Friday, February 23, 2018

Check-in 4

I originally intended for my next post to be another slightly more professional or academic one, but unfortunately the post ideas that I had fell through. In the next month or so you should expect to be reading sections of, if not the entirety of essays that I am writing for my various classes, so I decided that I would use this post as an opportunity to share what classes I am taking this semester in order to prepare my audience for future posts. I am taking five classes this semester: an astronomy course, yet another mythology course, a queer readings course, a course on European modernity, and a course on golden-age Spanish drama. So far its been fun, but also very busy, since I also have two jobs and other extra-curricular commitments.

I hesitate to put anything too personal on the internet, but there was also a death in my family of someone I was quite close to as a child. Life is precious, and so I have been spending time in the company of those that I love, and doing my best to enjoy every moment I can with my friends and family while we are all together on this earth, because one never really knows what day will be their last.

Best wishes to you all,

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Translation of Neruda's Sonnet 88 (LXXXVIII) from 100 Love Sonnets (Cien sonetos de amor)

The following is a translation I did of Neruda's Sonnet 88 (LXXXVIII) from his Cien sonetos de amor (100 Love Sonnets). I've pasted the original below my translation. Please let me know what you think, especially if you are a fellow Spanish speaker/translator!

LXXXVIII (English, My Translation)
The month of March returns with hidden light
and boundless fish slide through the heavens
blurred earthly vapors stealthily progress,
one by one all things fall into silence.

In this crisis of erring atmosphere, through luck,
you collected the lives of the sea with those of the fire;
gray movement of the vessel of wintertime,
the figure that love brought to the guitar.

Oh love, rose soaking from sirens and foa
the fire dances and ascends unseen stairs
and wakes the blood in insomniatic tunnels

so that waves may consume themselves in the heavens,
the sea forget its riches and its lions,
and the world plummet into dark deceit.

LXXXVIII (Spanish, Original) 
El mes de Marzo vuelve con su luz escondida
y se deslizan peces inmensos por el cielo,
vago vapor terrestre progresa sigiloso,
una por una caen al silencio las cosas.

Por suerte en esta crisis de atmósfera errabunda
reuniste las vidas del mar con las del fuego,
el movimiento gris de la nave de invierno,
la forma que el amor imprimió a la guitarra.

Oh amor, rosa mojada por sirenas y espumas,
fuego que baila y sube la invisible escalera
y despierta en el túnel del insomnio a la sangre

para que se consuman las olas en el cielo,
olvide el mar sus bienes y leones
y caiga el mundo adentro de las redes oscuras 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Desire and Its Cost

The following is from an essay I wrote in Spring of my sophomore year for my Introduction to Global Literature course. I was going through my files on my computer and re-read the essay in a fit of nostalgia. Having decided that it was a shame to let it languish in my cloud, I elected to post it here. I have very little knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita beyond what we read in class, and I have yet to read the entirety of the Mahabharata, so if anyone with more knowledge wants to weigh in on what is in this paper PLEASE do so. I don't want to impose on anyone else's culture, so reach out and let me know what you think! I will edit this post as-needed. :)

Desire and Its Cost
Talia Franks
COML 100A: Introduction to Global Literature
March 31 2016

