Here`s - American Studies Department at The University of Bucharest



Here`s - American Studies Department at The University of Bucharest
A Monthly Publication of the American Studies Program at the University of Bucharest
“Like our readers, we're also the ones to whom
the events happened, at once narrator and
subject. The intersection of these two roles has
been excruciating.”
Jim Amoss
Copyright © 2008 The American Studies Program of the English Department at the University of Bucharest. All rights reserved.
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
TRUST WE NEED by Emanuela Dumitriu
KALEIDOSCOPE by Andrei Răuţu
ON THE SUN ALSO RISES by Alexandra Magearu
unCHARTED by Florin Pojoga
IN ABSOLUT VODKA ADS by Alexandra Vasile
DESIRE by Mihaela Precup
IN TONI MORRISON’S SULA by Alexandra Vasile
page 02
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
Dear friends,
It is with great joy that I welcome an
ambitious new publication by the students of the
American Studies Program at the University of
Bucharest. [Inter]Sections is the very first
undergraduate journal of American Studies in
Romania, showcasing the enthusiastic work of our
students and opening its pages to fellow students
across the country. It provides a unique venue for the
expression of your creativity, highlighting both your
remarkable academic credentials and your desire to
engage critically with the world.
The impressive amount of work, talent, and
dedication which have gone into the making of this
journal allow it to stand out in the undergraduate
academic arena, where opportunities of this kind are
sadly so rare. We owe thanks to the editor in chief Mihaela Precup - and the student editors – Flavia
Cioceanu, Diana Mihai, Mihaela Mircia, Alina
Florescu, Ilinca Diaconu, Marius Bogdan, Iulia
Nentu, Alexandra Vasile, Alexandra Magearu,
Alexandru Măcărescu, Silvia Filip, Monica Radu,
Andrei Răuţu, Doiniţa Bănceanu, and Emanuela
Dumitriu – for creating a landmark publication,
which should pave the way for other student
periodicals, just as the American Studies Program
itself led the way for similar departments and
programs all over Romania.
As the director of the Center for American
Studies at the University of Bucharest, I am honored
that our program will host the first undergraduate
journal of American Studies in the country. As the
first program of its kind in Romania, established in
1999, we have always striven to promote a dynamic
environment of intellectual excellence and
cooperation, reflected in the long series of
conferences, lectures, cultural events and
publications that have become the trademark of our
program. Our long-standing commitment to
providing inspiring education underlies the
enthusiasm with which this journal has been
conceived will be received.
On behalf of the members of the Center for
American Studies, please allow me to wish all
contributors a long and fulfilling editorial career. I
look forward to many more issues to come!
Prof. Dr. Rodica Mihăilă
Center for American Studies
University of Bucharest
It should have been called The Van Winkle.
This is how it all began, with a quick yet
complicated argument over what we should call the
very first American Studies undergraduate
journal at the University of Bucharest. We, the
editors of what is now [Inter]sections, should duly
recall that we ended up refusing to lend this journal
the complicated sleepiness of a man lost in a forest,
hypnotized by a game of ninepins. Instead, we
sagely voted for the hint at interdisciplinarity which
our current title provides. And then madness ensued.
Of course.
Like all good old-fashioned productive
prefixes, inter- opens many doors and then slams
them unapologetically over your fingers, just when
you thought you were safely in. [Inter]sections
creates the illusion of safety and pulls the rug from
under your feet. You go to the Film section and you
suddenly find yourself attacked for your shaky
morals. You go to the History and Politics column
and you start wondering whether it makes any sense
at all for Barack Obama to quit smoking. The shifts
in tone are quick and quirky. The topics are
deliciously eclectic. Why we look at photography
but forget all about Niépce. Why we often remember
the blues but refuse to acknowledge its connection to
manele. What women in Bucharest fear. How
women in Vodka Absolut ads are fetishized. Why
we don’t absolutely need to love The Scarlet Letter.
Why we need to read Roland Barthes’ Camera
Lucida with a box of tissues. How American rock
music engraved indelible memories into our
emotional maps. Why The Sun also Rises is a funny
little absurd book. Sailors kissing, MTV, AIDS.
More photography, really cool prose and poetry.
How you can do an American Studies-related MA
abroad, and learn not to ever trust the Romanian
post. Who is Bobcat Goldthwaite? Why do you
sometimes feel the city seriously needs to be flushed
down the toilet?
Really, it should have been called The Van
Winkle. Still, it is with great joy that we give you
enthusiastically – and sometimes sleepily – reflect
on what has been famously dubbed a country of Don
Quixotes whose mirror images prompt the same
confounding exclamation: “I’m not myself, I’m
somebody else!”
Mihaela Precup
Junior lecturer, Center for American
Studies, University of Bucharest
page 03
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Ema Dumitriu
I must begin by saying this: at some point in
time, I really thought this long-expected moment
would never come. Now, you can accuse me of
fatalism, indict me for my frail conviction, and even
summon me to revisit Roosevelt’s “the only thing we
have to fear is fear itself” speech, the fireside chats as
well, but please don’t mistrust my firm belief that,
while the past may be tense, the future should be
perfect. In other words, we, the editors of the
American Studies Undergraduate Journal, want to
express our gratitude for the chance for catharsis this
journal is offering us, and utter our need for your
sustenance and trust in the coming issues.
Moreover, let’s make this the beginning of a
things considered, it is my OPINION
that trust is what we mostly need from our readers,
together with their willingness to deem this journal
appropriate not only for the American Studies
Department, but also for those who believe that
“America’s one of the finest countries anyone ever
stole”. (Bobcat Goldthwaite)
those of you who have identified the
clichés of a political speech in my article( meaning :
the pathos, the lobbying, the hooks), I say : after two
whole years of campaign, can you blame me? 
beautiful friendship and acknowledge that good things
come to those who wait, or, if this refulgent manner
of appealing to perennial discourse (no, I wouldn’t go
so far as to call them cultural clichés) doesn’t do the
trick, then allow me to put forward an OPINION in a
most un-opinionated way: I would rather enjoy the
prospect of a Speakers’ Column, than take the world’s
unstoppable narrative as given. Because these articles
are all about it: having an opinion, not an expert’s
opinion or a difference of opinion, but rather a second
opinion. Therefore, indeed, these pieces are mainly
addressed to you, the people who never go anywhere
without a 25 cent coin in their pocket.
In consequence, I advocate the belief that little
pitchers have big years, thus encouraging our student
readers to make known their own opinions (and no,
I’m not only saying that to facilitate my work). While,
with regard to our professors, I must use the
exculpatory principle of the lack of experience and
plead for their lenient attitude towards our items( and
yes, this is the only time I let myself be humble in
writing, since the general expectation is of boldness
and audacity).
page 04
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Marius-Bogdan Tudor
There has been little talk (and most of it
off the record) about Barack Obama’s on-again
off-again relationship with cigarettes. Despite
his pledge he made to his wife to quit the
dreaded things during his run for the White
House, there has been no indication that he has
done so and his honeymoon with the American
media has “pocketed” any attempts to shed
some light on the subject. Nonetheless, the
symbolism of what may be the president-elect’s
last cigarettes, as he embarks on his critical
mission, cannot be easily discarded.
Unlike Will Smith in “Independence
Day”, this is not the moment for Obama to light
up a cigar. Quite the contrary; since the current
economic affairs have officially turned his soonto-begin presidential term into the most difficult
job for a White House freshman since 1933,
Obama has his work cut out for him. And it’s
easy to see that even from the early stages of the
team-selection process. Announcing the names
of Rahm Emmanuel and Hillary Clinton as
certain to become Chief of Staff and Secretary
of State, respectively, before they had formally
accepted the positions created a state of
confusion and put a lot of pressure on the
former Illinois Senator to actually “anoint” the
two, even though he might have merely wanted
to “test the water.” There is also the question of
“old politics” making its way into an
administration which was first and foremost
centered on the idea of change. Many up &
coming Democrats (among them Virginia
Governor Timothy Kayne) are weary of a hardboiled partisan such as Rahm Emmanuel and
feel uncomfortable with Clinton and her
entourage being in charge of foreign issues. Joe
Biden, a Washington insider versed in
international affairs who joined the ticket
precisely because of his expertise on foreign
affairs, must also be feeling somewhat sidelined.
With all this to consider, it’s difficult not to see
Obama reaching for the lighter.
Unfortunately for Obama, the times are
indeed “a-changin.’” Moving to a city he’s not
very fond of, limiting the time spent with
friends, reducing his slam-dunk sessions on the
court… but when it comes to “change we can
believe in,” an Obama first term is starting to
resemble what might have been Clinton’s third
if Hillary had been the Democratic choice and
had won. Old faces, new situations, but as
Richard Cohen of The Washington Post puts it,
“Lawrence Summers doing macro, Timothy
Geithner doing micro and both of them making
late-night calls to Bob Rubin in New York,”
hinting at the Holy-Trinity in charge of the
economy during Bill Clinton’s two terms. The
bitterness of the primary campaign has suddenly
evaporated, mostly because it was artificial to
begin with. Obama has said that he thinks very
highly of Hillary and also, before the start of the
presidential race, that “the more I get to know
her, the more I admire her.” This apparent
paradox can be explained by turning to Freud
and his “narcissism of difference,” meaning the
antipathy we feel towards people who resemble
us. Besides explaining the age-old propensity of
Shiites and Sunnis to slaughter one another, it
also reveals why Clinton and Obama supporters
were constantly at each other’s throats. But a
presidential campaign is like a government
looking to settle down; sparks are bound to fly.
The president-elect handled himself with a
detached cool that served him extremely well
and will hopefully serve his administration just
as much.
knows that the media-frenzy
surrounding his campaign will not die down; on
the contrary, the spotlight will be turned up a
notch to scrutinize his every action. Time is of
the essence and the pressure is on even with 2
months prior to the actual investiture, with very
little room for error. Obama's steely calm is now
one of the USA’s major assets. So if he needs to
reach for his lighter every once in a while in
order to preserve it, I say “Go ahead, Mr.
President, have a cigarette.” It may be one of his
page 05
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Andrei Răuţu
me to be frank at the
commencement, you will not like me now and
you’ll like me a good deal less as we go on. Let
me tell you that you won’t find in this section
any popularity contest, you won’t find your
average film reviews that you can find on any
blog, you have the internet for that, this section
is not for the narrow-minded looking only for
fast-feedback, going to the cinema only when
accompanied by a herd of their own kind, this is
not for the everyday dilettantes who if they have
heard of The Holy Trinity of Cinema and of cult
directors, think they are advised and have the
right to make statements about films in
magazines, this is not for the weak, the slow, the
phony, the rich, and if I have forgotten anyone,
it will inevitably come up later. Ladies, do not
be repelled, gentlemen don’t be envious, when
you watch a film I want you to have in your
minds, my eyes with the piercing look of the
man with a movie camera through the lens of a
Are you still here?...good. I am Aguirre,
the Wrath of God, I am Ivan the Terrible, I am
Norman Bates, I am the Great Dictator without
the discourse. I’m Simon of the Desert
preaching before an empty desert. This section
is a film and you are the spectators. In front of
you I am able to speak, I am able to speak now,
laid on the veil of memory. Do not be afraid, I
am not.
Before watching a film, look around you,
do you see the filth, the garbage, the infinite
hypocrisy growing up in circles? Just turn on
your TV and you’ll find the crowd, an endless
crowd of people with no purpose in life but that
of making more money, of those who follow
shallow leaders and are being manipulated
shamelessly. This is not the diary of a madman,
filled with rage infused by a decaying society,
no, this is the crusade of a naïve. How did
Raskolnikov come to murder? How can one
choose the Napoleonic superiority over people?
How can society lead to murder? Society is the
most powerful instrument in shaping one’s
mentality, and that’s already becoming a cliché
in itself. After you grow up, you fully enter
society, you bash into it as in a wall, and for the
first time you come across the demands the
society has on you. If you don’t meet these
demands, society will reject you. And you’ll
become alienated. Into the eyes of an outsider,
of a loner, everything gets a second meaning,
how can you deal with your rage in seeing that
all beauty is shallow, all promises are lies, all
heroes are gone, all feelings are counterfeited
into an idyllic surreal world. And you see an
illusion of innocent future with the fangs of this
unscrupulous beast-like world hanging above it.
