translators and reflected upon the varying aesthetics these decisions created. Professor Bernofsky also shared learning moments from her own wealth of experience as a translator, such as how to deal with rhythm, wordplay and repetition, and the glossing of untranslatables with no direct equivalent in the target language. The three-hour workshop provided a forum for conference attendees to reflect on translation theory through its praxis, and for those who are practicing and aspiring translators, it was an occasion to brainstorm strategies to deal with the many practical challenges of the craft.

 

Presenting at the MLA 2018

By: Shawn González

The 133rd MLA Annual Convention, on the theme of States of Insecurity, was held on 4–7 January, 2018, in New York. One of our recent PhDs, Shawn González, presented on her current work at the conference. The Comp Lit Blog editors interviewed Shawn about her experience:

Could you tell us a bit about the panel you were involved in and the work you presented on?

I presented on a panel called “Teaching, Theorizing, and Reading Caribbean Texts,” sponsored by the MLA’s Graduate Student Caucus. The panel topic was unique, because it incorporated both literary criticism and pedagogy, which sparked some unexpected questions about genre and audience.

My paper “Theorizing Caribbean Multilingualism in the Classroom” emerged from my experience teaching the bilingual Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera in Latino and Caribbean Cultural Studies, a course cross-listed in Comparative Literature and Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers. I argued that Rutgers students who approached Laviera’s poetry from a variety of linguistic backgrounds offered an opportunity to rethink questions of ideal readership from the perspective of a multilingual community with a range of linguistic proficiencies. It is evident that the presence of bilingual students can enrich the reading experiences of monolingual students who could not otherwise understand Laviera’s Spanish-dominant poems. However, based on my observations of student discussions, I proposed that the presence of monolingual students was similarly productive as it prompted bilingual students to consider which portions of Laviera’s text were accessible or inaccessible to a monolingual readership. This paper is part of my developing interest in how undergraduate literature classrooms can be harnessed to consider issues of accessibility and readership in multilingual literature. My thinking on these topics was productively challenged through conversation with other presenters, both those who focused on pedagogy and those who focused on literary analysis.

Did you attend any other panels that were particularly interesting?

My favorite panel was “The Rise of Latinx Literature for Youth” moderated by Marilisa Jiménez García with presentations by Cristina Rhodes, Ashley Perez, and Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez. The panelists considered texts for young people ranging from Gloria Anzaldúa’s bilingual picture books to contemporary young adult novels. Each presentation posed questions about how authors represent the agency of young Latinx characters as they navigate difficult situations that might be considered age-inappropriate in mainstream children’s literature. The presentations were followed by a vibrant discussion that considered the role of the supernatural, authority figures, and the convention of happy endings. I left the panel with a list of new writers whose work I’ve been enjoying since the conference.

Are there other aspects of the conference that might be of interest to graduate students?

In addition to literary criticism panels, the MLA includes presentations about pedagogy, professionalization, and public humanities issues. MLA Connected Academics also hosts a variety of events at MLA including a career fair.

Finally, any advice for first-time MLA attendees?

Look out for the CFP from the Graduate Student Caucus. Their panels can be a welcoming forum to present at the MLA for the first time.

Graduate Student Conference: Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature

The Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature invites you to its 2016 graduate student conference:

URBAN (DE)COLONIALITY AND LITERATURE

March 3, 2016

With a Keynote Address by JOSÉ DAVID SALDÍVAR (Stanford University): “Negative Aesthetics and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.”

The Conference will feature graduate student presentations on the following panels:

– Remapping the Urban and Reclaiming Lives.
– Genealogy and Decolonial Epistemology.
– The Anthropological of the Inter-Space.
– (De)Colonial (Ab)Use of the Theological and the Spiritual.

If you are planning to attend, please formally RSVP here.

CFP: Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature: Due Dec 1

The Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature is pleased to announce its 2016 graduate student conference:

URBAN (DE)COLONIALITY AND LITERATURE

Keynote Speaker: JOSÉ DAVID SALDÍVAR, Stanford University.

March 3, 2016

The biennial graduate student conference at the Rutgers University Program in Comparative Literature seeks to relate the theoretical production of decolonial thought with other critical discourses in the global academy. The conference invites participants to think about (de)coloniality beyond the geographical limit of the Americas, the temporal constraint of modernity, and the monolingualism of hegemonic languages and dominant disciplinary frameworks. The conference aims to address the following questions, among others: What knowledges do Ethnic Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Area Studies outside of Latin American and Caribbean Studies bring to Decolonial Studies? How does literature, especially fiction, and visual arts become a resource for decoloniality? How does (de)coloniality question the meaning and method of comparativity? In which ways does decolonial thought illuminate global configurations of urban life and culture?

