Freedom of Expression and the Exiled Writer: A Reading List from Contemporary Literature Journal

To mark Banned Books Week, we are sharing a collection of articles and interviews from Contemporary Literature journal featuring writers whose work has been censored, or who have faced government persecution in response to their writing.


“I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.”

Ha Jin

Chinese writer Ha Jin came to the United States to complete doctoral studies in American literature and opted to emigrate permanently following the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989. From studying literature, he turned to writing poetry and then fiction, and to date he has published eight novels, seven books of poetry, and four short story collections.

In a New York Times op-ed, published a few days before the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square, he explains his decision to write in English: “if I wrote in Chinese, my audience would be in China and I would therefore have to publish there and be at the mercy of its censorship. To preserve the integrity of my work, I had no choice but to write in English.” He continues, “To some Chinese, my choice of English is a kind of betrayal. But loyalty is a two-way street. I feel I have been betrayed by China, which has suppressed its people and made artistic freedom unavailable. I have tried to write honestly about China and preserve its real history. As a result, most of my work cannot be published in China.”

In this Contemporary Literature interview, conducted by Jerry A. Varsava, Ha Jin discusses growing up during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when books were burned and schools were shuttered, as well as his decision to join the “great [English literary] tradition where nonnative writers [have become] essential writers.”

Read the interview, freely available for the rest of September: “An Interview with Ha Jin”


“If our own literature in Africa is too political, then I think the literature of the U.S. is too apolitical.”

Niyi Osundare

Niyi Osundare is a Nigerian poet known as “The People’s Poet” for his commitment to making poetry accessible to all and reflective of common life. He uses elements of the Yoruba oral tradition, which he transmits through his English-language writing.

In this 2000 interview with Cynthia Hogue and Nancy Easterlin for Contemporary Literature, Osundare describes the struggle of the artist writing under a dictatorship, summing up the situation with this parable: “once an English writer came to an African colleague and complained about the apparent irrelevance of Western writers. The African then told the Western artist, ‘Well, when we talk in Africa, the government listens, but that is not the end of the story. The government listens in a different way. They put us in jail.’”

But democracy also hampers the artist in certain ways, Osundare finds, having emigrated to the US in 1997. Comparing US literature and African literature, he notes, “Democracy leads to the flowering of free opinions, of public consciousness, and, without this, creativity cannot really take place. But democracy also leads to a kind of complacency which may undermine that dissonance and eliminate that kick in the stomach that is necessary for every creative activity. . . . If our own literature in Africa is too political, then I think the literature of the U.S. is too apolitical.”

Osundare believes in a “golden mean” that writers should strive for. And while Osundare’s work often has political themes, Isidore Diala argues in this Contemporary Literature article that the poet’s work contains a “vibrant and sustained global humanistic vision” that has been overlooked by critics who focus too narrowly on the poems’ Nigeria-specific social and political commentary.

Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Burden of the Visionary Artist: Niyi Osundare’s Poetry,” by Isidore Diala

And read the interview on JSTOR: “An Interview with Niyi Osundare”


“How might we think about postcolonial state formation and literary form together? Can we determine a relationship between them that goes beyond that of simple opposition?”

Jini Kim Watson on NINOTCHKA ROSCA

In 1973, Filipina writer Ninotchka Rosca was imprisoned under the Marcos dictatorship for her antigovernmental journalism. Later, from exile in the U.S., she wrote a short story collection, The Monsoon Collection, and a novel, State of War, about life during the Marcos regime. In the outlines of Rosca’s biography, argues Jini Kim Watson in her article “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” we find that the “repressive, unchecked (usually third-world) dictatorial state is conceived of in inherent opposition to the freedom and free speech of committed writers.” This vision of the relationship between the writer and the authoritarian state is seen, for example, in the literary and humanitarian organization PEN International, which fights for freedom of expression and strives to protect writers from state persecution.