This is not the story of the beginning of punk.
So what’s your only choice in that situation?
What do you feel when you get out on street at
night, when you know that all animals come out
at night when you feel that all your knowledge
fails to give reason to what happens around you,
when you lose your faith in anything, only than
you start felling your loneliness, only than you
realize your loneliness, and when that happens
an immense break between your rational self
and your spiritual self. You realize that you are
limited to the same patterns of thoughts and
actions, and everything else becomes
unreachable. Think of all the expressions of
loneliness around you. Where is that
equilibrium that was thought to exist in nature?
When do you realize that it’s enough…that it
doesn’t have to be so? Think about these two
quotes until next time: “Loneliness has followed
me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars,
sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no
escape. I'm God's lonely man... June 8th. My
life has taken another turn again. The days can
go on with regularity over and over, one day
indistinguishable from the next. A long
continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a
change.” Followed by “I think someone should
just take this city and just... just flush it down
the fuckin' toilet.”
Page 06
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
by Alexandru
Directed by Terry George, in 2004 and
co-produced by US, British, Italian and SouthAfrican companies, Hotel Rwanda did not
receive a lot of hype, or at least that is how I
perceived it, partly due to the fact that I didn’t
feel subjected to the constant media
bombardment that usually heralds the premiere
of another Hollywood block-buster; so it was
merely curiosity that drove me to watch the
movie, after reading a short review in Dilema
Veche on what seemed a controversial subject
and more so one whose details were completely
unknown to me.
From the scarce details in the article
that actually lead me to watch Hotel Rwanda, I
remember being intrigued by the fact that the
plot was based on true events. Keeping that in
mind, I began to watch the movie eager to
understand the underlining events that actually
degenerated into the massacre of more than
800,000 men, women and children.
The film opens with a radio playing an
extremist anti-Tutsi broadcast: “They are
cockroaches. They are murderers. Rwanda is
our Hutu land”. I was pretty much in the dark as
to what, or who exactly “the Tutsi” and “the
Hutu” were, yet the extreme xenophobic (or
rather what I considered it to be, unbeknown to
me that the two groups were actually part of the
same nation) and hate-filled message in the
radio broadcast made it pretty clear that this was
no “good-guy-saves-girl-from-the-mafia-andthey-live-happily-ever-after” kind of movie
based on real events. This was a serious account
of some horrible series of events that would
send shivers down anybody’s spine were they to
imagine themselves for just one second in the
shoes of those staring death in the face; and
Issue 01, December, 2008
death at the hand of their countrymen…the
I’m not the type of person who usually
resonates with a tragic plot, the sad, sad fate of
the protagonist or group of characters that find
themselves in a dire situation, the untimely
demise of some poor soul or the deceptions of a
naïve heroine. Au contraire, I’m that obnoxious
guy behind you that laughs his shorts off when
the passengers of The Titanic smash into the
ship’s rigging, while the ladies in the first row
sob and delicately blow their nose into their
rose-scented handkerchiefs. Hotel Rwanda,
however, struck a chord inside me and, despite
that oh-so manly and insensitive Neanderthal
hiding beneath the surface, I couldn’t help but
actually feel pity and sorrow when it occurred to
me that yes, those people on the screen are
actors and extras, but hey! this actually
happened! Those buses leaving and the Tutsis
and moderate Hutus, whose only perspective
left was to be butchered with rusty machetes
wielded by irrational people blinded by hate,
were actually there, in front of the Hotel des
Mille Collines at some point in time. The scene
in question was, to me, one of the most
emotional in the entire movie and it presents the
group of Tutsi and moderate Hutus refugees
who sought shelter from the Interahamwe
militias at the Hotel des Mille Collines,
managed by the main protagonist Paul
Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), as they finally
breathe a sigh of relief when a convoy of UN
trucks and buses arrives at the hotel in order to
evacuate…the white foreigners… I gasped. I
was no longer watching a movie; for a moment I
saw not the actors, not the extras, but the actual
people at the Hotel des Mille Collines in ’93,
infinite desperation incarnate, over a thousand
shattered hopes in the form of those left behind
by the, HA! UN Peacekeepers.
And so, genuine sadness and disbelief
turned into anger. I simply could not conceive
how the UN just took “their own” and left the
others at the mercy of the executioners. And not
only did they evacuate solely the foreign
nationals, mostly whites and journalists, but
their infinite wisdom the high-ranking officials
coordinating the operations of the UN
Peacekeepers and UNAMIR (United Nations
Assistance Mission for Rwanda) also pulled
back the military forces securing the Hotel des
Mille Collines, at the time a bastion of hope for
the Tutsis hunted like dogs, and washed their
Page 07
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
hands of the entire matter. I was utterly
disconcerted and furious at the lack of reaction
from the “civilized” countries of Western
Europe and the US. Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte)
commander of the UN forces securing the hotel
explained to a flabbergasted and desperate Paul
Rusesabagina why the world will not intervene:
“You're black. You're not even a nigger. You're
an African.”
The movie itself, the story of one Paul
Rusesabagina and his family as well as the way
he actually helped save 1,268 refugees is not
what made this movie stick with me for 3 years
now and who knows how many more; it was the
cocktail of emotions that were stirred within me.
I rarely get the chance to experience, shock,
disbelief, horror, frustration, a deep feeling of
sadness and an even deeper feeling of hate and
anger and all in the space of 121 minutes. The
“happy-ending” when Paul reunites with his
family in modern day Congo did very little to
wash away the sour taste left by a very hard to
swallow exposé on ignorance and indifference.
Because in the end, in 100 days of genocide,
between 800,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans lost
their lives, during which the U.S. was probably
hard at work devising schemes to secure new
sources of oil in Iraq, oil which Rwanda has
none of.
Note: first submitted for Ruxandra Rădulescu’s
2nd year course on Writing
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Alexandra
through the leaves,
ancient temples, an
metropolis, thousands of different people,
baffling, random thoughts…”Did you ever
wonder what your purpose in life is?” Bob is
“completely lost.” Charlotte is “stuck” in time.
Is human friendship enough in order to forget,
move on and find your path in life? Is there such
thing as a true path out there or are we mere
victims of confusion and absurdity? Sofia
Coppola raises these questions with her 2003,
Academy Award winner “Lost in Translation,”
a film that suggests rather than states.
Based on a completely original and
personal script (Sofia Coppola’s work as well),
the film inspects the inner life of two people:
Bob Harris (outstandingly performed by Bill
Murray), a middle-aged Hollywood actor, and
Charlotte (shyly, but appropriately interpreted
by Scarlett Johansson), a recently married
philosophy graduate. Surrounded by thousands
of people, but still utterly alone, they come
together in a Tokyo hotel, share jokes, wander
about the city, discuss the meaning of their lives
but, most importantly, understand each other,
without actually communicating. As the
character-driven narration is set in motion, their
roads are interwoven, giving Sofia Coppola the
chance to explore both the dreamy landscapes of
Charlotte’s solitary walks and the humorous
fragments provided by Murray’s ironical
The opening scene, in which Charlotte is
shown from the waist down and dressed only in
a pair of transparent panties (an homage to a
painting by John Kacere), builds up the mystery
around the character, as her face is not shown
yet. This framing is gradually accompanied by
silence, the sounds of the city, the character’s
movement and the first tunes of music along
with the opening scores. Through parallel
Page 08
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
sequencing, Bob is filmed at the window of a
car when arriving in Tokyo. The camera shoots
from the outside of the window, looking inside
as the car moves (a trademark of Sofia
Coppola), and being replaced by the subjective
perspective of the character, who is gazing at the
city buildings with all their colors and lights.
Having nothing else to do back home,
Charlotte comes along with her husband, who
works as a photographer in Tokyo. However,
numbed by her inactivity and neglected by her
permanently busy husband, she begins to
reconsider her life, rejudge her choices (“I don’t
know who I married”) and search for a sense to
her existence. She is mostly portrayed in her
solitude, deepened in her thoughts, dazed and
wistful, whether she is sitting in her hotel room
or taking long walks through Tokyo and Kyoto.
One of the most beautiful scenes of the movie
depicts Charlotte, sitting on the windowsill in
her room. Her figure is projected directly upon
the high-altitude view of the city, with
apparently no borders between her and the mid
air, due to the vast, translucent window. The
hand-held camera pans around her body, then
unto the view (a dazzling cityscape), and back to
her red-nailed feet, her face, her hair, all upon a
one-and-a-half minute long instrumental song,
which composes the appropriate melancholic
Bob is sent to Tokyo to endorse a 2
million $ whiskey commercial. Lost among
such strange people and incomprehensible
words, he finds himself in a decisive point of his
life and career: his wife and children seem not to
need him anymore, as he became distant to
them, and he feels like he is selling his image
for a buck, when he could be doing something
with more artistic meaning to it. Moreover, he is
a total odd one out in Tokyo, towering above all
people, and an inadequate as he cannot adjust to
the Japanese way of life. When filming for the
Suntory commercial, he is literally “lost in
translation” as the director becomes more and
more agitated. Bob’s calmness, dismayed face
and confusion add up to the humorous situation.
There is also a sort of detachment to the
character, for he is making several ironical (and
self–ironical) jokes about his situation, jokes
addressed to the viewer mainly (and later on to
Charlotte too), the Japanese not being able to
grasp them.
Issue 01, December, 2008
What is bewildering about this film is
its apparently simplistic plot, with few actual
events, but so much insight to it. The
communication between the characters is
reduced to monologues and sometimes no words
at all, as the film does not need actual words to
describe feelings and sensations; their face
expressions, their connection, their experiences,
their loneliness, they all speak for themselves.
Furthermore, defying the canons of romance
movies, Sofia Coppola does not sexually
connect the two characters, their union being
more of an intellectual and emotional one. They
sit in bed, next to each other and share their
experiences. On the grounds of their age gap,
Bob assumes the role of the advice-giving
father, while Charlotte the one of the young
woman, trying to define her persona. As the end
of the film moves closer, they understand that
they have to eventually separate and face their
lives as they are.
Through the ending scene, the director
builds the climax as Bob is running through the
crowd to say good-bye to Charlotte. He stops
her with a “Hey you!”, takes her in his arms,
whispers something inaudible in her ears and
kisses her (a moment not present in the script,
but improvised on the spot by the actors). The
whisper, incomprehensible to the viewer, makes
their connection even more personal and free
from everybody else. Charlotte moves through
the crowd, both crying and smiling, as the
background is blurred around her. Bob gets back
to his car and leaves the city. The final
sequences symmetrically depict Tokyo once
again, as an homage paid to the city.
When you are able to identify with the
feelings and experiences of the characters, “Lost
in Translation” becomes much more than a
comedy-romance product, but a refuge of mind,
as its ever floating atmosphere of emptiness,
confusion and melancholy is directly transferred
to you. You may understand it or not, but a
feeling of inexpressible sadness will surely last
with you towards its end. On the whole, what is
“Lost in Translation” all about? Is it not about
being human and facing what is supposed to be
<<life>>? “Everyone wants to be found”.
Simple as that.
Note: essay first submitted for Ilinca
Anghelescu’s 1st year course on Film Studies.
Page 09
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
This is the sturdy little corner where you can shoot books down…or up…give tips, plant mischievous little teases
and leave readers dissatisfied but incensed.
Roland Barthes, Camera
(transl. by Richard Howard,
Hill and Wang, 1982)
rating 5/5
Magical. Mystical. Mesmerizing. A powerful
little book. A cornerstone for anyone even
remotely interested in photography. A book that
shows you one possible way to bring the dead
back. Maybe not the most foul-proof way, but
do you care, really? Read it with a box of
tissues. You’ll need them to: a) mop up your
brow; b) wipe off a stray tear; c) spread them
around the bedroom floor and pretend they’re
ghosts of your dearly departed, trying to come
back through particles of light that enter your
eyes as you dive inside the photographic space.