Graduate students interested in presenting their research at Urban (De)Coloniality and Literature are asked to submit an abstract of 300 words or less addressing the conference theme.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Modernity/Coloniality/Decoloniality.
  • Dialogues across African, Latin American, Caribbean, Asian, and Indigenous Studies.
  • Global Urbanism, the Coloniality of the City, and De-Westernization.
  • Gentrification, Racial Segregation, and the Prison-Industrial Complex.
  • Feminist and Queer approaches to (De)Coloniality.
  • Genres of the Human in Theory and Literature.
  • Religion and Empire in the Modern/Colonial World.
  • (De)Coloniality and World Literature, Cinema and other Media.
  • Bridging Comparative Literature, Comparative Philosophy, and Comparative Political Theory.

The deadline for paper proposals is 11:59 PM on December 1st, 2015. Please e-mail all proposals to Conference Co-Chair Rafael Vizcaino (Rafael.Vizcaino@rutgers.edu), with “Submission: CL Graduate Conference 2016” as the subject of the e-mail. All submissions should include the title of the paper, the abstract, and the name, affiliation, and contact information of the author.

**TRAVEL GRANTS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR SELECTED STUDENTS*

Please visit the conference website: https://rucomplitgrad.wordpress.com/

Symposium: Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean Migration Crisis

By: Gabriele Lazzari

On Friday, October 16, Rutgers University hosted a one-day symposium focused on the current migration crisis in the Mediterranean. Sponsored by several departments and programs in the School of Arts and Sciences, the symposium brought together scholars, activists, journalists, and visual artists from several institutions and locales in order to address an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, in which millions of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, are fleeing from political oppression, civil war, and economic depression. In trying to understand the complexity of this crisis, despite the reduction of media representation, the speakers engaged with political, historical and epistemological implications, which expose, with tragic clarity, unresolved questions related to colonialism, neoimperialism and European identity.

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Cristina Lombardi-Diop discusses the crisis from the perspective of “Italy’s southern front”

The first session, titled “Histories, Causes, and Contexts of the Current Crisis,” addressed the genealogy of the crisis and its current implications. Cristina Lombardi-Diop (Loyola University) focused on the notion of the border and on its shift from a mere geographical category to a locus of epistemological and spiritual negotiations in the experience of African migrants. Ousseina Alidou (Rutgers University) stressed the importance of global and local networks of solidarity to oppose the structural violence to which African youth is continuously subjected. Amadou Kane-Sy (artist and activist) discussed how, through his art, he tries to rearticulates geopolitics of knowledge, and to denounce neoliberal policies in countries such as Senegal and Congo. Kassahun Checole (publisher of African World Press Inc.) placed his own migrating experience within the broader history of Eritrea, a country that, despite its relative smallness, thousands of people leave every day to escape from a brutal military regime.

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R. Daniel Kelemen explains the current policies of the European Union

The second session, titled “Contemporary Trajectories,” was introduced by Rhiannon Noel Welch (Rutgers, Italian Department), the main organizer of the symposium. The first speaker was Cristina Giordano (UC Davis), who explained how ethno-psychiatry can help us illuminate the incompatibility between the temporality of trauma experienced by migrants and the temporality of the state and of biomedical categories. Harouna Muonkaila (Abdou Mounouni University, Republic of Niger) focused on the trans-Saharan routes, stressing how the externalization of European migration policies in central Africa is reinforcing inequalities, exploitation, and illegal smuggling of migrants. Jean-Baptiste Sorou (Gregorian University of Rome and University of Tanzania) retraced the history of decolonization in the African continent and maintained that only education and cultural projects (in which he himself is involved) can guarantee a future for Africans in Africa. R. Daniel Kelemen (Rutgers University) discussed how the European Union is (mis)managing the crisis and explained how the current policies the EU is trying to enforce are a response to a structurally unsustainable situation. Ayten Gündoğu (Columbia University), drawing on Hanna Arendt’s notion of “stateliness,” proposed that the current crisis, by exposing the borders of humanity, has shattered the façade of the European project and has revealed its true politics of “expulsion from humanity.”

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The artist Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen presents his project “End of Dreams”

An art exhibition and a discussion with two visual artists concluded the symposium. The participants had the opportunity to see the works of Amadou Kane-Sy and Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen, whose art addresses the affective consequences of migration through photography, video production and installations.

