Why this world: An author biography of Clarice Lispector
Today’s class began with Mia doing a book Analysis on a biography of Clarice Lispector by titled Why this world. Mia’s presentation helped the class have more of an idea of the author of The Hour of the Star which was our class reading. This presentation also helped the class understand what influences she had on her writing. Lispector was a first generation immigrant whose family came fled from the Ukraine when the Soviet Union was persecuting Jews. Her mother died of a disease early in her life. One eerie detail we had learned is The Hour of the Star was published days before Clarice’s death. It was discussed how in a previous book Lispector wrote where a cockroach is slowly crushed and died, that the author of the autobiography believes Lispector made this scene in that book resembles the death of Lispector’s mother who died slowly and painfully. It was discussed how the author of this autobiography mostly tried to make inferences about how certain parts of Lispector’s life were emulated in her books, with no real solid evidence. Lispector did not talk to the public that often, there was only one in-depth interview with her, and she often used pen names. She is a woman that had a lot of mystery surrounding her. This presentation then transitioned flawlessly into the next topic, our class reading The Hour of the Star.
Discussion questions and socratic seminar
Today after Mia’s presentation the class formed a circle and began a socratic seminar style discussion using questions posted on the class blog by students on Wednesday as guides. Such questions delved on themes, poverty, society, beauty standards (Macabea seeing ads with “beautiful” women), and symbolism. One of the major themes discussed in depth was death and the attitude Brazilians hold towards death versus Americans. It was expressed that Brazilians celebrate the person’s past life and burials are done quickly after passing, and life goes on, compared to in America where services take a while to organize, and mourning is usually somber. One question that was discussed was “Why do the narrator and characters constantly berate Macabea?”. This also closely tied with the question “How does the author tell us about different socioeconomic class in the novel and why?”. One such example offered was how, poverty in a class system often has scape-goats. That those that are poor are leeches, not working hard enough, dumb, and other stereotypes. It was discussed how socio-economic class and affects treatment of different people from economic, social, and mentally. It was discussed how although those living in Macabea’s ward of the city were “poor” some were better off than the others. Macabea lacked basic education and was constantly berated by most of those she knew as “slow”. The conversations the class made were productive, and students were not afraid to disagree with arguable statements made, or dive deeper into proposed concepts.
Clarice, Lispector. Translated by Moser, Benjamin.The Hour of the Star. New Directions Publishing. New York, New York, 2011.
Moser, Benjamin. Why this world: A biography of Clarice Lispector. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK, 2011.
Interview with Clarice Lispector with English subtitles. Sao Paulo, 1977, Penguin Books UK.