While writers do face very real persecution, Watson argues that it is dangerous to oversimplify the dynamic between writers and the authoritarian state, since this could imply that third-world states are simply “tyrannical and backwards”—a judgment that privileges Western norms of “good” government and ignores the agency of individual citizens. “How might we think about postcolonial state formation and literary form together?” Watson asks. “Can we determine a relationship between them that goes beyond that of simple opposition?” Watson puts these questions to Rosca’s State of War, examining the ways the novel confounds a simplistic view of state tyranny through formal experimentation and a nuanced narrative.

Read the article, freely available for the rest of September: “Stories of the State: Literary Form and Authoritarianism in Ninotchka Rosca’s State of War,” by Jini Kim Watson


To learn more about Contemporary Literaturesubscribe to the journal, browse the latest table of contents, or sign up for new issue email alerts.

2019 #SeptWomenPoets Book Giveaway!

Poet Shara Lessley launched the #SeptWomenPoets hashtag (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) as a way to create an online book club where readers share selections and covers from books by women poets. The challenge has encouraged readers to showcase and discuss some of their favorite poems and poets across social media. Here are some University of Wisconsin Press collections we encourage you to consider for your #SeptWomenPoets TBR pile:

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We are giving away a set of debut collections by two of the talented female poets published in the Wisconsin Poetry Series edited by Ronald Wallace and Sean Bishop (entry form and guidelines below).

One winner will receive an advance copy of these forthcoming titles:

Enter your email address in the form below before October 4th for a chance to win!

Dancing Spirit, Love, and War

Today we present an interview with scholar and author Evadne Kelly, whose book Dancing Spirit, Love, and War is part of our Studies in Dance History series. In this piece she talks about what this book is about, how she acknowledges her role in researching this topic, and why this book needs to exist.

Why was there a need for this book?

Dance is often romanticized, tokenized, and overlooked as a source of knowledge.

I hope to show how the study of dance and movement can reveal a great deal about the world. Dance sheds light on how power operates and governs moving bodies while simultaneously emerging from the movements of bodies. Because of the ways in which bodies connect in time and space through movement, dance is a particularly important source of knowledge in the context of histories and legacies of British colonialism in Fiji and Canada.

In particular, the Fijian song-dance performance tradition, called meke, provides a uniquely embodied perspective on the postcolonial tensions embedded within relations between Indigenous and Western notions of reciprocity, responsiveness, and return. In this regard, meke reveals a great deal about shifts in power over time and space.

Why was it important to acknowledge your own implication in British colonial histories and legacies?

There is no legitimating or securing way forward that does not include messy and uneasy rhythms. But, as Nancy Peters wrote in “Learning Shame: Colonial Narratives as a Tool for Decolonization,” stories that unsettle colonial thinking are “animating” projects (In Visioning a Mi’kmaw Humanities: Indigenizing the Academy, edited by Marie Battiste 2017). Being uncomfortable and disoriented is a key part of the process for non-Indigenous people to move from being enemy to adversary to ally. This became clear over a long process of coming to terms with the ways in which I, as a white Canadian settler and granddaughter of a British colonial Fiji Civil Servant, am implicated in the history and legacy of colonization.

The process of researching and writing this book had the potential to build relations or create obstacles to relations. It all depended on how I listened and payed attention. It also depended on how I remembered the past, including all the stories my ancestors told about themselves. The project taught me to remember differently—to not romanticize the stories of the past but remember them from a new angle of the kinesthetic body, whereby visceral sensibilities, movements, rhythms, and sounds emerge in-between bodies implicated in uneven relations of power. As Nancy Peters explained, learners understand new viewpoints and become skeptical about single truths when they experience a collision of viewpoints (Peters 2017).

It took the research and writing of this book for me to finally understand and be ready to implicate my own body and the bodies of my ancestors in the stories and legacies of colonialism. I expose my own implication in colonialism in the hopes of creating dialogue about decolonizing processes and working towards an ethical space for engagement with communities impacted by British colonialism.

Why is the body and its movements important to ethical engagement?