Can one attain their desires without succumbing to negative emotion?    
To begin, what is desire? More than needing to use the bathroom after a long car ride, or wanting a cold drink after working in the hot sun all day, the desire we speak of now is of the deeper sort. A longing for something. For wealth, for power, for fame, for glory, for companionship. And the question is whether or not once one gets that, is it enough? Beyond desire’s definition, what are the consequences of desire once it is fulfilled or unfulfilled, especially to those that surround us? To look at it from a critical perspective, let us examine desire from the perspective of texts from two different cultures: The Bhagavad Gita from India, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales from Germany, specifically the tales The Fisherman and His Wife and Rumpelstiltskin.
 The Bhagavad Gita warns that desire is a perilous emotion that will lead to destruction, and urges us to cast desire off. In the Gita Arjuna is warned of the dangers of attachment to senses:
(62) Let a man [but] think of the objects of sense―attachment to them is born: from attachment springs desire, from desire is anger born. (63) From anger comes bewilderment, from bewilderment wandering of the mind from wandering of the mind destruction of the soul: once the soul is lost the man is lost.[1]
This attachment is presented as creating the desires that are so dangerous for us and that ultimately cause us to lose ourselves.
The link of attachment to desire is notable; however, the further connection from desire to anger is far more interesting. This link exists because desire causes stress regardless of whether that desire is fulfilled. A person who has achieved their desire yearns for more, acquiring the sin of greed until they can no longer have what they desire; while a person who has missed their desire devolves into anger at their lack. We can examine whether or not this is true through the lens of two other texts we investigated in class, the fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, The Fisherman and His Wife and Rumpelstiltskin.
In The Fisherman and His Wife a poor fisherman and his wife Isabel live in a hovel, where she stays during the day while he goes to catch fish. The fisherman is content with this life, but Isabel is not, and has desires beyond it. Therefore, when the fisherman catches a fish that claims to be an enchanted prince and lets it go free, Isabel has a different reaction and, emboldened by her desire, demands that the fisherman go back and ask the fish-prince to give them a cottage that is nicer than the hut where they live. Her desire has given her motivation and cunning beyond what the fisherman has because her desire enables her to think creatively. In this the brothers are teaching a lesson of how desire can help people achieve their dreams, while contentment stagnates. However, they counterbalance that message by having the wife overreach herself. Isabel grows more and more greedy, becoming first a Queen, then Pope, and finally she wants to control the sun, at which point she is reduced to once more living in a hovel.[2]
The story of the fisherman's wife indirectly parallels the teachings of the Gita, but diverges from them in ways that point towards a more nuanced understanding of desire. Isabel has forgotten where she started in life due to her greed, as her desire for more power has clouded her judgment. This is in alignment with the Gita; however, Isabel nevertheless does achieve her dreams to a certain extent before she goes to an extreme beyond the realm of possibility. The fisherman, by contrast, is almost entirely free of desire, and of both its constructive and destructive consequences. On the one hand, he is portrayed as being at peace with himself and with the state of his life, exactly as the Gita teaches one will become if one withdraws from desire. On the other hand, he is an almost entirely passive character with no goals or potential for growth. His lack of desire for a changed life would have seen them live in the hovel for their lives, never taking the opportunity of the wish. Additionally, the one desire he does have in the story, to stop his wife from asking the fish-prince for more power[3], he never acts on and so she is never stopped and they return to living in the hovel.
From this we can see that the fault of the return to the hovel cannot be placed solely on the wife. Although she had the initial desire, the action could never have been carried out if the fisherman had acted on his own desire to stop her. Therefore, we can argue that ignoring desire entirely can be just as dangerous as acting on it recklessly.