Sacvan Bercovitch,
The Rites of Assent:
Transformations in the
Symbolic Construction of
(Routledge, 1993)
rating 5/5
No self-respecting student of American Studies
should have the heart to graduate without
having read at least the first and last chapters of
this book. Bercovitch is brilliant, entertaining,
sometimes difficult, but his work is definitely a
memorable intellectual trip with a lot of quirky
stopovers. (M.P)
Judith Halberstam,
Female Masculinities
(Duke University Press,
rating 4/5
Is your body your home, and
if so, is it inescapable? Is it a
mysteriously inherited
territory that divides and circumscribes, one that
battles are fought for/on/against? If we can put
on any mask that we feel defines us at some
point, are they all ‘authentic’ or all equally
‘fake’? Why can’t we imagine our body into
existence? Is the body our home or our prison?
And even if the body is our home, can we ever
be really exiled from it? These are some of the
questions posed by one of the most famous and
controversial queer studies theoreticians writing
today. And if you’re still not even a teensy bit
curious, go ahead and read the very entertaining
“customer’s comments” on
tBy=bySubmissionDateDescending) to see
what the fuss is all about. (M.P.)
Nathaniel Hawthorne,
The Scarlet Letter
(first published in 1850)
rating 2/5
Classic! Yet, a real No-No
for me! Maybe I was turned
off by the subject…all that
Puritan boogie-woogie made me gasp for air for
several times throughout the novel. Maybe it
was the clearly moralistic intent of the text. Oh,
how I avoid preachers. Anyway, it’s a not-to-beread-twice book for me. (A.M.)
page 11/xx
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
Henry James,
Portrait of a Lady
(first pubished in 1881)
rating 5/5
slightly deranged (who will become engrossed
in the dark themes of the novel) or just to those
very perseverant. Read it twice, once in
Romanian, once in English – was charmed both
times. Exhaustingly long, mind-boggling
phrases, boring at times, yet beautiful!
Wonderful English and an oppressive
atmosphere floating throughout the whole novel.
Some readers prevailed, many more others were
defeated by this book. No wonder James has
been repeatedly used as a torture instrument in
translation topics on admission exams,
alongside Virgina Woolf and James Joyce. All
in all, a challenging yet rewarding reading.
Walt Whitman,
Song of Myself
(first published in 1855)
rating 5/5
I must admit I was puzzled in the beginning by
Whitman’s choice of title for his poetry book.
Reading further into the text, his apparent
arrogance amazed me still. I was perhaps a bit
prejudiced against the self-declared prophet. But
then I actually read the words, was touched by
their straight-forwardness and honesty and I
realized that Whitman was a man ahead of his
time. Open-minded when it came to race, in an
era when Blacks and Indians were deemed
lesser humans. Open-minded when it came to
sexual practices and preferences, in times when
anything related to bodily functions was thickly
veiled. And open-minded when it came to
gender differences as well, in a century when
women didn’t have the right to vote or live an
independent life yet. Maybe Whitman was the
first hippie after all, being so deeply emerged in
nature and the natural. Take his word for
granted - if you want him, look for him under
your boot-soles. (A.M.)
Maxine Hong
Kingston, The Woman
Warrior, Memoirs of a
Childhood Among
(Vintage Books, 1977)
rating 3.5/5
Here’s a collection of stories. No, not the kind
your mother would tell you after tucking you in
bed. These are talk-stories. You are not going to
fall asleep by reading this book (nor are you
going to relive those magical childhood
evenings under the covers slowly dozing off to
the voice of a loved one reading you a story),
but you will get an insight into the role of the
woman in the traditional Chinese culture. Part
autobiography, part fiction, part third person
narrative The Woman Warrior is a powerful
depiction of the inequity of the social status
imposed on the Chinese woman both at “home”
but also in the United States. Maxine Honk
Kingston aims to follow in the footsteps of Fa
Mu Lan the legendary female hero and become
a word warrior. Read the book and judge for
yourself if she succeeds. (A.Mă.)
Shotgun Reviewers:
M.P. – Mihaela Precup
A.M. – Alexandra Magearu
A.Mă. - Alexandru Măcărescu
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
This is the place where we take our time poking and prodding one of our favorite topics: books, under every shape
and form.
M. Butterfly and
the Engendering
of Nationalist
by Mihaela Precup
(rating 5/5)
Queer Theory, an Introduction,
Annamarie Jagose brings up the heated
discussion around ‘Queer Nation,’ which
centered mostly around the introduction of the
idea of nationhood inside the concept of
queerness. While some simply argued that the
queer nation was, in fact, a metaphor of
America, and suggestive of the idea of a queer
community, others criticized a term which rang
oxymoronic when it reminded audiences of the
unlikely marriage between nationalist discourse
and its acceptance of same-sex desire. Others
propose that nationality is always gendered.
Such is the case of David Henry Hwang’s M.
Butterfly, made into an extremely uneven and
irritatingly miscast 1993 David Cronenberg
Both the play and the film posit that the
nationalist discourse of any country is inevitably
(binarily) gendered, and reads power relations in
terms of the binary male-female (read as
pleasure to dominate/pleasure to submit). France
is metonymically represented by Rene
Gallimard, whose name suggests a certain
gender ambiguity, since the addition of a mere
mute e at the end of his first name would
endanger his position as the indelibly male
imperialist. The Orient is embodied by Sung,
the male activist in drag, who plays a
submissive Eastern woman, too modest to ever
remove her clothes completely. At the end of
the film, disappointed with the realization that
he cannot love ‘just a man’ but must have ‘a
woman created by a man, all else falls short,’
Gallimard puts on the costume of the
submissive Butterfly and kills himself. The
question that I am asking is whether this final
gesture manages to rupture the gender binary
West=masculine, the Orient=feminine), and
which irritatingly associated weakness with
femininity, and domination with masculinity.
Does the final gesture represent a feminization
of the West, lured by the East into assuming the
submissive (read feminine) position which had
been imposed on the East for so long? Or does it
manage to dissolve the heterosexual normativity
behind this reading of nations as male or
There are many hints in the play (less so
the film) that Gallimard had little doubt about
his partner’s real sex, yet when the latter finally
undresses and claims to be loved for himself, he
is rejected for being ‘just a man,’ for destroying
‘the lie’ that Gallimard had loved.
While Judith Butler claims that “gender
can be rendered ambiguous without disturbing
or reorienting normative sexuality at all” (xxiv)
it seems that in M. Butterfly, it is sex that can be
rendered ambiguous only to reinforce gender
binaries. Sung’s male body signifies nothing if
not clad in the garb of Oriental feminine
submission. Drag, in Sung’s case, does not
subvert gender hierarchies, which also bear
strong nationalist undertones. The Orient has
not played a big joke on the Occident by making
it ‘buy’ its disguise, the Orient has actually reenforced the stereotypes imposed by the West
by playing the docile mistress who is nothing in
the absence of her master. Thus, in the absence
of Gallimard, who is the only one who can
name/define him as ‘a woman created by a
man,’ Sung becomes ‘just a man.’ Although
theoretically drag can be used “to expose the
tenuousness of gendered ‘reality’ in order to
counter the violence performed by gender
norms.” (Butler xxiv), M. Butterfly shows that
the underlying danger is that drag can unparodically reiterate the categories of gender
But there is still the final moment, when
Gallimard is himself ‘Butterfly’ in drag and
claims to have loved the Perfect Woman, and to
‘have a vision of the Orient’ where women still
sacrifice themselves for their unworthy men and
their honor. He thus seems to hang onto the
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
male imperialist claims reading Oriental nations
as fragile as females. But does he? It can be
argued that, by assuming that the Orient is his
own creation, his own ‘lie’ or ‘vision,’ and by
identifying himself with it, with Butterfly,
which he kills in the final scene, he annihilates
the very source of the polarity East/West,
male/female, always read in terms of
power/weakness. By claiming that he has loved
‘a woman created by a man,’ he moves further
than Sung into the awareness of gender
ambiguity, but by inevitably reading his
relationship with Sung as a metonymical
representation of nationhood in heteronormative
gender terms, he fails to take his apparent
acceptance of gender ambiguity to the next
It seems that national rhetoric, deeply
rooted in binaries and stereotypes to create
efficient uniform ‘imagined communities’
(Anderson), and queerness are an uneasy
partnership, but one which is quite productive
through the discussions of the patriarchal nature
of the nationalist discourse. What counts,
however, is that its practices be capable of
contradicting the upsetting assumptions of
homogeneity and conformity implied by the
name of the group.
Works Cited:
 Anderson,
Communities. London : Verso, 1983.
 Butler, Judith. Preface to Gender
Trouble. New York & London:
Routledge, 2006
 Cronenberg, David. M. Butterfly, 1993
 Hwang, David Henry. M. Butterfly. New
York: Penguin, 1989
 Jagose, Annamarie. Queer Theory, An
Introduction. New York: NYU, 1996
by Alexandra Magearu
(rating 4/5)
Hemingway’s The Sun
also Rises – what a
funny little absurd
book! I enjoyed it quite
a lot actually, not being
able to understand why or highlight the main
points either.
“Our generation passeth away, and
another generation cometh; but the earth
abideth forever[…]” (Ecclesiastes) This is set as
a motto in the beginning of the book, coupled
along with Stein’s “You’re all a lost
generation,” which makes things seem quite
clear. We come and go, we funny little ants,
repeating ourselves endlessly, catalyzed by our
horrid vanity and drollish hope, while
everything else stays just the same in essence.
Jake, the narrator is “technically a
Catholic.” He himself is not sure of what that
means. He doesn’t care much about the church.
Brett is always looking for an opportunity to
bathe. Through Jake’s eyes, the story comes out
unspectacular, lacking obvious emotional
implication, simply absurd at times. Glancing
deeper beyond words, everything becomes so
darned funny and utterly exasperating at the
same time.
A pack of friends come together for a
trip in Spain, during the Fiesta, to watch the
bullfights. Brett, or Lady Ashley, comes along
with her soon-to-be husband, Mike, a timewasting bankrupt. But no worries, everyone is
wasting time, in a hypnotic way, using alcohol
as the main pretext to watch the hourglass turn.
Men buzz quietly or annoyingly loud around
Brett, like moths attracted to some feverish light
A flawed light bulb that is, as she seems
not to be the refined, genteel and beautiful lady,
as described by her suitors, but merely dull,
whimsical and superficial. She claims she loves
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
her old-time friend, Jake, and then demands a
bath in her hotel room. In turn, Jake is
undeniably in love with her, but sore and bored
with the whole affair. She runs away with the
easily impressionable Robert Cohn, an
oversensitive Jewish writer, who then becomes
obsessed with her and refuses stubbornly to
leave her trace. Bill alone, Jake’s hilarious
companion, seems to keep his distance from her.
They all watch patiently or indifferently or
tearfully as Brett invents and builds up her love
affair with Romero, a 19-year-old bullfighter.
The men get into fights over her, “get tight”
(that is piggishly drunk), become depressed, end
up sobbing because of her. The party breaks off
after Brett takes off with Romero. Finally, Jake
gets a telegram, in which she asks for him to
come and get her out of trouble. Perhaps the
funniest part of the novel (and paradoxically, the
most tragic as well) is the self-directed irony in
Jake's words, when he finally realizes the futility
of the whole situation:
happening now, and even less, what she wants
to be and become. Robert Cohn is a social
outsider, clearly dominated by an inferiority
complex and suffering from too much idealism.
Mike pretends to watch indifferently as his
future wife, Brett, goes through one man after
another, while he pours his boiling anger on
Cohn. They all run like mad people on their own
routes, which are never meant to overlap, while
the entire world outside their society mourns the
dead of the war.
“This seemed to handle it. That was it. Send the
girl off with one man. Introduce her to another
to go off with him. Now go and bring her back.
And sign the wire with love. That was it all
right. I went in to lunch.”
The whole structure of the novel is built
upon such lapidary sentences and blunt
observations on the events, without any
emotional implication or insight on the
narrator's part. One could go through this book
and remain completely blind to anything else
except the basic facts that, in the end, are just
chaotic and absurd. Yet, if you can take a slight
hint about the times when the story takes place,
the depressive period following World War I,
unspoken words seem to rise up like vapors
from the whole affair.
The characters set out on such a
pointless and reckless trip while they are
collapsing inside. Mental breakdown, chaos,
disorder and that taste of despair after some
wonderfully absurd human event like the war.
