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# * E s s a y R e v i e w s Carmen Lomas Garza. E L M ILA G R O (T H E M IR A C LE). 1987. Oil on canvas. 36" x 48". Courtesy of the Nicolas and Cristina Hernández Trust Collection, Pasadena, California. 'P® Many of Lomas Garza’s paintings are nostalgic, evoking sweet memories of her Tejano childhood, but others, like El Milagro juxtapose familiar scenes with the ominous and the sensual. In this painting, the neighbors have come to witness and to worship the appearance of the Virgin of Guadalupe (in the wood grain of the elevated cistern). The landowners concerned about the danger of rattlesnakes are warning the neighbors to walk carefully through the fields. The conver­ gence of the virgin and the snake combines two ancient female symbols, acknowledging both good and evil. (For more information, see Lucy R. Lippard, Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America, 1990.) S c a l in g t h e W e s t D if f e r e n t l y M a r y P a t B r a d y One day I happened to meet a screenwriter best known for his work on Jean-Claude Van Damme films. He thought of himself as something of an expert in “world literature,” so not surprisingly he asked about my course of study in graduate school. “Chicana literature ,” I replied, but then quickly translated, “Mexican American lit­ erature.” He thought for a minute, looked at me intently, and said, “You mean like Gabriel García Márquez or Isabel Allende?” A few months later in an anonymous MLA hotel room, a mem­ ber of a search committee prefaced a question with the comment, “Chicano studies is too parochial.” We had a bit of an argument, and, not surprisingly, I didn’t get the job. As most scholars of Chicano lit­ erature who have had a recent turn on the job market will tell you, her comment was not an unusual one— nor was it an ignorant one. But rather, it was a comment that emerged from reading influential texts such as Mary Louise Pratt’s Imperial Eyes and Amy Kaplan and Donald Peases’s anthology Cultures of U.S. Imperialism. Like the screenwriter, she wanted to make connections between Latin American studies and American studies, and she longed for a scholar who would, working within the confines of an English department, teach all of the literature of Latin America as well as that by U.S. Latino/as. These conversations might not have been so frustrating if I had understood then that we were not discussing literature or literary studies, or even the canon and canon-making processes, but scale. Embedded in our discussions were assumptions about the scale of lit­ erary and national studies, taken-for-granted ideas about the division of the world and the world’s literatures. While we tend to overlook it, scale is a site over which political and economic struggles are repeatedly waged because it is a primary means by which we measure and categorize. Or as Neil Smith puts it, “Scale demarcates the sites of social contest, the object as well as the resolution of contest” (66). Had I understood that the screenwriter could not imagine a scale as fine as one that distinguished Chicano/a writers not only from other U.S. writers but also from Latin American writers, or that the uni­ versity professor could see only the limits of scale, our conversations might have taken different turns. WAL 3 5 .1 S P R IN G 2 0 0 0 The questions then would not have been why he didn’t know any Chicana writers or why she was not interested in the categorical work of Chicana/o studies, but at what scale literature should be studied and to what ends. By using scale we might have been able to talk about the usage of geographical boundaries to define texts, produce identities, or expand and exclude knowledge. We might then have discussed the relative advantages between scales as different as “Latina,” “Chicano,” or “western.” Or our conversation could...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 97-104
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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