Students reflect on and articulate their intersectional social identities and the ways in which these do (or do not) inform their research interests.
If you want students to...:
- Explore identity and purpose through narrative
Write about how your research topic and your identity intersect.
Student Work Examples:
Angela Acosta 10/29/15
It has always been difficult to describe my identity in a single sentence or a few adjectives. I grew up in Florida, but I don’t consider myself a southerner. I am of European and Mexican descent, but my first language is English. I’ve always wanted to learn Spanish and I finally got the opportunity to immerse myself in Spanish culture in eighth grade. I started focusing more on literature once my language skills were high enough to read longer works.
My pronunciation of Spanish gets its influence from Spain and I have an affinity for using vosotros instead of ustedes because I’m used to saying “you guys” and “you all” in Florida. Even though my ancestors came from Spain and Mexico, I’ve never felt connected to either of those countries beyond an abstract idea of what it means to be Spanish or Mexican. At Smith, I am part of Nosotr@s, an organization for Latin@ students and allies. I’m constantly learning more about my culture in a space that leaves stereotypes and discouragement at the door.
When I thought about designing a Mellon Mays project, I knew that Spanish literature would be my specialization. However, would it be from Latin America, the Caribbean, Spain, the U.S., or somewhere else entirely? I reviewed lists of writers, but to no avail. Instead, I picked the writer of a poem that resonated with me – Vicente Aleixandre’s “Para quien escribo” (“For whom I write”). I had no idea where he was from or when he wrote, but there was something in his verse that reminded me of my own poetry and interests as a reader.
Fast forward to when I was looking through books about Vicente Aleixandre in the library. Sometimes I question myself: – why am I translating the work of a white Spanish man who wrote during the 20th century? Even though Western culture and history is so prolific, the Spanish Civil War and Francisco Franco’s dictatorship have all but been forgotten. I hope that my translation work can be made available to an audience beyond academia, so that English speakers of Latin American and Iberian origin, like me, can read Aleixandre’s poetry. The task of the translator is to bring things to other cultures and in my case I am preserving culture in another language. For every generation that a Latin American/Iberian family spends in the U.S., there will be fewer members of that family who grow up speaking Spanish, Spanglish, or another indigenous language. That’s exactly what happened to my family, so I was never able to read Spanish literature beyond the occasional short story about Latin@s in the U.S.
When I think of identity affecting my scholarship, I realize that my identity as a poet influences my writing far more than my relationship to Spanish culture. After reading Aleixandre’s book Sombra del paraíso, I feel as though I know Aleixandre through his poetry. I don’t mean just biographical details, but also Aleixandre’s use of metaphor and imagery. He doesn’t talk about explicit events and readers won’t find poems about a conversation with his grandfather or his thoughts about the Spanish Civil War. All of his memories and his identity as a Spaniard float around in his poetry without becoming visible. Like Aleixandre, I don’t write about the obvious. The quotation that Aleixandre’s poetry talks about “man’s place in the cosmos” is something that I can relate to as well.
Aleixandre may (as yet to be determined by my project) have written his poetry automatically, which means writing without conscious thought. It goes beyond censoring your own words since it requires a writer to channel the words floating around in his or her subconscious. For me, if a poem takes me longer than ten minutes to write, I know that it won’t be my best work. Typically, I type my poems without consulting a rhyming dictionary or thesaurus. A poem can only be “organic” if it’s nourished by my own mind rather than a list of words all ending with the same syllable.