Jake bears a remainder of the war with him, as
his acquired handicap does not allow him to
perform the sexual act. Brett is obviously lost in
translation, far away from herself, not being able
to understand what is illusion and what is
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Flavia Cioceanu
interactions, and in the middle of it we often
find ourselves engaged in conversations which
eventually end up at the same point: discussing
music. We ask and are asked a dozen of
different questions: “What’s your favorite
genre?”, “Do you like classical music?”, “What
do you think of heavy metal?” and so on. But
what if I asked you this: “Do you like American
music?”, would you be able to come up with an
answer without thinking for a while? We
usually think of ethnic music such as Irish
music, Romanian music, French music, Greek
music, etc. and get a certain idea in our minds,
the idea that this music is strictly defining for
the culture and individual history of each
country and it is a genre on its own.
what do we say about America?
Does this apply to America also? Let us leave
aside all the multiculturalism – melting pot
oversaturated theories, and think of America as
a country with no typical cultural boundaries,
which left important names and memories in all
fields of music. The wide variety of genres,
some of them born in America, others
influenced by the European culture is certain to
find a place in everyone’s musical tastes.
I am sure that each of us can rewind a
little bit the tape of his life and give a small
insight of what music meant to him/her up to the
present point. By doing this, we will realize that
more than half of our musical culture and
preferences are based on American music.
I tried to do this exercise of memory and
here is what it brought to mind.
It brought Creedence Clearwater
Revival with their “Proud Mary”, the cheerful
“rollin’, rollin’” of my guitar teacher trying to
make us learn the song.
It brought funny band names which
made their music sound even better, such as The
Monkees, the Pixies or the Foo Fighters.
What about the times when we used to
find ourselves in such an ecstatic state that we
thought that we must be so close to heaven and
nothing except maybe drugs could be compared
to that? I remembered those times: The Doors,
R.E.M, Morphine and Jane’s Addiction were
my ecstasy.
I also remembered a time, long ago, a
time when teens used to act rough, look rough
and try to become rough, the heavy-metal time!
A time when bands like Nirvana, Alice in
Chains, Metallica, Dream Theater, Korn, Death,
RHCP, Soundgarden, System of A Down,
Queensryche, Rage Against the Machine or
Slayer used to pump up the blood in my veins
(triple exclamation and rebel yells!).
What about those evergreens that still
give us chills when we hear them after such a
long time? “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas,
“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, “Hotel California”
by The Eagles, “Boat on the River” by Stix, Bon
Jovi’s “Bed of Roses” or Soundgarden’s “Black
Hole Sun” bring the same pleasant emotion
every time I hear them.
What I also remembered and couldn’t
help mentioning were those bands that would
really get on my nerves when I was little and
used to see them on TV, because their lead
singers were so, so ugly! (my sincere apologies
to Steven Tyler and Paul Stanley, love you
I remembered these and many, many
more, and I was quite surprised to realize that
most of my rock-loving period was dominated
by Americans.
There are so many more musicians and
songs to be remembered still. We should think
about the innovations of jazz, about the
passionate and complex music of Louis
Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald,
Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billy Holiday,
Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker,
Frank Sinatra, oh, what a resonant association of
names, and there are many more yet to be
mentioned! Think about the blues, about B.B.
King, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, John Lee
Hooker or Janis Joplin, those romantic
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
What about rock & roll, blues, pop,
dance, disco, hip-hop? What about soundtracks?
What about musicals? What about minimalism?
What about them? Have I forgotten about them?
Are they to be left behind? Of course not, they
must be given equal attention, as they are the
same as influential! Their turn to be unfolded
from the sheets of someone else’s memories and
to be praised as they deserve, will certainly
Issue 01, December, 2008
terribly worried about the possibility that Santa
will not stop by her house this year (all of this
after she has tried so hard to be good).
by Diana Mihai
Christmas time is coming closer
there are some elements that should be taken
into consideration, elements without which the
holiday wouldn’t be a whole. There is the tree,
there are the presents, the book of Christmas
tales and, beyond a shadow of doubt, the carols
must not be forgotten. Through carols, the
Christmas cheer is transmitted, Virgin Mary is
praised and Santa’s visit is announced. Among
them, the importance of jazz carols is
undeniable due to the unique style and the
performers’ special ability to express genuine
the season comical, Ella
Fitzgerald released in 1960 one of her Christmas
carol albums “Ella Wishes You a Swinging
Christmas,” where she described a rather
unfortunate and at the same time humorous
event through the song “Santa Claus Got Stuck
in My Chimney.” The reason why the event is
unfortunate and filled with humor lies in the
title. She performs it in such a way that it gives
the listener the impression that there is the voice
of a truly broken-hearted child by the events
from the previous year’s Christmas eve and
By means of lyrics and the way they are
being performed, carols should induce a
peaceful state of mind in tune with the
Christmas atmosphere. In those terms a certain
jazz interpretation particularly stands out from
all the rest and that is Nat King Cole’s “The
Christmas Song”. This song has been covered
by great number of artists, but the original
remains the classic. The specific image of
Christmas is described as there are mentioned in
the song some of the important details that “help
to make the season bright.” Also, the artist
refers to the children’s tendency to stay up late,
with the thought of the following day’s presents
and to their curiosity about the reindeers’ magic
of flying.
Other vocal virtuosos had their hits in
the form of Jazz carols. Louis Armstrong sang
about a Dixieland Santa playing songs with his
band on a street of New Orleans spreading
Christmas joy, removing all cares with that
“good old Creole beat.” This Louis Armstrong’s
oldie is called “Christmas in New Orleans.”
Furthermore, Duke Ellington performed his own
version of the traditional cheery song ”Jingle
No matter what the lyrics are, each and
every song of the ones listed above shares the
same purpose and that is to offer the simple
“Merry Christmas” to everyone who listens to it.
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by Dan Olaru
Like all vernacular creations, the various
styles of popular music originate from an
anonymous group of individuals within a
society, as a response to a need for expression,
and they take on the form best adapted to cater
to that need which has engendered them. After
settling into its particular form and character, it
sometimes happens that a style gathers
momentum, popular support, and respectability
– the music is raised to high culture, it’s taken
over by the Academia, labeled, theorized, taught
in schools, and it becomes “classical.” Or,
conversely, it simply fades away from public
memory, as a fad.
In this essay I will be discussing some
of the major similarities and differences
between manele and the blues, and I will ask the
question of whether manele are made of quite
the same stuff as the blues, if they are apt to
transcend their primary incarnation as low-level
popular music, and if they can perform anything
resembling the cultural/social implications
brought on by the blues.
Firstly, manele is a style of music
currently popular in Romania, produced locally
but characterized by an oriental sound, a usually
very plaintive or ornate style of singing and
performed using electronic instruments.
Although the term manele seems to have
been around since long before the last two
decades (a century or so, actually), the music
that we are now discussing under this name is
relatively recent: in Romania it has surfaced to
public consciousness around the mid 90s, after
having its underground phase in the late 80s.
One of the main differences to the old manele is
that it is produced using electronic instruments
(a synthesizer, which accompanies a singer), as
opposed to using a band (taraf) with acoustic
Several interesting similarities exist
between the blues and manele. For one thing,
both appeared in the lower classes of their
respective societies. The blues emerged at the
beginning of the 20th century in southern USA,
in black communities, with slavery only a
couple of generations behind them, who did not
have the regard of the white majority, and were
Issue 01, December, 2008
very poor. Most of these people worked in
agriculture, and were poor and oppressed, as
history shows us, and as the lyrics themselves
stand testimony.
In similar fashion, the manele are
mainly associated with the Roma minority of
the Romanian people. The Roma have a rich
musical heritage behind them, they are
stereotypically musical, they were also slaves at
one point in history, and arguably, they are only
now, in this period of globalization and
integration, finally emerging from the cultural
and economic underground into a legitimate
status in Romanian culture.
From the point of view of the subject
matter of these two genres, the blues is usually
concerned with aspects belonging to the
immediate reality around the artist: “The blues
often expressed a desire to move on to a better
place or a better mate. […] Risqué sexual
double-entendres also abounded, as blues
inherited the vulgar side of ragtime’s early
notoriety as low-class or disreputable.” (The
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz&Blues 12).
Sometimes the subject is more spiritual: homage
to god, a moral admonition, or a hopeful look
toward salvation – see the work of such
Christian artists as Blind Willie Johnson, in
whose song ‘Trouble Will Soon Be Over’, god
is a figure providing ‘strong protection’ and
being a ‘bosom friend’ or Son House, and his
song ‘John the Revelator’, a song about the
Book of Revelation.
In turn, manele seem to be more rooted
in the materialistic aspects of life: the staple
subjects are financial prosperity and professed
economic or intellectual superiority, sexual
prowess, flaunting one’s position of power
within one’s entourage, love and the interaction
with the opposite sex, and also less mercantile
subjects like loss and grief, as a simple perusal
of the list of song names on the website
“” will inform you.
Like the blues, manele encountered
resistance and distrust in its first contacts with
the mainstream culture, the perception being
that this music promotes poor cultural values,
such as an improper sense of achievement,
misogyny, a lack of regard for traditional values
(such as honesty, in that it glorifies
sentimentality, a misplaced sense of cool, more
reminiscent of Indian and Arab ‘coolness’, than
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
of the Western one, not to mention the funky
grammar of the lyrics. And while there is still
some resistance to it, we see it has become
increasingly present on TV and in the media:
there are now TV and radio stations and blogs
entirely dedicated to it. It certainly has become
the standard at most youth parties. It seems to be
finding its place in Romanian culture.
Meanwhile, the blues discourse seems
to be very much rooted in poverty and a hard
life (take for example John Lee Hooker’s song
'House Rent Blues', in which he talks about his
difficulties with paying rent, and eventually
ending out on the street), but it also forays into
sexuality, violence, love, money, as one would
expect any ‘realistic’ musical style to. Manele
seems to be doing much of the same. It deals
with trouble and love, and even with god, but in
addition it seems to also concern itself with a
kind of regional bling-bling, a glorification of
prosperity achieved through subversion, and
also with ‘dissing’ one’s enemies, two elements
which bring it closer to hip-hop’s belligerence
than to blues’ serenity in an adverse world.
In fact, in opposition to the more
spiritual blues, with its roots partially dipped in
religious music (the ‘Negro Spirituals’, black
interpretations of Protestant hymns, cf. The
Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz&Blues 12),
manele seem to be more powerfully rooted in
the material world of possessions, which count
as a measure of personal worth. In manele, even
the beloved wife and children seem to be a sort
of possession that the ’owner’ uses to assert
his/her success. One example of this is the song
‘Am nevasta de valoare’ (My wife is an asset),
by the artist Englezu’.
One can only conjecture that perhaps the
audience, the receptors of all this boasting, feels
somehow vindicated by this rhetoric of
prosperity and success, which is ironic if we
assume that the majority of the consumers of
this music belong to the lower-middle class, that
is, the poor, the down-trodden.
But one very important similarity
between the blues and manele is their positive
attitude to life. The blues “may have been born
of sorrow and hardship, consigned to the
margins of society, yet [it] sought not to wallow
in pain and misery, but to raise the spirits in
cathartic release, often with humor and irony –
to get rid of the blues by singing them” (p 13).
So manele too is characterized by liveliness, and
Issue 01, December, 2008
invites the listener to enjoy the music by
dancing to it, and it shows a certain optimism
ingrained in the lyrics, a belief that everybody in
the end gets their just deserts.
Musically, while each of these genres is
instantly recognizable in its specificity, the two
are substantially different. One boasts of
African ancestry: “Africanisms survived in […]
pentatonic scales and flattened blue notes, as
well as in instrumentation. The banjo can be
traced back to Africa.” (p.12), while the other's
use of the minor harmonic scale is decidedly
oriental – Turkish, Arab, Greek.
The blues began with very little
sophistication: it was played with only a banjo,
or a guitar – we have such legendary musicians
exemplifying this as Robert Johnson, Son
House, Skip James – solitary figures drifting
into town with a guitar and playing a show
before moving on to the next town. In this
sense, the first blues was raw – mostly just an
acoustic guitar, and a tobacco-hoarse voice,
possibly some harmonica and some percussion
sounds made by tapping the guitar with the
fingers (see for example Son House’s rendition
of the song 'John the Revelator', with merely
hand clapping as accompaniment).
