The Woods

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

“That was beautiful.” said Gabriel. “Did you write that?”

“No I didn’t. But you should know who did”, I said.

“Yes, yes, of course I know” said Gabriel.

“You just asked me if I wrote that.” I said, “It was Henry David Thoreau, by the way. Do you know him? One of the first anarchists in the USA? He refused to pay his taxes and went to jail because he was against the policies of the government at the time”

Gabriel stares at me with a little bit of anxiety for a while and then he said, “Speaking of taxes have you heard that…”

“Really?”, I said, “Are you going to move on just like that? Dude, you have got to learn you can’t be right all the time. Is it too hard to say for instance; ‘I voted for Bush. It was a lousy mistake but I learned the lesson and I certainly won’t do it again.’”

“Shut the fuck up! You know this is not true” he said.

“And what about that time in Reno when you…” I said but he just covered his ears and started to shout.

“You see?” I said. “That’s what I mean. That’s just a silly example, but the truth is that you can’t create the future in a mountain of denial. We all make mistakes. We all need someone else’s hand once in a while. You didn’t know that quote, who cares? I won’t think any less of you, my friend”

“Yes, I mean, I know… but it’s not like that. I thought you knew me better” said Gabriel grumpily.

“Do you even know you?” I asked him “The answer of that question is so big that it doesn’t matter if you know it yet. I’m still trying to figure it out in my own life. And it doesn’t matter anyways, you are not even real”

“What the hell are you talking about? He asked me.

“Frankly, you are just the product of my imagination. I missed so much the real Gabe that I have created you in my head and now I’m just having an imaginary conversation with you.” I said. “I do miss having these stupid arguments with you”

“Dude, that’s lame, you need to hook up pronto”

“¡Cállate! ... yeah, I know”

La enamoradiza doña Dulcinoa de Alaró

CAPÍTULO CCCLV


QUE TRATA DEL ENCUENTRO DE LA FERMOSA DULCINOA CON SU PROFESOR DE LITERATURA ANDANTE Y DE CÓMO NO FUE CAPAZ DE DIRIGIRLE LA PALABRA, CON OTRAS COSAS DIGNAS QUE SE CUENTAN EN ESTA GRAN HISTORIA.

Aconteció está historia un día de febrero en cierto lugar del campus universitario cuyo ubicación geográfica no recuerdo bien si se escribía Valldemosa o Valldemossa. No ha mucho tiempo vivía una joven estudiante de las que lleva el Pedraza en mano, claustro las mañanas, Cortázar por las más noches, va a la Riera algunas tardes y sale por el Marítimo los fines de semana. Quieren decir que tenía el sobrenombre de Inoa o Ainhoa, que en esto hay alguna diferencia en los autores que deste caso escriben. Pero eso no importa a nuestro cuento mientras no se salga un ápice de la veracidad.

Hay que saber que los ratos que estaba ociosa – que eran los más del año – se daba a estudiar filología con tanta afición y gusto, que olvidó de casi todas sus faenas cotidianas. Y de tanto estudiar, de tanto leer a Quevedo y a Góngora y de tan poco respirar aire puro que no fuese el del claustro, que se le secó el cerebro a la pobre moza. En efecto, rematado ya su juicio, vino a dar con el más extraño pensamiento que jamás dio una dama en el mundo, y que fue que le pareció convenible y necesario, así para el aumento de su dicha y su servicio a la República, enamorarse del profesor de literatura del Siglo de Oro  con el que no había tenido clases desde 1998. Y con tan agradables pensamientos, comenzó a escribirle cartas y a componer poemas, a meditar en él todos los días. Vino a llamarse Doña Dulcinoa, nombre a su parecer digno de ser reconocido por su amado profesor. Soñaba con el día en el que su Profesor de Literatura Andante la tomara de los brazos enérgicamente, le susurrase cosas sublimes a oído y le dijese:

– Mi soberana y alta señora, dueña de mi corazón, hoy es menester que vengas conmigo al seminario de don Quijote y por la noche a la presentación del libro de Paco y Almudena.

En fantasear con su amor se enfrascó la famosa Dulcinoa, y llenósele de fantasía todo lo que escuchaba de su profesor, mas no osaba dirigirle la palabra.

Uno de estos encuentros ocurrió en la cafetería del Ramón Llull al mediodía. Comía Dulcinoa su croissant de jamón york y queso junto a otras fermosas zagalas; Yolanda Martorell Nicolau y su compi Patribel Simo Borrego. Fue en ese momento en que nuestra moza se levanta a por otro croissant de jamón y queso cuando se da cuenta que su afamado Profesor Andante se encontraba al lado de las maquinas de café. Estaba junto a su famoso escudero, P. Cuadrado. Ahí se los podía ver al alto y delgado Profesor Andante y su regordete escudero enderezando tuertos, emendando sinrazones y ayudando a cada menesteroso con su bolígrafo y sus clases que parecían que nunca acababan. Ella se detuvo y vio a su osado caballero y pronunció en voz alta como si verdaderamente fuera enamorada:

– ¡Oh señor de este cautivo corazón! Oh, dichosa era y siglo en la que saldrán a luz las famosas hazañas suyas, dignas de entallarse en bronces. 

