The inaugural issue of Canal was published in the spring of 2017.
The inaugural issue of Canal demonstrates the ways in which working within multiple languages can lead to unexpected discoveries – encounters with the larger world and, also, with oneself. Each of the texts featured here has its origins within the classes led by the dedicated faculty members of the Department of World Languages & Cultures. As professors, it is always our goal to provide a learning environment in which students deepen their understanding of the language they are studying while also learning more about the cultures and histories that it is intertwined with. Our students refine their reading, writing, listening and speaking abilities, often while developing a parallel specialization in psychology, history, literature, biology, engineering, or one of the many other disciplines offered within the university. This process of discovery and research can also, at times, involve an introspective turn that makes it all the more powerful.
In her essay “Alla scoperta della moda,” Amanda Bambrick recalls her encounter and conversation with Professor Eugenia Paulicelli, an expert on the theory and history of fashion. Amanda retraces the personal journey of Paulicelli from Southern Italy to America, touches on the history of the evolution of fashion, and reflects on her new understanding of the meaning of fashion. Her “scoperta” involves the discovery of the symbolic power of clothes and the connection between fashion and identity.
Jack Croughwell’s selected poetry is about people, places, and things that have touched his life. His verses in Italian are grounded in clear images that have a strong visual impact, yet they also convey a sense of ambiguity that adds richness and depth to his work.
Alessandra Torres’ essay “Dal Brasile a Boston: una trasformazione” was originally written as a composition assigned in an intermediate Italian language and culture class. Alessandra writes about her journey from Brazil to the United States, and describes the challenging process of assimilation. While she and her family had to face many difficulties when they first arrived, they also found new opportunities. Alessandra strongly asserts her Brazilian identity and the importance of multiculturalism.
Jannelis Medina’s essay “Ser boricua: Activismo, sobrevivencia e identidad” (“Being Boricua: Activism, Survival and Identity”) emerged out of a cultural project in which she was asked to interview someone in Spanish about an historical event that shaped their life. After conducting the interview, Jannelis began to research the history of activism in the Puerto Rican community and, also, ask questions about her own relationship with her Puerto Rican background. The essay skillfully threads these different stories together while suggesting that it marks the beginning of a far deeper engagement with history, language, and cultural engagement that has the capacity to transform her own sense of identity.
Braedan McKee’s essay “Los volcanoes de Nicaragua” (“The Volcanoes of Nicaragua”) originally formed part of an Advanced Spanish Composition course. Braeden used this class to combine his professional interest in environmental science with current issues in Latin America. After reading about seismic activity in Nicaragua he began to research geothermal energy production in the country, bridging his knowledge in science with his reading and writing abilities in Spanish. The result is a clear and informative essay that explains the ways in which geothermal energy functions and can relate specifically to the situation of Nicaragua.
Yosibel Valdez wrote “Este refugio agridulce” (“This Bittersweet Refuge”) as a way to communicate the complexities of observing the results of the 2016 election after experiencing the changes that Venezuela went through after the election of Hugo Chávez. It is a personal essay that opens into an insightful, candid interview with Mikeyla Barmettler—a friend who also left Venezuela to build a life in a different country (Switzerland, in her case). Together they reflect on the power of fear and the consequences of electing a political leader who shows a profound lack of respect for not only the truth but also for the dignity of others.
Leonel Contreras, in his essay “Bilingüismo en un contexto terapéutico” (“Bilingualism in a Therapeutic Context”), writes from the perspective of a recent graduate of our department. He describes how his experiences as a Spanish Major prepared him for the unique task of helping bilingual students and their families as they negotiate different challenges. For students interested in how a second language can be used in a work context after graduation, his essay suggests that it can be directly applied to helping others in a way that is both important and fulfilling.
Jhonatan Lantigua’s essay “El camaleón ante el espejo” (“The Chameleon Before the Mirror”) is a personal essay that works with the ideas of two writers—Judith Cofer and Demetria Martínez—who formed part of a course on Latino literature. Jhonatan engages directly with these authors while also telling his own story of identity. He writes at one point that “Así, la escritura se convirtió para mí en el canal para derramar todas esas confusiones, revelaciones y alegrías que conllevaban el ser yo por primera vez” (“In this way, writing became for me the channel through which I could release all of these confusions, revelations, and joys that came with being myself for the first time.”)
The issue closes with an invitation to participate in an online study that will be featured within an essay for the 2018 issue of Canal. Lexi Mason has designed the Who Are We? project in order to explore issues around perception and stereotyping and we look forward to featuring her work in the coming year.
Jhonatan Lantigua’s use of the word ‘canal’ to refer to the act of writing goes straight to the heart of the intent behind this journal and, in a larger sense, the intent behind the classes provided within the department. Language is a system through which we are able to reencounter the world and ourselves. Most importantly it allows us to read and to listen, to be open to other people, to other disciplines, communities and cultures. As our students work to develop their abilities in multiple languages, this capacity for listening, learning, mastery, and expression grows in powerful and unplanned directions. It is our hope that the work featured within Canal serves as a reminder that this dedication leads both to important professional opportunities and, also, to new ways of thinking about the world, ourselves, and our complex relationships with one another. We look forward to the submissions for the 2018 issue.
Senior Editor: Max Ubelaker Andrade, Lecturer in Latin American Studies
Assistant Editor: Giulia Po DeLisle, Lecturer in Italian Studies