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University professors welcome summer break, but for most professors, a break from teaching does not mean a break from learning. In fact, a summer that inspires research, writing projects or new ideas to share with a class makes for a good summer. If you add about a month in Chile — well — that makes for a great summer.
Dr. Zanice Bond, assistant professor of English, had a great summer. First, she was awarded a Poetry Foundation Fellowship to attend the Furious Flower Center’s Yusef Komunyakaa Legacy Seminar at James Madison University. After a week of hands-on assignments, lectures and intensive study with noted Komunyakaa scholars, the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning poet ended the seminar with a public reading. Bond left inspired — eager to share Komunyakaa with her students.
“Having an entire week to explore best practices and design creative ways to teach Komunyakaa was invaluable,” Bond said. “Even students who are not poetry lovers make connections with Komunyakaa through his jazz poetry, poems about Vietnam, or the chilling poems about his father. He is such a prolific poet — we could have spent months studying him. He attended most of our sessions, so his impromptu readings were treats for us all.”
Two days after returning to Alabama, Bond’s bags were packed for Santiago, Chile, for the Fulbright-Hays grant she was awarded. For a month, she participated in The Construction of Chilean Identity: Socio-economic, Political, and Educational Reforms Summer Seminar in Chile.
Bond will be teaching English 400: “Literature and Democracy” in the spring, which will draw from the curriculum project she developed upon returning from Chile. Course material will include familiar authors such as Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda and Angela Y. Davis, as well as writers who may be less well-known to students, such as Palestinian-Chilean novelist Lina Meruane, Pedro Lemebel (who was an outspoken gay writer and artist), Mapuche poet Elicura Chihuailaf, and Gabriela Mistral (winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945).
Drawing from research for this class, Bond plans to complete an essay comparing the odes of Komunyakaa and Neruda. She also plans to do further study of personal narratives that have emerged from nonviolent student protests in the U.S. and Chile.
“Participating in the summer seminar in Chile has been a game-changer, as it has introduced me not only to an incredible group of writers who will enrich my classes and my research, but to a remarkable country and a new set of colleagues,” Bond reflected. “I have begun research that explores African-American/Chilean intersections, and I look forward to returning to Chile very soon.”
After attending a pre-departure orientation at the University of Texas in Austin, she and fellow participants embarked on a rigorous but exhilarating educational journey. Based in Santiago, her day typically began with a 15-minute walk to the Fulbright Commission, where Chilean scholars and journalists lectured on topics ranging from educational reform and the residual effects of Pinochet’s military dictatorship to student protests and immigration. Group excursions included lectures at various universities such as the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Universidad de Chile, and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Participants also visited San Pedro de Atacama (the Atacama Desert), La Serena, and Sewell, a former mining town now designated a UNESCO Historic site. They also toured the home of poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American writer to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, and Isla Negra, one of the three homes of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
“Of special interest to me were visits to Villa Grimaldi and the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, also known as the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which intersect with my research on the human rights struggle in the United States,” Bond recounted.
Her personal excursions included a trip to the Cementerio General de Santiago, where she visited the Memorial to the Victims of the Dictatorship Era 1973-1990; as well as the graves of former Chilean president Salvador Allende, folk singer Violeta Parra and murdered singer and activist Victor Jara. She also toured La Chascona, the Pablo Neruda home in Santiago, as well as attended both a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto and the opening of the Movimientos de Tierra exhibition at the Museo National Bellas Artes, where she met prolific poet and visual artist Cecilia Vicuña.
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