If the fisherman had acted on that desire to stop her, and helped Isabel to learn to control her own desires, their desires could have counterbalanced one another. So although the Gita claims that all desire leads to anger and eventually loss of self, one can argue that desires do not have to lead to this unfortunate fate as long as they are balanced by a sense of realism and the ability to know when to act on them and when to listen to the advice of others.
The majority of the issue with the fisherman and his wife was the lack of a personal connection between them. Isabel had her attachment to the material that caused her desire, and the fisherman was unable to stop her because they lacked attachment to one another. To argue against the Gita, Isabel and the fisherman’s detachment from each other and lack of active engagement in each other’s and their own lives was what caused their lack of mutual desire and control of desire, and with an attachment, their desires could have led to a more satisfactory outcome.
To examine another work concerning desire, we turn to Rumpelstiltskin. In this tale, Rumpelstiltskin’s interaction with desire, namely his desire for the Queen's child, parallels what we have observed in the Gita. His desire for the child, and his anger at not receiving the child, led to such anger that he harmed himself.[4] His greed, in assuming that the child would be his, also leads to foolishness, another symptom of the cycle described in the Gita.
The Miller’s daughter/Queen’s interaction with desire tells a different story, however.  In the beginning, it shows selfish desire causing harm to another; her desire to save her own life causes her to sacrifice the potential life of her first born child. However, once the child is born she has a change of heart and her desire to save her child from an unknown fate with Rumpelstiltskin supersedes her past selfish desire. The tale thus shows us how desire can be born out of concern for the well-being of others, not just out of selfishness.
This desire strengthens resolve and provides great motivation when she needs to discover Rumpelstiltskin’s name.[5] The Queen’s desire to keep her child was ultimately what kept her child safe from Rumpelstiltskin, and after he left, she was left in peace, as far as the reader knows.
So while these tales do tell us that just as the Gita warns, no good seems to come from untempered desire and harm is definitely done to those who desire and those who surround those who submit to their desires, there is also a deeper message that desire is a motivator and an inspiration for achieving a higher life status, when approached with a sense of moderation.
This moderation is a key point that the Gita fails to address. The tales, on the other hand, offer a more detailed exploration of what forms of desire are healthy or unhealthy. The Brothers Grimm are not advocating for a total lack of desire, as does the Gita, but for this continued theme of moderation. When the fisherman and his wife first upgrade to a cottage with a large garden, they have the following interaction:
“See!” said the wife, “is this not charming?”
“Yes,” said her husband,” so long as it blooms you will be well content with it.”[6]
These lines caution that as long as we are content with what we have, we will need nothing else. It is a consideration not as strong in the Gita, but still one that overlaps. In the Gita there is a strong focus on the soul and maintaining the connection to oneself, while The Brothers Grimm allow for a focus on the material in a broader sense. The fairy tales caution against desire by showing a loss of the material when desire is allowed in excess, while the Gita appeals to our desire for a complete and peaceful soul. While the Gita teaches us to renounce our desires in order to achieve a complete and peaceful soul, the fairy tales teach us that desire can be integrated into an emotionally fulfilling life, as long as it is not allowed to go out of control.
 The Fisherman and His Wife is definitely an example of an unhealthy relationship with desire, while Rumpelstiltskin says beautiful things about the way that desire can be harnessed when born out of love, which is what is lacking in the relationship shown in the first tale. What we can glean from that is that desire is a thing of value, but only when people and their love is the cause.


Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. 2003. "Rumpelstiltskin." In Grimm's Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Anonymous, 241-243. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
Grimm, Jacob, and Wilhelm Grimm. 2003. "The Fisherman and His Wife." In Grimm's Fairy Tales, by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Anonymous, 105-109. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
Zaehner, R. C., trans. 1969. The Bhagavad Gita. Glasgow: Oxford University Press.

[1]Zaehner 52
[2] Grimm and Grimm, The Fisherman and His Wife, 106-109
[3] Ibid, 107
[4] Grimm and Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin, 243
[5] Ibid.
[6]Grimm and Grimm, The Fisherman and His Wife, 106

Sunday, January 14, 2018

18 Resolutions for 2018

So it's been a while. Last semester… last semester was tough for me. And while the holidays were a nice break, things were stressful in their own way. As it stands, I am wading in to the depths of my last semester as an undergraduate, and that is both terrifying and exciting. This semester I am taking five classes, volunteering, and I still have those two jobs, so I'm living a pretty busy life these days. A busy life, but (I hope) a happy one. As it stands, we're already a whole two weeks into the new year, but I have yet to share my resolutions. Now I know that 'New Year, New Me' rarely works, and I get that. Even so, I'm pasted below the changes big and small that I want to make to my life:

18 Resolutions for 2018 (in no particular order)

1. Start running again
2. Read at least one non-academic book a month
3. Read at least 18 non-academic books total
4. Exercise 4-6 days per week
5. Focus on learning more than grades
6. Complete all assignments on time
7. Set aside time to write every week
8. Eat a balanced diet
9. Buy ugly fruits and veggies
10. Follow a regular sleep schedule
11. Spend more time with friends and family
12. Save up money for a new computer
13. Take shorter showers
14. Improve time management
15. Write a minimum one blog post per month
16. Donate one third of my personal library
17. Reach out to those I disagree with
18. Do what I can to bring happiness to the world


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Check-in 3

Being a senior is far more exhausting than I had expected. The closer I get to graduation the more I want to take a quick jaunt in time to my freshman year anxiety and be like "do you even lift?"

Now, freshman year was a tough time, and is a tough time for everyone, but honestly my freshman year was a walk in the park when it comes down to how much work there is to do for me right now. Don't get me wrong, I love what I'm doing and what my life is like right now and I have a strict policy about time travel anyway, but I also sometimes miss the days where I had time to actually read a book that wasn't for work or class.

Speaking of class, I turned in my annotated bibliography and about 4 pages of analysis on specific portions of my research. The bibliography took much more time than it should have. I was struggling for a while to find sources, because I simply haven't done a large research paper since last fall. That isn’t to say I forgot how - trust me when it comes to working a database or pulling from the stacks I've still got it - I just needed a little adjustment to get back into the searching and skimming mindset. I also am 110% grateful that I have a carrel this semester because dealing with all of my library books otherwise would be a nightmare. Between my Sor Juana research, my poetry course having 8 textbooks, my pragmatics research and the fact that my Greek book is bigger and more complicated than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix I would have snapped my back in half by now.

I'm still debating what I want to do for my research project for my pragmatics course, but I think I have settled on something to do with the differences in the use of 'se' in Spanish, the 'se' impersonal and 'se' passive in particular. I'll be using Harry Potter: La Colección Completa as a source of corpus data, which should work well enough for a class project. Plus this means I get to read Harry Potter (and by read I mean Ctrl+f the word 'se' and ignore reflexives) for homework!

I do like my regular readings too though, we just finished up Petrarch, who was a nice read after Ovid and Catullus, who were a bit too raunchy with their love poetry for my taste. Still didn't quite enjoy him as much as Sappho, but that's neither here nor there. Every poet has their own style, and reading things in translation also confuses things.

I'm going to cut this post off here because have a test tomorrow that is worth 10% of my grade, so I've been studying hard for that, even though I do feel slightly unprepared given everything else I've had to do this week. My stress levels have been pretty high lately, so I think I'm going to make myself a nice cuppa and review my flashcards before getting a good night's rest.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Check-in 2

This semester is doing its best to crush me, but I won't let it. I was ill last week, leading up to the weekend, and it caused me to get slightly behind on my work. That said, I was a little bit ahead before this, so I suppose things have just evened out. I still need to get caught up in Pragmatics and Love Poetry – those were the two classes I missed last week – and so right now I'm working through our second homework assignment for Pragmatics, which includes some interesting wordplay involving unicorns, and recreating a Sappho poem for my Love Poetry course.

Our assignment for Love Poetry is to take what fragments are left from a Sappho poem of our choosing from the Anne Carson translation I mentioned before, and 'fill in the blanks' as it were, recreating the poem as if it were written in Sappho's time. Currently I am struggling with this as I fight the urge to modernize the poem and as I try to find a voice not my own.

Speaking of poetry, I have recently undertaken a new project. I know, I know, I don't exactly need more things to keep me busy, but I have to have fun sometimes right? This side project can definitely be considered fun. When I was at Bread Loaf early in the summer I had the privilege of attending many panels and talks, as well as individual/small group meetings with various editors and agents. One of the people that I ended up talking to was Chad Post, who was there as a publisher/editor for Open Letter at the University of Rochester. In addition to publishing, Open Letter runs a weblog and international review source called Three Percent. After leaving Bread Loaf, I decided that I would sign up to write occasional reviews for Three Percent, and I received my first book today (October 4th) and so far I love it. It's a book of poetry, but I shan't say more than that here. Once I finish writing the review and it goes through editing I will be sure to post a link to it on this blog.