The body and its movements are a site for governance and control as well as resistance to that control. A close look at the archives of the Colonial Secretaries Office, which was responsible for the administration of British colonial Fiji, shows that the British colonial administration sought to control the movements, behaviors, sensibilities, and comportment of Fijians as a way of eliminating difference and absorbing Fijians into the British Christian, colonial worldview.

I was also aware of the colonial history of extraction, ownership, and objectification of culture. Wanting to follow a decolonizing approach, I aimed for a visceral and relational engagement, involving cross-sensory perception, direct and indirect speech, non-verbal sounds, rhythms, and kinesthetic experiences, that co-constituted dialogue while acknowledging historical and contemporary inequities. Relations of dialogue and kinesthetic and performative exchange were spaces of encounter where uneven power was negotiated.

Why spirit, love, and war?

Spirit, love, and war are all notions that have been romanticized in writing about dance and performance. But they are also expressions that generate indeterminate relations of power between bodies. They disrupt and distribute normative values and are expressions by which power locally and translocally governs and organizes bodies. Christian colonial and postcolonial restructuring of meke occurred through expression of spirit, love, and war.  But expressions of spirit, love, and war have to do with negotiating boundaries of inclusion and exclusion within new categories of citizenship in Fiji and in diaspora.

Why did you feel it was important to discuss meke as a translocal performance practice?

My choice to focus on performances of meke in multiple sites helped me to gain a clearer sense of how and why Fijians were performing meke in differing ways and in resonance with local and national politics in Fiji and Fiji’s diaspora. In addition, the long-term and long-distance connections fostered by meke spanned over a crucial period of change in Fiji and enabled me to see the effects of these changes translocally—across time and space.

But the translocal aspects of meke also brought attention to the privileges and barriers to global movements and migrations, including my own, and who gets to move, where, when, and how. In addition, this book has always been implicated within a postcolonial story about local and translocal responsiveness and transmission between bodies. The whole project is a reminder of the complexities of global, postcolonial networks of identification and exchange.

Evadne Kelly is an independent artist-scholar. Her research focuses on the political and social dimensions of dance traditions and her publications appear in Pacific Arts JournalThe Dance CurrentPerformance Matters, and Fiji Times

Call for Papers: Native Plants Journal

The editors of Native Plants Journal seek papers on topics related to North American (Canada, Mexico, and US) native plants used for conservation, pollinator habitat, urban landscaping, restoration, reforestation, landscaping, populating highway corridors, and so on. Published papers are potentially useful to practitioners of native plant sciences. Contributions from both scientists (summarizing rigorous research projects) and workers in the field (describing practical processes and germplasm releases) are welcome.

See the journal’s submission guidelines for more information. Questions may be directed to Stephen Love, Editor-in-Chief, at slove@uidaho.edu.

About the journal: Native Plants Journal began in January 2000 as a cooperative effort of the USDA Forest Service and the University of Idaho, with assistance from the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The second issue of each year includes the Native Plant Materials Directory, which provides information about producers of native plant materials in the United States and Canada. 

To learn more, subscribe to the journal, browse the latest table of contents, or sign up for new issue email alerts.

“What if we’re all ‘underground women’?”: Intern Book Club (July)

This is the first in a series of monthly blog posts detailing the discussion of the marketing intern book club started this summer. This month we read Underground Women, a collection of short stories by Jesse Lee Kercheval. Our book club consists of Alexis Paperman, Publicity Assistant and grad student studying library information science; Morgan Reardon, Marketing Assistant studying English literature and American Indian studies; and Julia Knecht, Marketing Assistant studying English literature and digital studies. 

