Schulenburg publishes article that explores work of Cuban writer

January 30, 2015
Dr. Chris Schulenburg

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dr. Chris Schulenburg, associate professor of Spanish at UW-Platteville, recently published “What Jumps Out at You?: Female Art Appreciation in Zoé Valdés’s ‘Una novelista en el Museo del Louvre’” in the journal “Letras Femeninas.”

“Una novelista en el Museo del Louvre,” written by Valdés, a Cuban writer who exiled herself from Cuba in the 1990s, is set in contemporary France. The story, written in a surreal style, is about a female novelist who is trapped in The Louvre, yet able to magically hide within its paintings, moving between eras, style and people.

Schulenburg’s article addresses themes within the novel that reveal the hardships of living in a country where citizens had little or no access to everyday necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing and fresh water, as well as explore how women were exiled linguistically and culturally. He also addresses how the novelist, as she moves through time and place, serves as a witness of specific moments in history, yet still feels exiled and isolated. Like Valdés, she doesn’t truly belong in any certain place or any certain time.

“Many of the art masters and narrators in the 19th century were males who were observing, painting, gazing upon and writing about females, which raises the question of how, throughout history, human beings consume art and who is in control of art,” said Schulenburg. “At that time, males possessed more power and control than females did, and the idea of males gazing upon paintings of females connoted power and control. In the novel, the author explores complex themes related to societal position, social status and who serves whom – through the trapped novelist’s thoughts and feelings, as she disturbs and hides among the images at The Louvre. As she moves from painting to painting, she changes and exerts a visible authority that allows her to have power, even if momentarily.”

“The main character symbolizes how art was evolving at that time, from a Western European point of view to a more global point of view,” said Schulenburg. “As she pops up in different artworks, she casts different perspectives about art in the 21st century.”

Schulenburg will incorporate Valdés’s novel and its themes into his spring topics course. Students will read the novel then discuss its themes, write a research paper, and make oral presentations at the university’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors Symposium in April and at other venues. In their presentations, the students will explain – in Spanish – how the novel’s themes can be related to current, relevant topics and issues, which will give them invaluable experience speaking a foreign language in a public venue, Schulenburg said.

Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, 608-342-6191, hamerl@uwplatt.edu​

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