In a way, the same could be said of
manele: a voice, accompanied by a soundtrack
made partly/entirely on a synthesizer – a
different philosophy from that of the traditional
band (taraf), and one which gives the sound a
rawer character. But this rawness isn’t coming
from the earth, from the grassroots. Instead, it’s
coming from the other end of the spectrum –
electronics, and for this reason the music could
be perceived as somewhat impoverished. The
rawness of blues is understatement and subtlety
– that of manele seems somehow cheap, massproduced, insincere.
And if we were to take into account the
financial side of things, it is certainly less costly
to use just a synth to produce the entire
instrumental section of a song instead of hiring a
whole band for a costly recording process. Such
a solid argument can easily take the upper hand
of musical quality in a venal world, and manele
is bearing the brunt of it.
One final random similarity between the
two that comes to mind are the equally gaudy
noms de guerre sported by the performers of
both camps, either by choice or by accident:
compare John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Son
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
House – with Florin Salam (salamy), Adi de
Vito, Vali Vijelie (Storm), etc.
To conclude, eventually the blues made
it big; it became mainstream, and was a major
building block of the highly regarded jazz, and
of the highly successful rock. Blues players
have risen to international fame, and have been
known sometimes to make lots of money. Blues
is now a bona fide industry. But what is most
important, from a historical point of view, is that
blues has enriched the world’s culture, and that
it has been sanctioned and authenticated by
time, it hasn’t proven to be just a fluke, a fad,
but something profound and respectable.
My personal perception is that the blues
tends to become somewhat predictable after
you’ve listened to it a while – it has a limited
number of musical devices up its sleeve, and
after a while they tend to repeat themselves: the
same rhythms, the same licks, the same
pentatonic scales, the same half-spoken, half
sung voices, because as soon as it moves out of
that paradigm, it kind of stops being blues. And
the same is true for manele – they have instantly
recognizable, trademark, syncopated rhythms,
the same solos in the Oriental scale, and the
same plaintive vocals with Arab inflections.
The core of the survival and success of the
blues, in my opinion, is not its propensity
towards the new, but the quaintness of its solid
values, which have the universality required so
that all kinds of audiences, of all colors and
cultural backgrounds, could identify with it.
The question is this: are manele, within
their own local/Romanian scope, as serious a
genre as the blues, with whom they have all
these things in common, as we have seen? Are
they a fluke, or are they a real contender on the
market and in local history?
In my own opinion, manele lack the
sincerity of the blues, its candid humane
ingenuous raw generosity. As they are now, the
manele sound is cheap, and it has real soul
deficit – coming as it is from electronic circuits.
On the other hand, I was very much surprised
when I had a manea played to me on a guitar. It
sounded so much more genuine, warmer – just
like ‘real’ music.
But on discussion here is the
commercial way of doing it, which I consider to
be flawed, due to the production values
associated with it.
Issue 01, December, 2008
The answer to the question whether the
manele will have the endurance and impact that
the blues have had – to help bring a minority
into public focus, to bring it the respect of the
majority, and to pave the way for a new age of
music – that answer will only be provided by
time. Until then it remains a mystery, and a
personal guess – to be lived out by each person
on their own.
Works cited:
Mandel, Howard, ed. The Illustrated
Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues. London:
Flame Tree Publishing, 2005
“Versuri Manele” – Home Page. 25
page 19
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Ilinca Diaconu
article presents one facet of
women’s lives in Bucharest, namely their status
as “subjects of fear” (901), a concept which
Rachel Pain discusses in her essay entitled
Gender, Race, Age and Fear in the City, by
expressing how this status is constructed in
terms of women’s relationship with men and by
focusing on the influence of night in shaping
women’s identity as fearful individuals.
First, it is important to define fear, as it
is the point of reference according to which the
term “subject of fear” is to be explained.
However, as fear is an abstract concept that,
taken in itself, cannot be easily classified
according to type, degree or function in
everyday society, my concise analysis of
women’s status as “subjects of fear” (fearful
individuals) will start from Rachel Pain’s
definition of fear, which she views as “the wide
range of emotional and practical responses to
crime and disorder made by individuals and
communities” (901). In other words, within the
urban landscape, fear reflects the sum of its own
manifestations in people’s behavior that act as
protections against “objects of fear” (Pain, 901),
i.e. objects that are feared. Practical responses to
danger (defined as robbery, kidnapping, verbal,
sexual and/or physical abuse) include carrying
objects such as pepper sprays or umbrellas that
could be used in a fight, avoiding long distances
on foot, walking only on central, lighted streets,
and, most importantly, preferring the company
of an acquaintance (most often a man), that of a
group of acquaintances, or in general the
presence of crowds.
The causes behind women’s fear of men
are determined both by how they perceive
themselves and by how they are perceived by
the opposite sex. The central issue that is
regarded by both sexes as a fundamental
difference between men and women is the idea
that the latter are more physically vulnerable
than the former. Moreover, during the night,
women (and in general, people) are unable to
clearly see a potential opponent and thus, are
incapable of foreseeing a surprise attack from
somebody that is completely out of sight. No
less important is the fact that night (which,
during winter, could begin around 5 p.m.) is
generally associated with a certain routine or
event in people’s activities, and more
particularly, in women’s daily schedules; the
attire worn by women on their way home from
work or to a social event does not usually
translate as comfortable, sport-oriented clothing,
appropriate for fighting or fleeing an attacker.
Secondly, there is the culturally
constructed assumption of some men that
women are more emotionally unstable, that
confronted with danger they will not even try to
fight back or make a serious attempt at
escaping, but will subject themselves to the
demands of the crime offender. This instills in
male attackers the idea that women are easier to
manipulate, which in turn, determines robbers’
preference to choose women instead of men as
targets of attack, even though potential male
victims may carry items just as valuable as
female victims.
assumption that makes women vulnerable (and
fearful) in dealing with male offenders is the
idea that women that walk alone at night, even if
it is for completely different purposes, are
actually signaling sexual availability. This
assumption encourages sex offenders to target
women during the night, especially as this
period of time offers added protection from
possible witnesses.
Finally, what makes women fearful
during the night is the idea that, in case of an
attack, any attempt at signaling the fact that they
are in danger (crying for help, screaming) will
be ignored by a possible passer-by or by
someone living in a building adjacent to that
respective street, because of those people’s fear
that the offender(s) will turn on them as well.
Thus, despite the fact that even during the night,
a woman may not be completely alone in the
street, it is her certainty that she will not be
helped in case of attack and that causes her to be
page 20
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
perceptions which have been
outlined in the previous paragraphs are both
grounded in reality, meaning in women’s
personal experience and in that of their female
acquaintances, but also in the media, which
tends to convey an exaggerated version of the
real vulnerability of women during the night.
Consequently, as the media represents a great
influence in people’s perceptions, this
exaggeration of events leads to a higher degree
of fearfulness in women.
In respect to the meanings that arise
from women’s status as “subjects of fear,” the
relationship between men and women can be
defined as a type of “othering,” a concept which
usually refers to “a way of defining and securing
one’s own positive identity through the
stigmatization of an ‘other’” (“Definitions of
Othering”). When it comes to discussing how
women perceive themselves in relationship to
dangerous men, “othering” refers to the exact
opposite of its initial definition: Through this
fear, manifested in the range of precaution
measures that women take to protect
themselves, women consciously assume the
position of the stigmatized “other” while placing
the “object of fear” (901) on a position of
authority. Their fear represents the expression of
an “internalized oppression” (Bourgois 60), in
the sense that women’s behavior is not
determined by their own free choices but by
their relationship with potential male offenders,
i.e. by how the threat of direct oppression
becomes a part of their lives.
Both direct and internalized oppression
lead to the “social exclusion” (Pain 902) of
women, in the sense that their self-conditioning
acts as a barrier between themselves and the
places, styles of clothing, ways to travel etc. that
they would normally choose, and thus prevents
them from actively “producing, defining, and
reclaiming” the urban landscape. Instead of
“’taming’ space by various expressions of
courage” (Koskela qtd. in Pain 904), women in
Bucharest avoid space and other elements which
would increase their chances of attack at night,
thus not only restricting their access to certain
spaces, but also unintentionally enabling a
negative factor (offenders) in “defining” space.
Issue 01, December, 2008
Works Cited:
 Pain, Rachel. “Gender, race, age and fear in
the city.” Urban Studies 38(5-6):899-913,
Bourgois, Philippe. “Just Another Night in a
Shooting Gallery.” Theory, Culture &
Society 15(2):37, 1998.
„Definitions of Othering.” Accessed on the
22nd of January, 2008.
page 21
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
by Alexandra Vasile
Toni Morrison’s fiction challenges the
way race and racism are constructed in the
United States by highlighting how both whites
and blacks try to control the experience of the
African-American individual. In this respect,
Sula presents the readers with what is perhaps
one of the biggest issues debated by
contemporary African-American literature: the
double oppression African-American women
face and the ways in which they can break free
of this oppression, because not only are they
women but they are also black. Unfortunately,
in the end, the heroine, Sula, suffers because of
the treatment and discrimination that result from
the intersection of these two dimensions: race
and gender.
According to Bernard Bell, AfricanAmerican individuals experience a so called
“double vision” (114), which arises when they
have to reconcile the definitions placed on them
by others with how they formulate their own
identity. In time, this leads to an increasing
effort to maintain one’s own individuality while
at the same time conforming to the norms and
values that the community expects one to
conform to. This paper aims to analyze the way
in which Toni Morrison approaches the idea of
double vision by focusing on a pattern present in
the novel: the couple. Moreover, it will attempt
to show that this pairing was chosen specifically
by the author because it is intersectional in
itself. That is why the question that I will be
looking at in the analysis of the use of couples
as a means of highlighting the double
oppression felt by African-American women is:
How does Toni Morrison use couples to
emphasize the double oppression based on race
and gender?
This article aims to provide a different
approach to studying both literature and
sociology by looking at a contemporary
African-American text through an intersectional
lens and focusing on the intra-community
discrimination. In order to better understand this
analysis of Sula, one must first define the main
concepts involved. Intersectionality is a
Issue 01, December, 2008
sociological paradigm which looks at the way in
which various socially constructed categories
interact and shape one another. Its basic
assumption is that the classical approach to
analyzing oppression, based on race, gender,
ethnicity, class and so on does not reflect the
true complexity of the social environment,
because these dimensions do not have separate
and independent effects, but rather intersect and
influence one another. The end result is what
Bart Landry calls “interlocking systems of
oppression.” (24). In other words, understanding
oppression through an intersectional lens means
accepting the fact that race, as well as class or
gender or ethnicity interact and shape the way
discriminated groups are treated.
Sula and Shadrack form what J. Brooks
Houston calls a “shameless couple” (55), which
is meant to emphasize the shaming racist
stereotypes of the black Jezebel and “the
degenerate black madman” within the AfricanAmerican community. Looking closely at the
narrative, one notices that the two descriptions
of the madman, Shadrack, are found in the
opening and closing parts of the novel, thus
pointing out that his experiences related to
oppression come to a full circle and that black
men are never truly able to escape the
systematic trauma inflicted upon them by the
white society. The beginning of the novel
presents the horrifying experience of Shadrack
during World War I, when he witnesses a
soldier’s head being shot off, and sees “the drip
and slide of brain tissue down his back”
(Morrison 10). The impact this has on Shadrack
subtly points to the hypocrisy of white society at
that time: although African-American men were
seen as not being good enough (to be integrated
into society), they were good enough to be sent
to France to fight in the war, only to return and
find that they are still discriminated against.