Alexis most enjoyed the titular story, “Underground Women,” though she was originally hesitant about it. The snapshot moments that make up the story are disorienting at first. However, as Alexis took the time to reflect on the story of a young photographer apprenticing under a hotelier, it became clear these disorienting moments were intentional. Kercheval weaves together the narrative and the structure to allow the reader to feel closer to the shock, fatigue, and other emotions present in the characters in the small fragments the reader sees. Like a photograph, the moments that make up the story are rich despite only being able to capture a moment. There is an understanding between reader and author that these are only moments. The complexity of Kercheval’s writing⁠—here and throughout the collection⁠—is her ability to present the lives of women as they are and as they are ignored. Overall, the story captured Alexis’ attention because of how strong Kercheval’s writing is while expounding on the idea of the hidden moments of women engaging with other women.

Morgan enjoyed “A Story Set In Germany,” the third story featured in the book. This one focuses on a young woman telling the readers about her experience in Germany, but the twist is that she tells it twice—the first “how I wish it to be” and the second where she gives us the story as it actually happened. She details her time in the picturesque German mountains, where she stays with a parental couple in their farmhouse and builds a friendship with another of their guests. After a happy ending, the narrator goes on, taking quotes from what has just been told and revealing the real story behind them, one that is less than perfect. The way Kercheval played with structure to tell this story adds to the reader’s experience, and makes the piece a unique addition to this collection.

Julia loved “Civil Service,” a story about a young woman named Janet Nedermacher starting her career as a government bureaucrat in the Check Claims Division. Janet is intelligent, ambitious, and, in many ways, ruthless. Julia appreciated the way this story creates complex female characters, who expand beyond their first impressions as Janet learns more about the new office she is working in and learns more about her place in it. While the setting and plot of the story are fairly mundane, Kercheval’s attention to detail and careful consideration of the roles and internal struggles of the various characters makes “Civil Service” feel real and important.

The first half of the stories are rooted in realism, showing complex women with a variety of traits. The second half is told from primarily male perspectives, portraying women abstractly in more surrealist situations. Many of the stories lack clean conclusions, much like the reality underground women face. Kercheval resists the impulse to fulfill the fantasy of a happy ending where realistically there would not be one. Instead, she shows the ongoing conflict many women experience and forces the reader to sit in that conflict, even after they have stopped reading. 

Kercheval’s writing is strongest when she explores female perspective through various narrative styles and structures. For instance, the title story is written in snapshots, each set of prose directly tied to a picture the narrator took. “A Story Set In Germany” is divided between two realities: one in which the narrator describes their time in Germany as they wish it would have been, and another where they acknowledge the uncomfortable reality behind the fairytale. By varying the structures that she writes with, Kercheval shows that each of her narrators’ perspectives are unique; they are different people who see things differently, even if they are all ‘underground women.’

Overall, we enjoyed reading this book, and would highly recommend it to readers interested in exploring narrative structures and unique perspectives. This collection of short stories is enjoyable to read casually, but readers will probably gain the most from structured discussion where you can more fully dive into the complex themes Kercheval sets out. 

Monatshefte Journal Welcomes New Editors

Monatshefte Vol. 111.2 cover

Monatshefte, a journal of German literature and culture, has added two new editors, Hannah V. Eldridge and Sonja E. Klocke. Both scholars are based at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the home of Monatshefte since 1927. Eldridge and Klocke joined longtime editor Hans Adler to produce the most recent issue of the journal, and they will be taking over the reins when Adler steps down at the end of this fall. Monatshefte has been published continually since 1899, and this year, we are excited to celebrate Adler’s legacy (more on that in a forthcoming post!) and to learn about the new editors’ vision, as this foundational journal adapts to changes in the field of German Studies. Here, Eldridge and Klocke introduce themselves in their own words.


Hannah V. Eldridge: I have been at UW–Madison since 2012, first in the Department of German and now in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic, where I received tenure in 2018. My main research area is lyric poetry from the eighteenth century to the present, with a focus on sound, rhythm, and other parasemantic features. Other interests include literature and philosophy. I have published on Hölderlin, Rilke, Cavell, Wittgenstein, Klopstock, Nietzsche, and Grünbein, among others. As a participant in the group “Diversity, Decolonialization, and the German Curriculum,” I am working against my socialization in systems of inequality and to reflect the richness and variety of perspectives  in the German-speaking world in my teaching and research. I hope to bring this learning to bear on my work for Monatshefte as well. Some of my most significant educational and professional experiences have involved giving and receiving feedback, so I’m especially excited to work with authors on revising and rewriting.