Yolanda y Patribel la miraban descojonadas sin entender que le pasaba a su amiga. Dulcinoa se tapaba la boca, esperando que él no la hubiese escuchado.

¡Ta, ta! – dijo Yolanda – no me digas que él es tu profesor andante.

Por supuesto – dijo nuestra moza – este es el señor de mi corazón y pensamientos al que le debo mi honor y lealtad.

Bien lo conozco – dijo Patribel –, y sé decir que es el profesor más quijotesco que hemos visto pasar por el Ramón. Dicen que es capaz de hablar del Amadís por más de cinco horas sin detenerse a respirar. Sé muy bien decir que un día mató a unos desafortunados alumnos de aburrimiento cuando les leyó La Madonna Fiometa y Cárcel de Amor con comentarios y notas de página. Sé muy bien porque es historia real, que denantes que habló de don Quijote, vino con adarga antigua y rocín flaco a ayudar a los menesterosos alumnos que no se habían leído ni el prólogo.

– Eso da igual – replicó Dulcinoa – por lo que yo quiero a mi Caballero andante, vale más que el más alto príncipe en la tierra. Pero no puedo hablarle. Me da mucha vergüenza, mas le he escrito un poema, ¿queréis que os lo recite? 

Las dos mozas dieron a entender que tenían mucho interés en conocer el poema. Dulcinoa sacó su portátil, se metió a su blog, y comenzó a decir en voz alta:

¿Pues sabes qué te digo?

Que me da igual tu pretendida
Indiferencia.

Que me gustan tus zapatos y
Tu cortado de las doce y cuarto.

Tu bufanda a cuadros rojos y
El tono grave de tu voz.

Tus huellas en los pasillos y
El punto de chulería que tienes al andar.

Que si quieres hago un máster en
Rinocentorología.

Que si quieres te recito a Wang Wei
En Hungría.

Que me aprendo los emblemas, todos,
Del Barroco español

Y

Te los escribo en un examen, así,
Sin más.

Que me matriculo a tu asignatura y
Aparezco un día en tu despacho


Te digo: “que sepa que estoy
Enamorada de usted”

(y no me ha hecho maldito caso.
No tiene corazón.)

– ¡Por la vida de mi madre! – dijo Yolanda en escuchando el poema –, que es la más alta cosa que jamás he oído! Vos, mi fermosa amiga, has de ir en este mismo instante a declarar las grandezas a aquel tan señalado Profesor Andante. 

Mas Dulcinoa no pudo hacer nada y se mantuvo en la mesa terminando su croissant de jamón y queso, imaginándose al que había dado el título de señor de sus pensamientos, mientras su caballero se marchaban en busca de algún otro tuerto. Mientras los veía marcharse, Dulcinoa no parecía afectada. Es más, le pareció peregrino y significativo seguir soñando con su Profesor de Literatura Andante. Y así mientras Patribel y Yolanda volvían a sus faenas puesto que habían llegado a la conclusión de que su pobre compañera se había quedado  sin sesos, nuestra enamoradiza Dulcinoa se quedó bajo el hechizo de aquel distinguido señor.

Last day of the semester (and last post for my North American culture class)

As this semester approaches its end, I think that I can assert with confidence that most of the expectations I had for my North-American culture class have been accomplished; The results have been quite satisfactory: I was hoping to expand my knowledge of the United States and I have, plus I have learnt many things about Canada and its people. Of course, this is not enough. This knowledge can be easily forgotten a week after the end of this semester
.
However, I am even more satisfied with the transversal contents that we have tackled throughout this course. This is the kind of knowledge that I strongly believe it is fundamental to acquire in our years in college. First, I have learnt a great deal about paradoxes in this class. Paradoxically, while I was learning about a different culture, I learnt a lot about my own culture. I learnt that nations create themselves through paradoxes. The United States and Canada are what they are, but at the same time they are not. This is fundamental in order to understand that a culture is something really complex which usually can only be defined with a set of ideas that usually contradicts with one another. At least, that is what I have read in most of the articles. Related to this, ambivalence is another word which has been said many times in this class. For instance, there is ambivalence towards the Aboriginal peoples or about role State/Church in the United States. I knew that reality is never simple, and this class has helped me to confirm this statement.

Secondly, another important transversal content we have been studying is Multiculturalism. This is also a really hot issue in Europe, and I think it is quite helpful to learn how nations have been addressing this problem on the other side of the Atlantic. It has given me perspective to understand better that, even though we proclaim tolerance and understanding, this is not how this world works.


Thirdly, Aboriginal conscience was another transversal element (although it has been covered very directly in class) that it has been a subject which I had little knowledge before I started this semester. I did not know very much about the historical gaps, for instance. Certainly the history of America usually starts in 1492 in many history books. I was born in that continent and now I realize how little importance the American nations have given to the rights of the Indigenous people. This, of course, was a very personal topic which I am quite pleased for having the opportunity to learn more about and to be aware of what can be done. There are also some other issues that I would have loved to tackle in this curse but I did not have enough time, such as a comparative analysis of North America and the United Kingdom.

