This week I presented my research at the Celebration of Student Scholarship in ’64 Hall. This was a great experience overall, and it was awesome to see the surprised and intrigued reactions that people had to my research. My topic is generally unknown in the United States so the opportunity to inform others of the new knowledge I have about this topic was fantastic.
The social and political issues that Reinaldo Arenas’ story highlights are just as important today as they were during his lifetime. I am extremely grateful to Providence College for the opportunity to not only conduct this research but also share it with the PC community. Professor Simal and I are going to continue working on perfecting an article to try submit to a review board for publication in the American Journal of Pop Culture. Our article is going to focus on why Arenas chose a pop culture icon like Mona Lisa to transmit his story and base his entire metaphor off on in his short story “Mona.” I am excited to see the finished product (even though it will be completed after graduation). I’m thankful that I have been able to document my research journey here in this blog. It’s been a blast!
Hey Everyone! This week I presented my research at the Celebration of Student Scholarship in ’64 Hall. This was... MORE
Professor Simal and I presented our paper on Reinaldo Arenas at the Northeast Modern Language Association Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, last week. Our essay was entitled “Mona or Reinaldo Arenas: Negotiating Identity through the Lens of HIV/AIDS.” I personally presented the paper that Professor Simal and I wrote together, and she presented another paper she had written for the conference. We had 10 minutes to present each piece.
I wrote up a focused summary of what our paper contained and analyzed our main points within those 10 minutes. I was definitely nervous, but everyone on the panel and those who attended the panel were very warm, inviting, and respectful. Panelists presented in both Spanish and English and my personal presentation was in English. Professor Simal presented in Spanish (her native language). The discussion that followed the eight panelists’ presentations was cut short because our presentations ran over time. However, the short discussion was engaging, interesting, and drew similarities between the very different topics of all eight panelists to show how auto-fiction can serve independent authors’ purposes.
This was a great learning experience and a wonderful way to share some of the hard work that Professor Simal and I have done with others in a community that really appreciates the kind of research we have been engaged in since last summer. Another panelist approached me after the discussion to tell me how intriguing she thought our points were about how Arenas used auto-fiction with respect to his short “Mona.” She particularly liked that we read the story differently than the critic Jorge Olivares.
I am extremely appreciative to both Providence College and Professor Simal for making my attendance at this conference possible. I would recommend going after or taking opportunities like this to any other student in the humanities. To be surrounded by other academics who share your passion from other institutions, different backgrounds, and who speak different languages is a phenomenal experience. Professor Simal and I will now be re-working our essay with the intent to publish a piece in a popular culture journal. I will also be presenting on our essay at the college’s Celebration of Scholarship on April 20th. I am very excited for this next step in my learning process and will keep you all updated!
Thank for reading,
Hey Everyone, Professor Simal and I presented our paper on Reinaldo Arenas at the Northeast Modern Language Association Conference in... MORE
Here’s a quick update on my research! Professor Simal and I have been prepping our paper for the Northeast Modern Language Conference coming up next month. We have fine-tuned our ample research on Reinaldo Arenas to show how his use of auto-fiction in his short story “Mona” is an act of resistance against the stigma he lived under in both Cuba and America as a homosexual with AIDS.
Arenas identified himself as a homosexual through his use of auto-fiction in “Mona” — not only as a homosexual but as a sick individual, too. Jorge Olivares in his book, Becoming Reinaldo Arenas, interpreted “Mona” as a story of complicity and despair. He essentially interpreted it as Arenas conceding defeat to the persecution of the societies he lived in and the disease he contracted. I disagree with this reading of the story, and although Olivares does not use the framework of auto-fiction to analyze the story, I believe that it is the use of auto-fiction makes this work an act of resistance.
Everything about Arenas’ life was about owning exactly who he was. He was an outspoken gay activist and politicized almost everything he did, including his suicide, as I mentioned in my last post. “Mona” is a densely symbolic work, which is why I find it so rewarding to work with. We will continue working on our paper up until the submission date and I will update everyone on how the conference goes!
Hey Everyone, Here’s a quick update on my research! Professor Simal and I have been prepping our paper for the... MORE
Welcome to my research blog! My name is Reegan Whipple, and I’m from Plymouth, MA. I am a senior at PC with a double major in Health Policy and Management and Spanish. Last summer I started my research in conjunction with Dr. Monica Simal from the Spanish department. We received an undergraduate research grant and began researching how Cuban policies on HIV/AIDS impacted the Cuban culture and how those changes are reflected in contemporary Cuban literature.
We mainly focused on the Cuban writer, Reinaldo Arenas, who was persecuted for being a homosexual in Cuba, fled the country during the Mariel Boatlift, found out he was HIV positive while living in New York, and, sadly, committed suicide there before the disease could take his life. This research combined both of my majors, which is something I am really excited about. I could look at the situation in Cuba from both a health policy and epidemiological standpoint and also have my understanding of Cuban culture enriched.
HIV/AIDS victims in Cuba were a source of paranoia for the state. Although that paranoia led to a great public health effort in the form of screening, which greatly reduced the incidence rate of new cases in the country, HIV/AIDS victims were forced into labor camps, which were essentially prisons they could not leave. Volatile reactions to this practice by the state went so far as people willingly injecting themselves with HIV/AIDS positive blood in order to be reunited with their family members who were detained in the camps. Homosexuals were also severely persecuted under the Castro regime and many men were sent to labor camps called UMAPs, simply for their sexual orientation.
Reinaldo Arenas was one of these mistreated Cuban homosexuals who was considered to be an enemy of the state. Over the summer I traveled to Princeton University to access their Rare Books Collection where all of Arenas’ unpublished manuscripts are housed. I am continuing my research with Professor Simal this semester and attending the New England Modern Language Association Conference with her in March to present our work.
I hope you enjoy learning about our findings as much as I have enjoyed researching!
-Reegan Whipple ’16
Photo by Nestor Almendros, 1981
Hey everyone! Welcome to my research blog! My name is Reegan Whipple, and I’m from Plymouth, MA. I am a... MORE