Toni Morrison does not present us with
a continuous narrative, but rather chooses to
jump directly to a year later (when Shadrack is
sitting in a hospital bed) in order to emphasize
the post-traumatic amnesia that he is suffering
from. When he is finally released from the
hospital, Shadrack is so traumatized that he
believes he has “no past, no language, no tribe,
no source, no address book, no comb, no pencil,
no clock, no bed, no can opener, no faded
postcard, no soap, no key, no tobacco pouch”
(Morrison 92), an obvious allusion to slavery
and the status of the slaves, who were required
page 22
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
to purge their identities. After he is arrested for
vagrancy and thrown in jail, he confronts his
blackness in the water of the toilet bowl and, for
the first time in his life, is relieved to see that his
hands are both monstrous claws, but rather just
“courteously still, black hands” (95). Upon
going back home, Shadrack creates National
Suicide Day, meant to help people confront the
idea of death for one day a year and “get it out
of the way” so that the rest of the year will be
“safe and free”. By inserting this aspect in the
narrative, Toni Morrison is trying to point out
not only the constant oppression of blacks, but
also the omnipresence of racism (Shadrack
walks around holding a rope, an obvious
allusion to the days of slavery and lynching).
According to Frantz Fanon, all these features
that readers see in Shadrack contribute to
building one single, clear picture, that of “a
brute beast” with “no use in the world” (121).
This is also a reference to a specific historical
period (end of 19th, beginning of 20th century) of
oppression of blacks, when whites used the
image of African-Americans as beasts as a
pretext to lynch them and maintain the status
quo. Their argument was that no beast can be
fully aware of its actions and therefore it should
be stopped before it does any harm.
Although at this point, after looking at
the couple Sula/Shadrack most critics seem to
conclude that “both [Shadrack and Sula] are
misanthropes and social outcasts” (Furman 45),
I believe this is not the case. In fact, it is my
opinion that Morrison purposefully created this
“couple” in order to show the difference in
treatment that Shadrack and Sula receive from
their community and, at the same time, the
oppression that Sula (but not Shadrack) faces.
At the beginning of the novel, the Bottom
community wonders “what Shadrack was all
about”, but also “what that little girl Sula who
grew into a woman was all about” (8), all the
while suggesting that maybe their behaviors do
not perfectly fit into the expectations of the
community. However, even if Shadrack goes on
to create a National Suicide Day which is, in all
respects, a shocking event, and Sula goes off
into the world and sleeps with various (white)
men, in the end just one of them is gradually
welcomed by the community, which is “at first
wary of him, but [then] unthinkingly accepts
him” (54). In other words, both Shadrack and
Sula are pariahs, but up to a point, where the
former ceases to be pushed away by the
Issue 01, December, 2008
community and is accepted just like any other
individual among them, while the latter is still
being cast aside for refusing to take on the
prescribed roles of wife and mother and
questioning the traditional values of the black
community. In this respect, it is obvious that
Sula is facing the double oppression, based on
both race and gender: first, because she is black
she is expected to follow the norms imposed by
the respectable members of the community and
second, because she is a woman, her
transgressions are not as easily overlooked as
those of a man, who is in the end accepted for
who he is, although his actions are peculiar and
In conclusion, through her paired
characters, Sula and Shadrack, Toni Morrison
explores issues concerning oppression based on
race and gender in what concerns AfricanAmerican women. At the same time, she
examines the construction of black femininity
(what it means to be a black woman in an
African-American community such as Bottom),
by using the dangerously free Sula to investigate
the stereotype of the promiscuous lower-class
black female and therefore highlight the existing
intra-community oppression.
Bell, Bernard. A Guide to Contemporary
University Press, 2005.
Bouson, Brooks. Quiet as It’s Kept: Shame,
Trauma and Race in the Novels of Toni
Morrison. SUNY Press, 2000.
Furman, John. Toni Morrison’s Fiction.
University of South Carolina Press, 1996.
Harding, Wendy. A World of Difference: An
Inter-Cultural Study of Toni Morrison’s
Novels. Connecticut: Greenwood Press,
Landry, Bart. Race, Class and Gender:
Theory and Methods of Analysis. New
Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Lott, Tommy. A Companion to AfricanAmerican Philosophy. London: Blackwell,
Developing Class Consciousness. London:
Associated University Press, 1991.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. Vintage, 2004.
page 23
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
This is the section where we ask questions about visuality and representation.
by Alexandra Magearu
Beauty lies perhaps in one’s capacity to
frame a single moment in time. And what does
the art of photography attempt if not to isolate
moments and to turn them into tiny jewels?
Photography was inevitable. It had to be
discovered. For as long as sunlight existed, there
had to be someone to figure out how to capture
it. But the meaning and functions of
photography have changed significantly
throughout the ages, since the early times of its
Imagine spending a patient total of eight
hours of exposing a photograph in order to get
that lovely picture of your cat sleeping on the
couch. The cat would probably wake up, lick its
fur tentatively, ask for food and go back to
sleep, while your picture would be completely
ruined. Does this sound absurd? Well, it
happened. A long time ago. The photograph,
known to date to be the first ever captured on a
tangible support, was exposed for eight hours
under intense sunlight in 1825. The
photographer was Nicéphore Niépce.
you become aware of the
differences in technique, the developments in
photography seem remarkable. Although the
exposure time was reduced to a period
appropriate for a sitting, the images produced
could not be multiplied before a negative was
obtained. In the beginning, photography was
considered a thing for technicians, as they were
the only ones who knew how to manipulate the
devices and the chemicals, when developing the
picture. Once the materials became more
accessible, more artists started to show interest
in the practice and photography was raised to
the status of art. The cameras got smaller and
lighter, the film easier to develop. When color
came into the story, it changed the whole
concept, as photographers could now capture
very realistic pictures of the world. However,
some stuck to their interpretation of reality,
creating wonderful surreal
elementary techniques.
everything is possible in
photography. The notions have changed so
dramatically, that we could just as well wonder
whether we are still photographing the world.
Perhaps we should give it another name.
Digital photography brought cameras in
every house, giving everyone the possibility to
frame dispersed moments of their lives in nonartistic and graphically-simple images. Artistry
had already turned into hobby once cameras
became compact. The digital cameras now allow
a mass preoccupation for images. And even
more, with the development of the computer,
picture processing became a very popular form
of artistic expression as well. In the 21st century,
digital photography goes hand in hand with
Photoshop. And isn’t “photoshopping” a
completely different form of artistic expression,
in comparison to the traditional film
photography? Well, that might just as well be
the truth, taking into account the fact that photos
can become unrecognizable after they were
taken through the process. Colors infinitely
brighter, faces lovelier, flaws completely erased.
A world made of plastic. Or, to put it in
Baudrillard’s words, “Everything is destined to
reappear as simulation. […]You wonder
whether the world itself isn’t just here to serve
as advertising copy in some other world.”
However, I would not imply that processing
digital images may in any way be considered a
lower form of art, when comparing it to film
photography. It simply is something different.
I am positive that in the future graphic
editing will be ranked as a sub-genre of visual
arts, alongside photography, film and painting.
In the meantime, I’ll stick to the delightful,
grainy, speckled, dusty and flawed photos of the
film age.
Works Cited:
Baudrillard, Jean. America. Verso, 1989.
page 24
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
“Kissing Doesn’t Kill.” EARLY
by Mihaela Precup
The city has been alternately hailed as
an unconventional space where artistic
manifestations escape the confining space of the
gentrifying museum, where Henri Lefebvre
famously placed the bad-smelling corpse of
humanism, and on the other hand interpreted as
a museum containing a large corpus of official
sites of memory (Nora), bearing the signature of
official power structures. Also, for the groups of
visual artists choosing the city as a medium and
locus of their work, it has been both alluring as
a stage offering maximum visibility, and
defeating as a place where the constant and
overwhelming outburst of advertisements and
other visually charged items has produced the
opposite effect of minimizing visibility. Such
artistic collectives also need to deal with issues
like the revalorization of anonymity and
solidarity, finding a cure for the blindness
(diagnosed by de Certeau) of the participants in
the practices of the city and the tricky use of
voyeuristic pleasure for social activism.
Fig. 1. “Read My Lips (boys)”, 1988, Gran Fury.
Poster, offset lithography, 1988
of the strategies rejected by the
anti-AIDS coalition ACT UP and the several
artists that formed the best-known anti-AIDS
visual activist group, Gran Fury, was the display
of the visibly AIDS-corroded body as an
instrument for raising public awareness. By
insisting on images of same-sex partners kissing
(some of them further removed from presentday realities by actually being reworkings of old
prints – Fig. 1), sometimes during staged “kissins” (i.e. demonstrations organized in places of
maximum visibility, where the demonstrators
would start kissing at a given hour), they situate
Issue 01, December, 2008
their campaign at a level of apparent sexual
benignity (“kissing doesn’t kill”) which is often
violated by the text they carry (e.g. “greed and
indifference do [kill]”, “One AIDS death every
half an hour,” “The government has blood on its
hands.” etc.).
Fig. 2. “The Government Has Blood on Its
Hands. One AIDS Death Every Half Hour,” Gran
Fury Poster
like the Names Quilt, ACT
UP’s almost constant count of the dead, Gran
Fury’s insertion of statistics within their visual
productions (Fig. 2), while didactic and militant,
were also documentary gestures, aware of
writing history as it happens, feverishly
recording the apparently countless deaths of
friends as a means of perhaps maintaining the
illusion of control over events or at least as an
anti-amnesic device. While the Holocaust – with
which the appalling numbers of AIDS-related
deaths and official apathy has inevitably related
the AIDS crisis – was followed by waves of
memoirs and attempts at making sense of and
reconstructing a recent and not-so-recent past,
anti-AIDS art memorialized as it protested.
What was fundamentally different about the
AIDS crisis was the awareness that it was a
crisis as it was happening, that the artists were
counting the dead as they were protesting
against and trying to prevent those very deaths,
and that they were archiving their own failures
of saving everyone and ending the crisis. Details
of official measures against the malady had to
be written out across images and inserted in
personal diaries (such as visual artist David
Wojnarowicz’s), often by people who were
watching themselves and others die. In the
middle of this, the eroticization of the
homosexual body, apart from being a slap in the
face of homophobia faced with its own
nightmare as it turned a corner in a city street, it
was also one of the strategies against the
neutralization of the sick body before what came
to be perceived as inevitable death.
page 25
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Ilinca Diaconu
it comes to discussing
HIV/AIDS, there are several arguments that
cannot be disputed, no matter what the
backgrounds and opinions of the interlocutors
are: first, HIV is a virus that will lead to AIDS
and ultimately to death, unless treated; secondly,
ignorance in what concerns the infection with
this virus/disease can only cause an increase in
the number of victims as well as the unfair
ostracizing of people living with HIV/AIDS;
thirdly, and in connection to the second point,
the condom is the only means of protecting
oneself from the virus/disease, besides
institutions and individuals should do
everything in their power to support the
treatment of those already infected and to stop
the spread of HIV/AIDS.
One way of encapsulating the
significance and validity of all these arguments
has been through a proliferation of official and
unofficial awareness campaigns that were
designed to attract the viewer’s attention on the
circumstances and effects of HIV/AIDS
infection, on the unjust discrimination of people
living with the virus/disease, and most
importantly on the only means by which people
can protect themselves while having sexual
intercourse, i.e. by using condoms. The tone and
target audience of these campaigns are varied,
ranging from bleak equations of HIV/AIDS with
death, to the identification of the use of
protection with a socially desirable, “cool”
lifestyle; the targeted viewers are from the
general young population, although some
campaigns are centered on women, others on
homosexuals, and still others on sexual
relationships between men and women of all
ages, races, and sexual orientations. However,
the underlying purpose of all these campaigns is
the simultaneous extraction of the HIV/AIDS
issue from its medical context and its insertion
into the public sphere of general interest.
Therefore, HIV/AIDS campaigns provide an
interesting example of the transformation of an
element from a highly specialized area of
expertise into a facet of contemporary popular
culture, based on the transmission of a message
to an audience. This communication between
the campaign supporter and the public is
facilitated by a varied range of human emotions
(fear, sadness, humor etc.) experienced by the
latter, which the creators of the campaigns
speculate in order to get the message across. In
what follows I will limit myself to two videos,
one appealing to people’s fear (of HIV and
AIDS in themselves, of death) and one
appealing to the public’s humor.
The first video under discussion is part
of an MTV AIDS awareness campaign and
targets young women. Initially, the viewer sees
three heterosexual couples having sex in
different circumstances, and, as expected, the
look on their faces expresses euphoria.
