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Faculty publish new books on friendship, Phoenix, film

February 14, 2013

Faculty of Spanish in ASU's School of International Letters and Cultures recently published new books that challenge widely held cultural assumptions about friendship, Phoenix and Latin American film. 

"Amistades Imperfectas: Del Humanismo a la Illustración con Cervantes," by Juan Pablo Gil-Osle, assistant professor of Spanish

"Imperfect Friendship: From Humanism to Enlightenment with Cervantes" addresses the relationship between representations of male friendship (15th century to the Enlightenment) and images of friendship in the works of Cervantes.

Gil-Osle uses a twofold theory of male friendship as the foundation for his argument. On the one hand, classical, medieval, and Renaissance theories of friendship (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Saint Agustin, Rieval, Alberti, Ficino) support his analysis of the classical, ecclesiastic and humanistic tradition of amicitia within which Cervantes was writing.

On the other, Cervantes’s representations of friendship are – at times – so atypical of the amicitia tradition, that they necessitate examination through enlightened models of social relationship and the idea of the individual (Hume, Adam Smith, Kant). As a result Cervantes appears as a key figure in the evolution of solidarity models from social organization to individualistic frameworks.

This book shows the intellectual history of the notion of amicitia in a period that first began to develop the market logic, egoist theories, and family paradigms that occupy a large portion of our current political imaginary. Peninsular literature and cultures are presented in this book as fundamental to understanding the evolution of the notion of friendship in Europe.

"Glimpses of Phoenix: The Desert Metropolis in Written and Visual Media," by Regents' Professor David William Foster

Part of the self-image of Phoenix is that the city has no history and that anything of importance happened yesterday. Also that Phoenix is a "clean" city, though there is considerable evidence of a past of police corruption and social oppression. The "real" present-day Phoenix, easygoing and sun-drenched, a place of ever-expanding development and economic growth, guarantees, it is said, an enviable lifestyle, low taxes, and unfettered personal freedom and opportunity.

Little of this is true. Phoenix has been described as one of the least sustainable cities in the country. The sixth largest urban area of the United States, there is an alarming superficiality tourism-oriented discourse of the leaders and citizens of the capital of Arizona. This study examines a series of narrative works (novels, theater, chronicles, investigative reporting, personal accounts, editorial cartooning, even a children’s television program) that question this discourse in a frequently stinging fashion. The works examined are anchored in a critical understanding of the dominant urban myths of Greater Phoenix, and an awareness of how all the newness, modernity, and fun-in-the-sun mentality mask a uniquely dystopian human experience.

"Experimental Latin American Cinema: History and Aesthetics," by Cynthia Tompkins, associate professor of Spanish

While there are numerous film studies that focus on one particular grouping of films – by nationality, by era, or by technique – here is the first single volume that incorporates all of the above, offering a broad overview of experimental Latin American film produced over the last twenty years.

Analyzing seventeen recent films by eleven different filmmakers from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Paraguay, and Peru, Cynthia Tompkins uses a comparative approach that finds commonalities among the disparate works in terms of their influences, aesthetics, and techniques. Tompkins introduces each film first in its sociohistorical context before summarizing it and then subverting its canonical interpretation. Pivotal to her close readings of the films and their convergences as a collective cinema is Tompkins’s application of Deleuzian film theory and the concept of the time-image as it pertains to the treatment of time and repetition.

Tompkins also explores such topics as the theme of decolonization, the consistent use of montage, paratactically structured narratives, and the fusion of documentary conventions and neorealism with drama. An invaluable contribution to any dialogue on the avant-garde in general and to filmmaking both in and out of Latin America, "Experimental Latin American Cinema" is also a welcome and insightful addition to Latin American studies as a whole.

The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.