Romanticism and Dead Poets Society

Peter Weir’s Dead Poets Society is a 1989 film which narrates the story of an English teacher, John Keating, who inspires his students to change their lives and challenge the status quo. Not only was a really powerful and entertaining film, but while I was watching it, I was struck by all the links I found between this movie and some the contents of this course (and North American Literature I). In the following lines, I will comment about the main themes found in this movie and its connections with Romanticism and Transcendentalism.

Reason vs. Sentiments

Romanticism was such a complex movement that it would be incorrect to simply define it as a reaction against the blinded faith in reason which existed in the Eighteen Century. Even so, the struggle between Reason and Sentiments was certainly one of the most important features of this movement. The Romantics validated strong emotions as a way to pursue the truth.

This struggle was one of the main themes on the movie. From the very first scenes, it is seen that the authority is going to impose to the boys what they consider to be best for them without consulting them what they think or feel. Neil Perry, Todd Anderson, Knox Overstreet , Charlie Dalton ,Richard Cameron, Steven Meeks and Gerard Pitts attend Welton Academy, a prestigious preparatory school in Vermont. The school is based on four principles: Tradition, Honor, Discipline and Excellence. This institution is run by a severe group of teachers who prepare an overwhelming and impressive curriculum for their pupils. They are known as one of the most prestigious academies in the country. A new semester begins and hundreds of parents leave their sons in Welton in hopes that its teachers will raise them as doctors and lawyers. In one scene, Neil Perry’s father calls his sons and dictates for him all the things that he will or will not do during the semester. Teachers and parents represent the idea that Reason is the only way to excellence and meaning in life. They know what’s best for the boys because they are grown-ups and are aware of what is out there in the real world, so they take the most logical decisions for their future. However, they fail, especially Neil’s father, to comprehend the boys’ feelings and emotions.

In contrast, the new English teacher, John Keating, will encourage the kids to think for their own and to challenge the status quo in their life. Keating is a Romantic. He teaches them the works of the romantic poets such as Thoreau and Lord Byron. He certainly knows the power of feelings and emotions. For instance, he commands the class to rip out the pages of an essay called “Understanding Poetry” which describes a scientific way to determine the quality of a poem. This is another way to criticize the use of Reason in a genre in which the sentiments are so significant.

The Poet

The Romantic idea of the poet as a “seer” is also present in the story. The students, who are very intrigued with Keating, learn that he was a member of the Dead Poets Society. When asked, Keating depicts the glorious moments of creating gods (another Romantic idea) but advises them to forget about it. Nevertheless, they repeatedly sneak off campus and form their own Dead Poets Society. During these meetings, each boy is able to develop his own romantic nature.

Love 

Knox Overstreet falls in love with a girl who is nearly engaged to the son of his parent’s friends. He pursues her insistently, driven by Romantic ideals, regardless the threats on his life by her boyfriend. He writes her poems and is moved by the Romantic ideals of love.

Walt Whitman 

The bard of America is mentioned in several parts of the film. In the first day of class Keating takes the students to a room in which there is a portrait of Walt Whitman on the top of a wall, and a picture of former Walton students below it. The movie finishes with the students saying to Keating the words that Whitman composed in honor to Lincoln; “Oh Captain, my Captain”.

Carpe Diem

“Seize the day”, Keating whispers these words on the very first day of class. He begins his teachings with an intense lecture on their imminent deaths, explaining to the students that their lives are brief so they should seize the day to make their lives count.



Death

Without death and suicide, Romanticism would not have been the movement that it was. Most Romantic artists died very young by different causes, including suicide. This is also one of the main themes in this movie. There are two kinds of death in this movie; a physical and a symbolical death. The first one is about Neil Perry. Neil realizes that his real passion in life is acting. He wants to be an actor, but s his strict father will disapprove it. Without his father's permission, he auditions for a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Eventually his father finds out, ordering Neil to withdraw from the play, but Neil goes against his wishes and performs anyways. Neil's father plans to pull him out of Welton and enroll him in Braden Military School to prepare him for Harvard University and a career in medicine. Neil is unable to cope with the future that awaits him and he is equally unable to make his father understand his emotions. Neil commits suicide with his father's revolver.

The symbolic death is about Keating downfall which is a consequence of Neil’s death. In an academy like Welton, such scandal could bring it down so they need a scapegoat. Neil's father blames Keating and his unorthodox way of teaching. The students are forced to make a confession blaming Keating for abusing his authority. Keating is fired.

It is quite remarkable that two of the main themes are present in the title of the movie. The last scene encapsulates most of the themes I have mentioned before. The boys return to Keating’s English class which is now being taught by Nolan, a severe teacher, who makes the boys read from the essay they ripped out at the start of the semester (Reason vs. Sentiments). Keating enters the room to take a few possessions and he hears the reading of this essay. As Keating is about to exit, Todd shouts "O Captain! My Captain!" (Walt Whitman) while he stands on his desk. At the end, all the members of the Dead Poets Society stand on their desks and look at Keating proudly. Keating leaves saying "Thank you, boys. Thank you." This last scene also reflects Keating’s symbolic death, for it is a chant about a dead man that the kids are reciting.