On the topic of editing, my work in the Student-Scholar Partnership is going well, and I continue to be very happy with this project. To have a paying job, part-time or no, that is in my desired field is an absolute dream for someone my age, and I'm very thankful for the opportunity.

Literary Translation is my dream, as readers of this blog may know, and as readers will also know, my thesis is centered around Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and translations of her poems. At present I have scaled back the active translations as I am focusing a bit more on the content of my secondary source material for the critical introduction, although I of course work on bits and pieces when I have those rare spots of free time. I have an annotated bibliography of sources for my research seminar due next Monday, so I have also been working continuously on that.

Another research project that I am working on this semester is for my Pragmatics course. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to investigate yet; but our initial proposal (topic & research question, methodology idea, list of proposed papers) is due on the eleventh, so I'll have to come up with something soon.

Although I enjoy all of my courses and projects, I am developing a soft spot for my course on Ancient Greek. Learning this new (to me) language is a bit like solving a puzzle and slowly unwrapping a gift, and seeing all the pieces come together and getting a closer look at the prize is very enjoyable to me. When I am stressed out over bibliographies and papers and poems, untangling a sentence is oddly therapeutic.

Getting out all my thoughts on paper (or on screen I suppose) has a similar affect, so in a way I feel indebted to this blog for helping me process my strengths and weaknesses this semester. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my mind.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Check-in 1

Hi All! I had a really busy weekend and completely forgot to upload this! I've put reminders in my agenda though, so hopefully I'll have something posted on time for the next update (which is currently tentatively scheduled for Sunday October 1st).

This semester I am working on many projects, and trying not to get overwhelmed. In terms of classes, I am taking four this semester, in addition to writing my thesis. One of those is a research seminar, which thankfully has some overlap with my thesis, although they are not exactly the same, since the class is taught in Spanish, and my thesis is being written in English.

I am taking a course on love poetry, which I quite like. We just wrapped up reading some Catullus, and are now continuing on with Ovid. Our first poet was Sappho, whose work I thoroughly enjoyed, although I lament the fact that there is so little left for us. For anyone who wants to read her work (which honestly should be everyone) I recommend the Anne Carson translation If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, which is the one we use in class.

Speaking of Sappho, I'm enrolled in an introductory course of Ancient Greek, which I am enjoying immensely. Declensions aren't as scary as I thought they would be, and finding my way to meaning in this ancient language is like solving the best kind of puzzle. There are a LOT of sentences about Homer's brother, but I can deal. My professor is awesome, and is the same one I had for my Classical Mythology course last semester.

The final class I'm taking this semester is Pragmatics, and it is yet another repeat Professor as I had her for Semantics last semester. This course is much easier than the last, since there is as of yet no set theory, and it plays more with actual language, which is something I missed in Semantics, as we worked more with logical data in that course. I missed in Semantics, as we worked with more logical than raw linguistic data. Both are important to the domain of linguistics studies, and I am glad to have taken Semantics for enriching my general linguistics knowledge, but so far pragmatics has been much more my speed.

Outside of actual class hours I am of course keeping up with my homework assignments, but also working on my thesis, which is official now, and will be concentrated on translations of selected poems of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, accompanied by a critical introduction. Working on those translations is a joy, but hard work. Many of her poems are quite long, and the one that I am currently focusing on is 152 lines and they are tough ones.

I have recently started working with one of the scholars at the Women's Studies Resource Center at Brandeis, Mary Berg, on her translations, which I greatly enjoy. Right now she is working on a bilingual edition of short stories by the Cuban writer Laidi Fernández de Juan. It's an exciting project, and one I am glad to be a part of.

So that's it for now! I just wanted to give you a small taste for the content of the blog this semester, and I will update again soon!