However, later, each of the three men is shown
exposing a gun and then happily pointing it to
his female partner who appears to enjoy herself
despite of it. Finally, the men shoot their
partners and a caption appears stating “The
fastest growing group of people infected by HIV
and AIDS is heterosexual women under 30”.
The powerful effect that the video has on the
viewer is caused, first of all, by the juxtaposition
of two opposite images: one that portrays
euphoric pleasure and one that depicts violent
death. Of course, this combination is intended to
make the viewer aware of the fact that lack of
protection during sexual intercourse may
ultimately lead to death. Yet besides this
obvious significance, there is the shocking
realization on the part of the audience that what
feels good can actually be terribly wrong, that
pleasure is by no means a guarantee for wellbeing. Secondly, the look on the participants’
faces has an equally disturbing effect because it
makes the audience understand that HIV/AIDS
is contracted imperceptibly, and is therefore
even more insidious. Thirdly, the power of the
message is also conveyed by the exaggerated
equation of the gun with HIV infection: a gun
kills instantly, whereas it is a well-known fact
that people living with HIV/AIDS can live for
decades with the proper treatment. All in all, the
video is designed to appeal to the (female)
audience’s fear of infection with HIV, by
page 26
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
focusing on its imperceptibility, its possible
danger in the most pleasant of circumstances
and on the ultimate death that is associated with
it. Essentially, the purpose of the video is to
make its message easily remembered.
The second video under discussion
site, and is divided into
three short sections. In all of them, two people
are dressed as, and therefore identify with, a
condom and an HIV virus, respectively. The
two are portrayed as rivals in three competitions
in which the condom is always the winner: thus,
in the “Falcon Calling Contest”, the condom is
immediately successful in getting the falcon to
stand on his arm, while the virus only manages
to summon a sheep; in the “Guacamole
Challenge”, the condom makes the best
guacamole and earns the admiration of the
female judge who states “Muy bien, señor
Condom! Muy bien!”; finally, in the “Billiards”
competition, the condom succeeds in putting all
the balls in the table pockets at the same time,
making it impossible for the virus to continue
the game. Each section is followed by the
caption: “Condoms beat AIDS”. Obviously, the
video is meant to appeal to the humor of the
viewer, thus encouraging him/her to watch it
repeatedly and to show it to others. More
exactly, like the previous video, the purpose of
this clip is to make its message (that wearing a
condom is preferable to getting infected with
HIV) easily remembered. However, unlike the
previous video, this clip does so by provoking
laughter rather than fear. Moreover, while the
first video exaggerates the identification of
HIV/AIDS with death, the second one presents
the risk of trivializing a serious issue that affects
contemporary society; the viewer may not be
able to perceive the important message behind
the comic display of the superiority of the
condom over the virus.
Upon analyzing these two videos, one
question remains: which is the best strategy in
support of the fight against HIV/AIDS? Is it
fear, with its positive effect of encouraging
people to use protection but with its implicit
danger of repulsing the audience into not
wanting to learn about the virus/disease? Or is it
humor, with its positive effect of attracting a
larger audience but with its intrinsic risk of
trivializing a serious issue and thus concealing it
from the viewer? The answer, I think lies in a
Issue 01, December, 2008
careful analysis of the correspondence of each
campaign to the increase/decrease in the number
of people who get tested and who seek
treatment. What is certain is that popular culture
provides an avenue in at least informing the
public about the dangers of this virus/disease.
Works Cited:
 “Condoms vs. Aids Virus PSA”. YouTube.
Accessed on the 5th of December, 2008.
 “MTV AIDS (shot)”. YouTube. Accessed
on the 5th of December, 2008.
by Alina Florescu
Obama, what a charming
presence! By the way, have you ever seen such
a warm and sincere smile before? Being the
future first lady of the United States of America
surely means to stand as a powerful and smart
woman who can sustain her husband, but who
can also take the heaviness of this title like a
woman: just imagine how many eyes are on her
at every single minute! Michelle had an
impressive activity: she worked as the Executive
Director for the Chicago Office of Public Allies
– encouraging young people to work on social
issues. She was also the former Vice President
for Communities and External Affairs at the
University of Chicago Hospitals. And if I
haven’t convinced you yet, let me introduce
Michelle by presenting some of her appearances
in public.
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
The wife of the democratic Presidential
nominee Barak Obama was chosen to co-host
‘The View.’ For this special evening, Michelle
adopted a fresh look wearing a nice black and
white dress which caused a total hysteria, after
she declared that she has bought it from the
‘White House Black Market’ chain-store with
the symbolic price of 150 $. It is useless to
mention that this accidental advert of the First
Lady only brought benefits to the designer of
the dress, Donna Ricco. Obviously, the dresses
were immediately out of stock, proof that
Michelle does have influence upon American
women. She is truly an example who contributes
to showcasing beautiful career suits: the
combination between black and white
contrasting with Michelle’s dark skin, together
with the floral motifs (and again, her great
smile!), this is attitude, ladies!
Purple is, as far as I am concerned, one
of the most beautiful and interesting colors.
Michelle makes her dress look so stylish by
attaching the black belt in the middle and
creates a distinguished outfit for the event in
which she participates. Her good taste is
evident: she reinvents the entire combination by
choosing one of the most elegant jewels a
woman can have, the white pearl necklace.
This dress is simply amazing! Look how
precious she is beneath all those pale roses, lost
into shades of red and orange. Michelle knows
how to emphasize her beautiful features, that’s
why she has chosen a dress which allows us to
see her shoulders. Her earrings are very elegant
and fit the gown perfectly; as you can see, they
are the only jewels she wears, and this is the
best way to valorize a beautiful accessory, by
letting it ‘handle the situation’ alone. Do you
still wonder why she was listed as one of the
World’s Most Inspiring Women by Essence
this picture, Michelle is portrayed
next to Maria Pinto, a Chicago-based designer
and at the same time one of her favorites.
Michelle does feel great in her dress! If I were
in her shoes (respectively dress), I would surely
feel like a mermaid. This turquoise has blue
oceanic reflexes and makes this simple item
simply fabulous. Look at the texture of the
material, it seems so soft and I’m sure it is a real
pleasure to touch it. It is a simple and
sophisticated dress at the same time.
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
in red… what can I say about
Michelle wearing an all-red suit? It matches her
dark skin so well and what has to be appreciated
is that the white pearl necklace mentioned
earlier reappears, a sign that Michelle wears it in
different combinations and I agree with her, it’s
a must-have. It brightens her and gives her an
aura of aristocracy. And she knows it.
To put it in a nutshell, I hope that
Michelle’s number of admirers has gone up at
least a bit. She will certainly become a myth, so
she will construct an image to be remembered,
there’s no doubt about that. Michelle`s natural
attitude makes her look fabulous all the time,
and this is because she definitely has style. Did
you know that she appeared in Vanity Fair’s top
10 Of The World’s Best Dressed People? Wow,
that really is something!
by Alexandra Vasile
We all have to agree that Absolut Vodka
has produced one of the most successful ad
campaigns since the 1980s. The product as such
has not changed, but Absolut has received cult
status as a result of a consistent marketing
strategy that centers around ads featuring the
Absolut bottle in a variety of disguises.
However, in the past five years there has been a
noticeable break from the usual trend: although
the Absolut bottle is still featured prominently
in all the ads, it is no longer the centerpiece. So
Issue 01, December, 2008
why rebrand an already popular item which has
already been catapulted into stardom? Ryan
Matthews offers a possible explanation to this
phenomenon in his book “The Deviant’s
Advantage”: “The major elements of the
marketing equation have changed significantly.
Consumers used to read advertising; now they
wear it, carry it or drive it. Marketing used to
spend a good deal of effort communicating how
you should use a product. Today, the point is
who uses the product. And, in the case of
Absolut, advertising becomes the product” (14).
The purpose of this article is to show
that the new approach to the product adopted by
Absolut fetishizes goods by offering them as
substitutes for human relationships. I will focus
on specific Absolut Vodka ads to prove that, by
drawing on powerful imagery, Absolut equates
vodka with pleasure and/in the sexual realm.
The analysis will focus on how the use of tight
black leather, stocking and corsets pushes the
ads in the zone of the fetish, by linking the
product to alternative sexuality, deviant
behavior and sexual fulfillment.
Two Absolut Au Kurant ads constitute
the main target of my analysis, but I will also
provide further examples in order to illustrate
the ideas put forward. The first ad (see fig 2)
depicts a tight, black leather corset, with purple
laces which form the shape of an Absolut; the
other (see fig. 3) shows a leg dressed in a black
stocking and garter belt, with a small purple
Absolut bottle-shaped garter clip holding up the
stocking. These provocative, erotically-charged
images reinforce the connection between
Absolut, sex and sexual fulfillment. In order to
find the reason behind Absolut’s use of
eroticized images of the body, one has to ask
why a connection such as this one, to sexuality,
is necessary. Because sex always sells. Erotic
hints and nuances of any kind sell. Going even
deeper, why does sex sell? Because sex is the
second strongest psychological urge, right
behind self-preservation. Therefore, the strength
is rooted in the biological and instinctive nature
of the individual. Having answered the first part
of the question, we turn to the reason for man’s
using the body as fetish. The answer is simple
and yet very challenging: in a society such as
ours, where everything is changing, one needs
more and more powerful, provocative and
sexually-charged images as a substitute for real
experiences, of nay nature, including sexual
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
order to analyze consumer behavior
in relation to fetishism, one must first clarify the
concept of fetishism as such. The fetish object
often symbolizes control and release, power and
helplessness, sexuality and infantilism. In
clinical terms, a fetish may be “a dysfunctional
response to sexuality, eventually replacing
human contact for arousal. Fetishism is
associated with an energy that becomes directed
toward something other than the genitals-a
substitute that is charged with sexual power and
attraction” (Schroeder 152). The most common
fetish objects are tight-fitting clothing,
particularly made from leather and rubber.
Fetishism generally revolves around
particular items of clothing, which, according to
characteristics. First, they are liminal. Fetishized
clothing, Schroeder argues, blurs the distinction
between nature and culture. For example,
leather is a natural material because it comes
from animals, but in order to make it into a
garment, it requires cultural and technological
processes which transform it into a liminal
The stocking ad shows a thigh not fully
covered by a black stocking and a short, black
skirt. The clip that holds up the black stocking
resembles a small purple Absolut bottle. The
bottle/clip holds the stocking. Opening the
garter fastener frees the leg from the
confinement of the stocking. The message:
alcohol provides access. Absolut is the key to
undressing. Opening the bottle paves the way to
sexual fulfillment.
Similarly, in the corset ad, the leather
holds the body tightly, but reveals only a small
patch of skin. The corset laces are arranged so
that they form an Absolut Vodka bottle. Thus
the ad sends out the message that the laces/the
bottle hold the contents that can be released
when they are undone/when the bottle is
opened. An invitation is issued: undo the laces
by opening the Absolut Vodka bottle. In other
words, “the message of the ad centers on the
resonance between opening an Absolut bottle
and consummating the product and opening the
corset and consummating an affair” (Lambiase
69). Coming back to liminal zones, the reason
behind their powerfulness is that they are able to
unite elusiveness, expectation, danger and
passion in a single space, and – at the same time
– reveal and cover the wearer, allowing one to
Issue 01, December, 2008
see patches of bare skin.(fig 1, 2, 3, 5).
Secondly, fetish objects are black. This
obviously emphasizes the connotations that
black still carries in the Western world, where it
equals strange, exotic sexual experiences (fig 4).
An undercurrent of fetishism, usually
accompanied by S&M is present in all Absolut
ads analyzed or mentioned in this paper.
However, one particular ad shows a typical
manifestation of both elements (fig 5). It depicts
the dominatrix, who has become a visual culture
icon: a woman, dressed in black leather, highheeled black boots, who inflicts both pain and
pleasure on her victims.
This image almost always succeeds in
selling products effectively, because it carries
the message that sexual power under oppression
is pleasurable. What is more, the whole idea
behind the dominatrix as an icon is that she
exists to fulfill male fantasies of passive
participation in a sexual activity, usually
through scenarios of seduction and S&M, based
on the dichotomy of pain - pleasure: the man
endures the pain and welcomes the pleasure
derived from it.
