Language Professor Publishes Article, Makes Two Presentations

by Public Relations | May 24, 2017

May 24, 2017

Dr. Juan-Carlos RivasDr. Juan Carlos Rivas, assistant professor of modern and classical languages in the Saint Vincent College School of Humanities and Fine Arts, had a scholarly article accepted for publication in a journal and made two presentations at professional conferences.

The article, “Aut Caesar Aut Nihil: Hernán Cortés’ Machiavelic Strategies in Mexico’s Conquest” will be published in the spring 2018 edition of Hispanic Journal.

“Essentially, the article offers an analysis of some of the strategies Hernán Cortés used in his Conquest of México,” Rivas explained. “The analysis demonstrates that some of what Cortés put into practice very closely resembles some of what Nicholas Machiavelli expressed in theory in some of his writings on the subject, especially in The Prince.”

Rivas made a presentation on March 26 entitled, “Mirrors and Mirages: Dualistic Categories as Ars Poetica in Cervantes’ Narrative” at the Northeast Modern Language Association’s 48th annual convention in Baltimore.

“There seems to be a predisposition in humans to perceive different concepts in terms of opposite extremes,” Rivas commented. “A case in point is today’s media and their prevalent portrayal of a Manichean world in which only two contrary views are possible – Tertium Non Datur. In this paper I propose that Cervantes shows an apparent affinity in perceiving the world in terms of binary oppositions. Thus, he has a tendency to arrange a wide array of elements through the use of dualistic patterns, such as the dichotomy history and fiction, which, I argue, is an essential structural characteristic of his narrative that constitutes his own Ars poetica. However, once we as readers look past the apparent juxtapositions we can appreciate the complexity of his ideas. Instead of the Aristotelian either/or mentality, Cervantes’ narrative is related to the medieval sic et non or what Bart Kosko calls fuzzy thinking. Hence, Cervantes employs dualities – equal and opposing elements – not to simplify the world but rather to make us reflect in order to deepen our knowledge of the human condition. After exploring the long tradition surrounding the use of dualities from classical antiquity to the Early Modern period, this work then analyzes the dualistic categories and schemata in Don Quixote. Other critics have addressed many of these; however, not in connection with the concept of fuzzy thinking and fuzzy categories. This study ultimately illustrates the continuity in Cervantes’ narrative, thereby demonstrating the remarkable consistency of his own ars poetica throughout his opus.”

He also made a presentation entitled, “Pseudo autobiographical Metafiction: Lázaro González Pérez’s ‘Baciyélmic’ History/Story” at the 70th Annual Kentucky Foreign Languages Conference April 20-22 at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

“El Lazarillo, as this anonymous masterpiece is commonly known, has originated a lot of debate since its publication in 1554,” Rivas said. “Literary characters in Don Quixote were already debating genre issues due to the difficulty they found when it came to categorizing this book. History and literature are at the center of a debate where some seem to perceive a barber’s basin and other Mambrino’s helmet. The following analysis, among other things, uses Hayden White’s idea of emplotment, Robert Scholes and Robert Kellog’s study of narrative and fuzzy logic to highlight the ambivalence and ambiguity generated by this book.”

Rivas, a member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 2012, earned a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree at the University of California and a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona.

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Photo: Dr. Juan Carlos Rivas

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