Sonja E. Klocke: After holding my first faculty position at Knox College (IL, 2007–2012), I joined UW–Madison in 2012. I was granted tenure in the Department of German in 2016, and have since been part of the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic. My research interests range from the eighteenth century to the present, with a specialization in twentieth- to twenty-first-century German culture and a focus on postwar and contemporary literature and film. I have published on the legacy of the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the Holocaust; women’s writing; East German literature and film; contemporary writing on modern exile, migration, and globalization; discourses on illness and the body; and gender theory. As an author, I am grateful for the valuable feedback I have received from colleagues in the past. As co-editor of Monatshefte, I hope to bring these experiences as well as the editing skills I have had the chance to develop to the journal.

On their vision for Monatshefte: Although we are excited to receive articles in our areas of research, Monatshefte will remain a general-interest journal, accepting submissions on all topics in any period of German-language literature and culture. We are looking forward to following in Hans Adler’s august footsteps, and we will be making a few updates to the journal in response to changes in the field. First, and most importantly, we will begin to expand the national and international review boards to include scholars whose intellectual agendas and individual perspectives are not currently represented there. We will also be making some changes to the types of information collected in “Personalia,” the annual report on German departments, faculty, graduate students, and dissertations. Finally, we hope to work with the wonderful University of Wisconsin Press to streamline submissions and editing, as well as to create blog entries and social media posts as a venue for more informal communication with our readers.

Civic Virtue and Women’s Political Activism

9780299322908Today we are featuring a piece by Goshen College professor and author Jan Bender Shetler, whose book Claiming Civic Virtue is part of our series Women in Africa and the Diaspora.

When we think about women’s activism we imagine protest marches, banners and pink hats. But women have claimed their voice, their right to speak, in public discourse in so many different and unexpected ways over time. One thinks of The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina during the “Dirty War,” who in 1977 began showing up in the plaza everyday to demand information about their “disappeared” children.  Another example was older women in Nigeria during the anti-colonial “Igbo Women’s War” of 1929 reclaiming their space of authority by showing up in the thousands to enact the traditional practice of “sitting on a man” which involved chanting and dancing to shame the men. In less obviously public ways, elite women in Qing China wrote and published poetry that asserted their moral authority as wives and mothers who controlled the household economy where boys were first educated and men found retreat after their travels. These are all stories of women who claimed their right as public intellectuals to contribute to civic debates based on an assertion of their virtue as responsible citizens.

But, because of the tendency to universalize our own cultural assumptions, we often miss these claims of civic virtue and see women confined to the home and domestic labor, uninvolved in public affairs.  The quintessential African grandmother telling stories to her grandchildren at night figures into popular, and even academic, culture as a quaint, but a politically innocuous, figure who entertains with animal tales.  My research in the Mara Region, Tanzania, to explore women’s historical knowledge, however, showed that here their narratives asserted a claim of recognition for the value of their own civic contribution.  They told very different kinds of stories about the past than men, who were recognized as the legitimate historians of the ethnic group.  Women’s stories, by contrast, were about the value to the community of the cross-ethnic networks they formed across the region.

During the late nineteenth century East Africa experienced a series of El Niño droughts that resulted in famine, displacement and the spread of epidemic disease from the caravan trade. In the Mara Region young women and girls were often “sold” or pawned to wealthier families for food that would allow the rest of the family to survive.  While some ended up in the slave trade, many more remained in the region and were incorporated into new families as daughters, or wives, becoming part of the family.  The interests of men’s public stories was to forget where these women came from and sever their ties to their original families.  However, the interests of grandmothers who told their stories to grandchildren at night was to preserve their honor as women with kinship ties in distant places that should not be forgotten. The distant networks preserved in grandmothers’ memories proved useful for getting help in times of trouble or finding marriage partners. Women’s counter-memory asserted their virtuous past and ongoing value to the community, precisely because of their network memory.

