Glendon prof’s new Spanish language book looks at human playfulness

The main focus for Alejandro Zamora, a professor in Glendon’s Department of Hispanic Studies, is the study of the modern novel, including its philosophical and social issues, which he explores in his recently published book.

Jugar por amor propio: Personajes lúdicos de la novela moderna (Playing for Self Esteem: Playful Characters in the Modern Novel) (Peter Lang Publishing, 2009) was published as part of the European Union’s academic publication series, European University Studies. It is based on Zamora’s 2006 PhD thesis.

Through the works of some of the most important modern novelists, such as André Gide, Italo Calvino, Witold Gombrowicz, Julio Cortázar, Milan Kundera and others, this book is a literary exploration of human playfulness as an affirmation of authenticity and self-esteem. These human attributes are juxtaposed with the utilitarian, pragmatic and institutional dimensions of everyday life and interpersonal relations in contemporary societies.

Jugar por amor propio is an important contribution to the development of comparative literature in Spanish language. “Literature has a cognitive potential,” says Zamora. “It is an extraordinary tool for the understanding of cultures. It also provides a unique insight into important issues of the human experience – its complexity, its ambiguity, its paradoxes. A comparative system of literary analysis is by its nature multidisciplinary, enabling us to examine writings from psychological, philosophical, sociological, historical, as well as other perspectives.”

Zamora’s next major undertaking is the mounting of a trilingual, comparative, interdisciplinary conference on the Glendon campus, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, titled Mexico in its Revolutions. The conference is to commemorate and reflect on the bicentennial of Mexican independence of 1810, and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Alejandro ZamoraRight: Alejandro Zamora

“The conference also provides an opportunity to examine those other Mexican revolutions, which have occurred or are currently taking place at the margin of the nation’s dominant narratives, at the periphery of nationalistic discourses that assign specific identities for Mexican-ness, at the borders and edges of well-defined and visible systems of power,” says Zamora.

Zamora is currently completing research on childhood and literature, and is writing a book-length essay on this topic. His research for the project took him to the National Film Institute of Madrid in the summer of 2008. While there, he watched three to four movies a day in order to compare the idea of Spanish children in movies made during the Franco era – Catholic, conservative, patriarchal – with those of the post-Franco era, portrayed with all the ambiguities, the questioning and wonderment that children display.

Why study Spanish language and literature? “Because literature is much more than just a collection of stories,” says Zamora. “In fact, literature reveals some of the most intimate aspects of a country and its society, culture, history and people.” As for learning the Spanish language, “…it is the third-largest language group in the world and thus very useful in the global workplace. It is also the necessary key to fully access an extraordinary culture.”

Zamora brings his experience in teaching, journalism, professional and fiction writing to Glendon as a specialist in comparative literature. He examines literature in Spanish, as well as French, Polish and Finnish. In addition, Zamora teaches a Spanish language course with French as the reference language, affirming the trilingual nature of Glendon’s Hispanic Studies Program.

He has worked as a journalist for Mexican newspapers, including a weekly column, La ciudad y los libros (The City and Books), from 1996 to 2000, for which he received the Provincial Journalism Award of Michoacán. He has also published fiction and, in 1998, received the Jóvenes Creadores (Young Creators) Award from the government of Mexico’s National Fund for Culture and the Arts.

Submitted by Marika Kemeny, Glendon communications officer