by Colin Andrew, LACS MA student/CLAS Communications Assistant
For the Autumn 2017 quarter, CLAS had the privilege of hosting Tamara Kamenszain, renowned Argentine poet, critic, and scholar, at the University of Chicago as a Tinker Visiting Professor. Tamara comes to Chicago from the Universidad Nacional de las Artes in Buenos Aires. She is a prolific author, having written nine books of poetry, including El libro de los divanes (2015), El eco de mi madre (2010), Solos y solas (2005), El Ghetto (2003), Tango Bar (1998), and Los No (1977). Her work has been translated into several languages, including English, French, Portuguese, German, and Italian. In addition, she has been a regular contributor to major Argentine periodicals, including Eñe, Diario Clarín, and Página 12. Kamenszain has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship and Medalla de Honor Pablo Neruda.
This quarter, Kamenszain taught a class entitled “Nuevas formas de la intimidad en las escrituras latinoamericanos actuales.” She described the purpose of her course as such:
El objetivo de mi curso es rastrear esas formas de intimidad en la literatura latinoamericana contemporánea, analizando textos narrativos, poéticos, ensayísticos, periodísticos y teatrales para mostrar también cómo al mismo tiempo que cambia la relación entre lo íntimo y lo público, se producen todo tipo de trasvasamientos genéricos entre las distintas manifestaciones artísticas.
José Estrada, the teaching assistant for Kamenszain’s class, feels it is refreshing to hear about contemporary topics in literature, including notions of intimacy and authorship subjectivity. He found the experience of serving as communicator between Kamenszain and the students very rewarding. Estrada considers it a great advantage to have a contemporary poet like Kamenszain teach a class on Latin American poetry because she is an expert in the field who is able to skillfully guide discussions and instill fascination with the genre through her unique explanations. José explained,
What fascinates me the most about Tamara’s work is how she incorporates the role of the author in her discussion of subjectivity. As a person who studies early modern Spanish theater, and the self-fashioning of a playwright, I can say that Tamara’s work is not only relevant to contemporary times but also to the early modern period.
When asked about why she chose to come to the University of Chicago, Kamenszain responded that she considered it an honor to be chosen as a candidate for a Tinker Visiting Professorship. The opportunity to live in Chicago, a city that she had heard so much about, was also a major draw. Finally, the challenge and cultural experience of living and working as a foreigner in a new country motivated Kamenszain to accept the position. Kamenszain greatly enjoyed her experience at the University of Chicago. She was amazed by the scale of the library and the number of cultural events that are held on campus. Above all else, she was grateful for the number of people who warmly welcomed her to Chicago and helped her to adjust, as well as her dedicated students who showed boundless enthusiasm.
In addition to teaching her course, Kamenszain was a featured participant in the Poem Present Reading and Lecture Series, which brings distinguished contemporary poets to the University of Chicago for the opportunity to present their work and speak on topics in contemporary poetry. For 2017–18, Poem Present is highlighting the poetry of Latin American women, and Kamenszain’s poetry reading and discussion were a highlight of the program. She read a selection of her poems from various collections and engaged in a conversation about her poetic practice with Mario Cámara (Universidad de Buenos Aires/Fulbright Fellow, Princeton University). Poem Present will continue to present Latin American women poets in Spring 2018, with Chilean poet Cecilia Vicuña on April 3 and 5 and Mexican poet Coral Bracho on May 2 and 3. More information here.