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“Studying literature reveals the most intimate aspects of a country and its culture”, says Glendon Hispanic Studies Professor Alejandro Zamora


Assistant professor Alejandro Zamora (right) joined Glendon’s Hispanic Studies Department in 2007, bringing to Glendon his rich experience in teaching, journalism, professional and fiction writing. He adds a multicultural flavour to the department as a specialist in comparative literature in the Spanish language, but examines other literatures as well, such as French, Polish and Finnish.

Zamora’s main focus is the modern novel. His research interests include the philosophical and social issues presented in this field, such as the representations of playfulness and childhood. In addition, Zamora teaches a Spanish language course with French as the reference language – affirming the department’s trilingual nature.

Based on his 2006 PhD thesis, Zamora’s recent book is titled Jugar por amor propio. Personajes lúdicos de la novela moderna (Playing for Self Esteem. Playful Characters in the Modern Novel). Jugar por amor propio was published in September 2009 (Bern, Peter Lang, 2009. 278 pp), as part of the European Union’s prestigious academic publication series, European University Studies (Publications universitaires européennes).

Through the works of some of the most important modern novelists, such as André Gide, Italo Calvino, Witold Gombrowitz, Julio Cortázar, Milan Kundera and others, this book is a literary exploration of humans’ 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 considered an important contribution to the development of comparative literature in Spanish language. “Literature has a cognitive potential”, explains 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. 30th to October 2nd, 2010, with the title Mexico in its Revolutions. The conference is organized at this time to commemorate and reflect on the bicentennial of Mexican independence of 1810, and the centennial of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

“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 in his introduction to the conference.

Currently, Zamora is also completing research and has published papers on childhood and literature, and is at the point of writing a book-length essay on this topic. His research for this project took him to the National Film Institute of Madrid (Filmoteca nacional de Madrid) in the summer of 2008. While there, he watched 3-4 movies a day in order to compare the idea of Spanish children in movies made during the Franco era – catholic, conservative, patriarchal – that reproduced the values of that regime with those of the post-Franco era, portrayed with all the ambiguities, the questioning and wonderment that children by their very nature display.

As for teaching at Glendon, Zamora likes the small classes which put professors in direct contact with students. “My Glendon students are highly motivated and go that extra mile in reading selected works and completing assignments”, he observes. “I am also impressed with their level of comprehension, not only of the Spanish language, but also the complex ideas presented in their readings. They make excellent comments and offer good insights.”  In fact, two of his 4th-year students were presenters at last fall’s Spanish conference on Image and Word in 21st-Century Spain, co-hosted by Zamora. Several others expressed their intention to pursue graduate studies, based on what they had learned in their Glendon courses.

Why study Spanish language and literature? “Because literature is much more than just a collection of stories”, comments 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 3rd 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.”

More about Alejandro Zamora

Alejandro Zamora holds a licenciatura in Hispanic Language and Literatures from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and a PhD in comparative literature from the Université de Montréal. His scholarly interests are the modern novel and cinema as an insight into specific social and philosophical issues, as well as Francophone literature. He has taught courses on the Spanish and Latin-American novel at the University of Prince Edward Island; world literature at the Université de Montréal; and Latin-American literature at the UNAM, in Mexico. He has published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters in international publications in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, France, Poland, Switzerland and Spain.

Alejandro Zamora has also worked as a journalist for Mexican newspapers. From 1996 to 2000, he wrote a weekly column entitled La ciudad y los libros (The City and Books), for which he received the Provincial Journalism Award of Michoacán (Premio Estatal de Periodismo). He has also published fiction and, in 1998, received the Jóvenes Creadores (Young Creators) award from the government of Mexico.

Article submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny

Published on March 15, 2010