Grad Student Summer: Tepoztlán Institute

By: Enmanuel Martínez

This past summer, I traveled to Mexico in order to participate in the 2015 conference meeting of the Tepoztlán Institute for Transnational History of the Americas. The small but celebrated town of Tepoztlán, Mexico (accessible via a two hour car or bus ride south of Mexico City) has historically served as the site for the annual, interdisciplinary conference. I first attended the Tepoztlán Institute in the summer of 2014 as a graduate assistant to that year’s conference co-directors, which included Rutgers University Professors Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel and Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui, both core faculty members in the Program in Comparative Literature. The conference theme for the 2014 meeting was “Capitalism from Below.” A week-long conference, the 2015 meeting of the Tepoztlán Institute ran from Wednesday, July 22 to Wednesday, July 29. This year, the conference theme was “Migration and Diaspora.” Over 75 persons attended this year’s conference meeting. The participants represented an even mixture of advanced graduate students and college and university professors (plus some family members) from Canada, the United States, and various countries in Latin American and the Hispanic Caribbean.

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Founded in 2003 by Dartmouth College History Professor Pamela Voekel and Lewis & Clark History Professor Elliott Young, for twelve years the Tepoztlán Institute has, to cite the Institute’s official website, worked to “facilitate an intensive dialogue between North American and Latin American graduate students and junior and senior faculty members.” At each year’s conference, participants come together for “real exchange among US and Latin American scholars—typically a very fraught relationship for obvious reasons; and second, to dispense with the professional politicking that reduces so many conferences to livestock shows.” In short, the Tepoztlán Institute represents a unique, annual, transnational, non-hierarchical and interdisciplinary academic union—one such that actively confronts the ideological and geopolitical dichotomies that often pit the spaces of the Global North against the Global South and that separate theory from practice and research from activism. As a participant of the 2014 and 2015 meetings of the Tepoztlán Institute, I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many phenomenal and generous graduate students and faculty members that I would never have met within the national context of the United States or the disciplinary field of Comparative Literature.

Unlike most academic conferences, the Tepoztlán Institute differs in that everyone arrives to the annual meeting having already read the papers of the conference participants, as well as a shared set of theoretical readings that speak to that year’s particular conference theme. The theoretical readings and papers are distributed ahead of time electronically to all conference participants. All the more, paper presenters are encouraged to utilize the theoretical readings in the work they submit to present at the Institute itself.

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Conference mornings are dedicated to group discussions of the assigned theoretical readings. The theoretical readings connect the conference participants across their disparate academic and disciplinary fields, for these readings serve as the shared intellectual base upon which the conference participants go on to discuss and debate the conference theme and their research. Given this year’s theme of “Migration and Diaspora,” the list of theoretical readings include the work of such scholars as: Edward Said, James Clifford, Julio Ramos, Stuart Hall, Brent Edwards, Juan Flores, Elana Zillber, Inés D’Ors, Pekka Hamalainen and Samuel Truett, Paul Gilroy, Saidiya Hartman, Manuel Delgado, and Shona Jackson. Conference afternoons, on the other hand, are dedicated to paper presentations panels. Since conference participants arrive to the Tepoztlán Institute having already read the work of the other paper presenters, presenters are able to utilize their time to do so much more than simply read their work out loud to a potentially cold audience. Instead, the panels take the form of two-hour workshops where the designated presenters are able to receive generous and substantive feedback and criticism from other conference participants.

My panel was scheduled for Thursday, July 23 (the first full day of the conference), and I was fortunate enough to present alongside a good friend of mine, Joan Flores, a current Ph.D. candidate in the NYU History Department. Our panel was titled “Archive Matters / Cuestiones de archivo.” Joan presented a working paper titled “‘Freak Letters’: Finding Diaspora in the Imperial Archive,” while I presented a paper titled “Basement Refrigerators, Cassette Tape ‘Letters’: Reading the Domestic Caribbean Archive in Simone Schwarz-Bart’s Ton beau capitaine (1987) and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008),” My paper represented a draft of the first half of my first chapter of the dissertation project. University of Massachusetts History Professor Sarah Cornell served as our panel moderator, while Georgetown University Professor of English Ricardo Ortiz, Augustan College Professor of Spanish Araceli Masterson and University of Pennsylvania Professor of English David Kazanjian served as the three respondents. After Ortiz, Materson and Kazanjian delivered their respective comments, the conversation transitioned to a dynamic intellectual exchange between me, Joan and the other twenty-plus attendees.

Without the fear of judgment or ridicule (something that seems almost impossible to avoid at other national literature conferences), I was able to use my time at the 2015 meeting of the Tepoztlán Institute to openly discuss my concerns regarding the scope and direction of my first dissertation chapter. With my panel respondents and attendees’ feedback in mind, I am now working on completing the second half of the first chapter of my dissertation, which represents an analysis of scenes of domestic archiving in contemporary Caribbean literature through the lens of contemporary archive theory. I am now looking forward to showcasing my research at my Program in Comparative Literature graduate student colloquium presentation, which is scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, November 3, 2015. Until then!