Does this work of elderly women telling their own versions of history qualify as activism? In order to demand change in the public arena one has to first assert the authority to speak at all. In the case of Mara women they may speak their concerns for the public good in the private spaces of grandmothers sleeping with their granddaughters or around cooking pots but they are heard in the larger public arena because of the moral authority that they claim. The dominant account remains that of elderly men who hold responsibility for “history.”  But women’s alternative narratives of the past crossed ethnic groups in building durable networks of security.  Even though hard to read in our cultural vernacular, women’s assertion of voice in the public sphere is sometimes as close as the stories they tell in defining an alternative version of the past.

Jan Bender Shetler is a professor of history at Goshen College. Her books include Telling Our Own StoriesImagining Serengeti, and Gendering Ethnicity in African Women’s Lives.

Uncovering Hellenistic Sardis

Today’s piece is written by editors Andrea M. Berlin and Paul J. Kosmin, whose book Spear-Won Land , a collection of essays on the city of Sardis during the early Hellenistic period, is featured in our series Wisconsin Studies in Classics.

For most of archaic and classical Greek history (from about the seventh to the fourth centuries BCE), the richest and most important city in the Aegean world was not even in Greece. It was an Anatolian capital famed for luxurious living, cavalry horses, and rivers of gold—Sardis. As the royal capital first of the Kingdom of Lydia and then as the primary “satrapal” center of the Persian Empire in the west, Sardis was a political and cultural center of renown. The city in its Lydian and Persian periods is well known, thanks to lengthy accounts in the Histories of Herodotus and Thucydides as well as a half-century of excavation.

But when it comes to the city’s history in the years following Alexander the Great’s overthrow of the Persians, it is as if the lights go out. Historical sources are much fewer, and archaeological remains more scattered and difficult to piece together. Yet these were pivotal years, both for Sardis and for the wider interconnected worlds of Greece and the East. In the century after Alexander, Sardis was transformed into a true Hellenistic city, acquiring a vast stone temple to the goddess Artemis, a theater and gymnasium, and the institutions and status of a Greek polis. At the same time, the city was re-made as yet another imperial capital, this time as the western center of the vast new Seleucid Empire, the greatest of Alexander’s successor kingdoms, home to bureaucrats, royal archives, and Indian elephants.

Spear-Won Land: Sardis from the King’s Peace to the Peace of Apamea, offers a comprehensive, interconnected understanding of the transformations and effects of these centuries. A multidisciplinary research team – with expertise ranging from urban archaeology and history to numismatics and field-survey – here present up-to-date analyses of Sardis’ urban form, political history, interactions with neighbors, religious life, and foodways. It is a thrilling story that significantly enlarges and fundamentally changes what we know of Hellenistic western Asia Minor.

Andrea M. Berlin holds the James R. Wiseman Chair in Classical Archaeology at Boston University. She has written extensively on a broad variety of topics in classical archaeology, including six volumes reporting and interpreting excavations. 

Paul J. Kosmin is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of The Land of the Elephant Kings: Space, Territory, and Ideology in the Seleucid Empire, and Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire.

Flamenco Nation

9780299321802

Today we present a piece from author Sandie Holguín. Her recently released book Flamenco Nation explores how Flamenco dance became tied to Spain’s national identity. In this personal essay, Sandie details her journey of writing and researching the book, and the challenges of writing about a topic distant in regard to both geography and time.

If, as L.P. Hartley once said and historians like to quote, “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” what happens when a scholar grapples with the history of a foreign country? Can an outsider twice-removed by time and place contribute meaningfully to a discussion of that place’s past? These are questions I have wrestled with over the years while trying to write about the history of Spain, especially about ephemeral cultural phenomena. My questions are really no different from those that underrepresented communities ask when mainstream historians write about marginalized groups, and yet as a historian, I have to believe that one can engage in historical analysis about people, places, and times far removed from one’s own experience—otherwise, why does anybody practice history? Still, there seem to be greater barriers to understanding a culture and its past when the country, society, and language are not part of your cultural patrimony. Overcoming those barriers, or at least recognizing how to maneuver around them, requires experience in historical practice, patience, a willingness to listen, and the help of insiders.

When I began to imagine a cultural history of flamenco in Spain, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount that had been written on the subject, especially by people who were experts on the art form. Many scholars and flamenco aficionados could easily rattle off the names of performers, songs, rhythmic styles, and situate them in their places of origin. What could I, a North American with no background in music, have to say about something that seemed ubiquitous in Spanish culture (or at least in the culture that was presented to the world outside of Spain)? The only way for me to enter this study was to think in structural terms. How did cultural forms in various countries come to be dominant? For example, were there similar processes that made the tango popular in Argentina, the samba in Brazil, jazz in the United states, and flamenco in Spain? The answer was yes. Of course how those processes differed from country to country is what makes for engaging historical analysis. My grounding in nationalism studies and cultural history made it possible for me to begin to write something meaningful about flamenco and its role in Spanish history, despite the challenges present when speaking about a culture that is not one’s own.

The work of writing a history about a foreign country is fraught with danger, however.  Language might be the primary one. If one is not a native speaker, then one cannot always attend to the nuances of humor, metaphor, or slang. And although a place’s culture (or multiple cultures) may have changed over time, one imagines—wrongly, no doubt—that one’s own historical culture is accessible in a way that a foreign country’s historical culture might not be. Immersing oneself in the country’s native scholarship and culture helps to soften these barriers, but having friends and colleagues from that place help even more because they aid in cross-cultural translation and, sometimes, just literal translation.

I have begun to view the distance in time and space as an advantage to understand Spanish history.  Outsider status has granted me certain insights that might be harder to gain by those immersed within Spain’s many cultures, only because I am less personally invested in the national narratives that unfold in my research and writing and because I am at a remove from  such horrors as Spain’s civil war and dictatorship. The anxiety I feel about “not getting it right” is mitigated by the knowledge that I am trying to listen both analytically and empathetically to the voices of the past to make sense of them. It is this  journey toward cross-cultural, cross-temporal understanding that guides my work and gives me hope—however misguided—that the study of history can be used to understand our shared humanity, despite our many cultural differences.

Sandie Holguín is a Professor of History at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches European cultural and intellectual history and European feminist thought and gender studies. She specializes in Spanish history and is the author of Creating Spaniards: Culture and National Identity in Republican Spain.

University of Wisconsin Press welcomes Business and Operations Manager

The University of Wisconsin Press is pleased to announce that Lisa Learish has joined our staff as business and operations manager.

Photo by Paul L. Newby, II

Learish will serve as a key member of the management team at the press, overseeing the business and human resources processes in addition to coordinating budgets for books, journals, and publication services. An accomplished financial officer, she most recently held the role of senior accountant at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Business, where she provided direct fiscal support to departments, improved processes for data collection and audits, and created a unified budget.

In more than twenty years of service to the university, Learish has also worked in the Division of Recreational Sports, the Division of Business Services, and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“We are thrilled to have Lisa bring her wealth of experience to the University of Wisconsin Press,” says director Dennis Lloyd. “Her business acumen will be valuable as we embark upon a long-awaited review of our overall strategic plans.”

Says Learish, “I am really looking forward to becoming the newest member of the press family. I am so excited to work with each member of this amazing team!”

Also this month, the University of Wisconsin Press has moved back on campus for the first time in twenty-two years. The new offices are located on the fourth floor of Memorial Library. We look forward to seeing you around campus!

About the University of Wisconsin Press
The University of Wisconsin Press, one of the research and service centers housed within the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is a not-for-profit publisher of books and journals. With nearly 1,500 titles in print, its mission embodies the Wisconsin Idea by publishing work of distinction that serves the people of Wisconsin and the world.