After analyzing the Absolut Vodka ads,
we cannot help but ask ourselves whether it is
wrong or not to use the body and sex as a
marketing tool. However, as numerous writers
have attempted to show, advertising and
consumer culture is developing at such a rapid
pace that there is no clear-cut answer to such a
question. One aspect is clear, though: no matter
what the product is, the type of advertising used
to promote it must be carefully aimed and
tastefully done.
 Howard, Theresa. “Absolut Gets into the
Spirit of Name Play with New Ads”.USA
 Lambiase, Jacqueline. Sex in Advertising:
Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal. New
Jersey: Lea’s Communication, 2003.
 Matthews, Ryan. Deviant’s Advantage.
Westminster: Crown Publishing Group,
 Schroeder, Jonathan.Visual Consumption.
Routledge, 2002.
page 31
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
Fig. 4
Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 5
Fig. 3
Fig. 6
page 31
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
Here’s where you set your inspiration loose.
by Bianca Barbu
Glisten, glow, surrender
your trifling battles against undulating monsters,
Glisten, glow, surrender
to your cold, aimless journey as a dying slave,
Glisten, glow, surrender
with the growing strike of the beating clock,
Glisten, glow, surrender
to free this misfortunate.
in one heart-slashing fall,
for your beautiful farewell,
to death and fulfill sorrow,
Tear, sweet tear.
by Ana Roman
all those muzzy faces in the bus
tell me that I will never have a weeping willow
in my backyard
or a thirsty phonograph in my backbone
that chances are nothing but unfathomable bags
of nonsense
and tattered whispers dangling from the corner
of your eye
how imperturbable, I keep thinking to myself
as each morning camouflages some mental
torture in its purest form
mistakes filling the marrow,
you look at the window as it were a painting in
you always say that
one day
it’s gonna rain typewriters
and the chimaerical lowering of sound
will draw a myriad of circles in your mind
but until then,
self condemned to exchanging one disease for
you scream at the streetlights
and empty your flashlight of batteries,
throwing them in the lake
then you pour down your head into an empty
sheet of paper
until the streetlights are screaming at you
we learn how to live with toothaches
unanswered phonecalls
smaller shoes
and charred memories
we can’t visit old basement heroes anymore
or sit alone at the table
all those absences are looking at us
with monstrous electrifying lake eyes.
Copyright 2006©Alexandra Magearu
page 32
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
by Dan Olaru
Copyright 2005©Dan Olaru
Tom. Tommy. He has a long pink scar
on his forehead, running down from his hairline
towards one eyebrow. It looks raw and delicate.
He tells me he got it from falling head down on
a metal shaft, when he was a child. When he sits
too much in the sun, it opens up and starts
bleeding again. It's the reason why he couldn't
get into the army and ended up here, in this
He’s a drifter of about twenty, with
blond long hair and a red beard. He's been
through a lot of things in his life (I will soon
find out), which is equal in length with mine,
and he’s very serene, like the majority of folks
around here. The things he says have this
metaphysical aura, which is a result either of the
things that he’s read or of what the drugs have
‘revealed’ to him, or maybe it comes form the
‘Before my best friend Jake died’, he
says, ‘my beard was blond. Then all of a sudden
it started to grow red. Jake was red haired. How
do you account for that?’ And indeed it is a very
abundant red beard that Jake has bequeathed to
For a drifter, he’s very clean, and very
well-spoken, articulate, even literate. He puts to
shame in my mind so many of my friends from
back home, who, though ostensibly more
educated, tend to be such atrocious, closeminded, self-complacent, lazy bigots and
philistines. I met him in the bus stop on leaving
that dreadful place in SoCal. I was the only
person in that bus stop at 5 am, and we were
both carrying guitars, waiting for the same bus,
Issue 01, December, 2008
and both young people, we struck up a
conversation. I mostly listened, liking to hear
Tom’s words and stories as much as he himself
obviously liked to tell them.
He’d been drifting around California for
a couple of weeks now. He had set off
from Flagstaff, Arizona and had walked almost
all the way. He said he ate what food they threw
out of supermarkets when it expired. On the
highway nobody'd give him a ride, he said, and
he thought this was perhaps because of his
guitar bag, which, he thought, people might
have taken for a rifle cover. So he walked along
the shoulder of the highway for hours on end
each day, and picked up plastic bottles lying by
the side of the road, which motorists had thrown
out of their cars, which he then dumped
properly in bins.
He puffed at his roach, and offered me
some, but I refused, not having the heart to
share his obviously very meager rations of pot.
Our conversation continued all through the
state, in the various means of conveyance that
Amtrak provided us with to get us to our
He and his girlfriend were taking a
break from each another, and he’d left her the
house, the car, and everything. His dad had been
“a wild party-animal from the 80s” and drugs
had probably been around the home from very
early on. One time, he told me, he’d been in the
desert – on LSD probably – and there he saw
these two UFOs: one was large, and the other
was small, and they were connected by a visible
cord that hung between them. Upon coming
back from the desert, he opened his friend’s
UFO album, which he had never perused until
then, and he saw this picture there of the very
two UFOs he’d seen in the desert. That was one
of Tommy’s coincidences which he threw at
He’d spent months in a rehabilitation
facility after hanging on to a friend’s car and
being dragged high speed on a skateboard, after
falling under the car’s wheels and literally
having his ankle crushed between the tire and
the wood of the skateboard.
‘I’m lucky my foot was on the
skateboard when the wheel ran over it, because
the board broke under it, and thus softened the
pressure on the ankle’ he told me. He too shows
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
what to me is very little concern for his own
life, which I’ve encountered before in this place.
Afterwards, he had had to learn to walk
all over again in a swimming pool, with a
trainer, after his injuries had recovered. I
remember looking out of the train’s window at
swamps and arid fields and plantations of
unknown crops as he told me all this, and
feeling like I was starring in my own two-bit,
touching, travel movie.
He was a hippie; he’d meet up with
these people in forests across America, and hang
out with them there, doing all kinds of stuff –
having parties, smoking and drinking and
dancing – which to them meant that they were
in communion with nature, and that they were
fighting a world oppressively over-politicized
and over-producing garbage.
Tommy had had his best friend, the redhead, die from heroin overdose. ‘He was a badass guitarist, he could make the guitar say ‘I
love you’. He could play it with his mouth, he
could do all that’, he said. ‘He had built his own
guitar out of a wooden plank, and various parts
lying around the house. He was rockin’.’ Tom’s
parents as well had had their own troubles with
the drugs. And his own well-paying job at
Speedy’s Autoshop had vanished after heroin
had shown up at the workplace.
In self-conscious smugness, I had the
unpleasant feeling of being rich compared to
this young man. I – unrealistically – felt like a
stupid, lucky, middle-class prick compared to
this agreeable, well-spoken, gentle youth, who
nobody would ever do anything for. At least I
supposed so.
The place I was then leaving was to me
a dump – but to him it was home, sort of. He
was alone there, in the vast landscape, bearing
cheerfully his cross of poverty and loneliness.
I on the other hand had someone waiting
for me at the end of the road, and room and
board with a shoulder to cry about my miseries
on included.
Months later, after I’d gone back home,
I asked my sister in jest whether she'd seen
Tommy around perhaps.
‘Yeah’, she said, ‘because we all know
America is this big bodega, where everyone
knows and sees everyone every day.’ Couldn’t
argue with her on that.
Issue 01, December, 2008
I really do hope you’re doing
well where you are, and not lying in some ditch
somewhere, under a blanket of dirt.
Flagstaff, AZ.
Flagstaff, AZ.
Note: first published on
by Florin Pojoga
One of my elders used to say that every
little thing has a soul. Rubbish. Like that eerie
thirst for absolute knowledge. Absolute
nonsense. I do not have a soul. I do not want to
know everything. It is a fool's errand to believe
in either of them. I am crushed between my
petty existence and my glorious dreams. I am
who I am - nothing more, nothing less - there is
no room for mystery, no need of explanation.
And I have no proof - only a gut feeling. I see
myself walking through that other light where
everything was blind to the touch of my voice.
Sudden rushes of incompetent lying streams and
streams of extremely guilty consciousness
floating around like a supersized bowl of pasta.
Damn - what a lame word to say when the
machinegun in my veins quietly rampages upon
my head and takes over my senses like a
untamed demon that used to be only a cute
animal. Turning tables break down on the alley
beneath my creeping cell and it's never enough
to play this Russian roulette with my own ghost.
Dreams. Quiet and smooth and delicate dreams
that remind me of how it used to be. Of how I
used to be. In the abrupt science of my twisted
mind, I am my own reason. And only foe...
White rooms filled with silence. White rooms
filled with silence. Shut them up.
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[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
get that promotion today, damn bus that isn’t
by Corina Pall
Copyright 2008©Alice Naiman
..I would have understood their reaction if it
would have been one of those dreary, cold,
dreadfully windy evenings that are so common
during the winter time in Bucharest. You know
what I mean; one of those evenings when the
city stops being a home and becomes a grey,
concrete landlord unsatisfied with his noisy
troublesome tenants. Then I would have
...But it was only 7 in the morning; be it a better
or a worse, a hopeful or a hopeless, a wanted or
unwanted it was a day, a beginning nonetheless.
And yet they all seemed to have such blank,
empty expressions on their faces. It was their
eyes, their eyes frightened me the most, that
dreadful stare… into nothingness. Completely
submitted to worries, when is the rent due, did I
pack his lunch for today, why isn’t this bus
moving, I’ll never get there on time, I should
have taken the subway, I am so hungry, why
isn’t this bus moving, I am so thirsty, I am so
tired, I am so sleepy, I should have slept last
night, I overslept this morning, why isn’t this
bus moving, why doesn’t he understand, why
doesn’t she understand,, what will I do at this
exam, what did I do at yesterday’s exam, will I
…I promised myself I would never become one
of those miserably melancholic people on the
bus, stupidly looking out the window and seeing
nothing but my own discontent for life, damn
…I think we puzzle him, I think he really must
believe that we are quite strange, unintelligible
creatures, the bus, I mean…I am pretty sure he
is tired and has had enough of all our
complaints…Foolish, ungrateful people, I do
my best all day long to take thousands of you
where you are supposed to go, and all you do is
complain about …about everything…I am
doing my job irreproachably, every day you can
count on me being there to pick you up and then
to bring you home, I am satisfied as I am
serving the purpose for which I was created,
what about you? Is it my fault that you would
rather be somewhere else then here? Am I the
one not allowing you to end this continuous
struggle with yourselves? You are free to go,
there look, the next stop is just around the
corner, get off and start another journey, I do
not mind…But I know you won’t get off, I am
comfort and security, I am stability and
certainty, you have known me forever haven’t
you? No, you won’t get off, the world is much
less scary when you are inside, and then my
beautiful windows are always ready to show
you something else… look there comes that
street that you have always wanted to walk on
just to see where it leads, but you won’t get off,
you can’t get off, what will you do without your
sheltering window? No, you had better stay
inside…you only have three more stops to go
and …I think your rent must be do, did you
pack his lunch for school today, perhaps you
should have slept last night, you may be hungry
by now…yes I know you are tired already, but
…we are here now, here where everyone
expects you to be, why aren’t you smiling?
Note: first published on
page 35
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
Hello! My name is Amalia Kalinca and
I graduated in the summer of 2008. I did my
Bachelor’s degree at the Faculty of Foreign
Languages and Literatures, the University of
Bucharest in German and English (German was
actually my major). I am currently studying at
Freiburg University. It is my 1st semester (out of
a total of four) in the British and North
American Cultural Studies MA.
Let's start step by step. In the spring of
2008 the Romanian International University
Fair took place in Bucharest. And more by
chance I decided to go see what it was all about.
It turned up to be one of the best decisions ever.
The amount of useful information one can find
from that fair is amazing. Basically universities
all over Europe – and not only – present their
programs in order to attract future students. I
recommend visiting this fair to anyone who
wishes to study abroad. It provides information
regarding all aspects of studying abroad, from
the programs themselves, to fees and places to
live. This was sort of the “1st phase” of the
whole process which led to me studying abroad.
The application procedure is rather
simple and the demands are 'doable'. I mean by
this that (almost) anyone can do it. I think I am
the living proof of it. Back in Bucharest I was
not what one would call an exceptional student
(Like every other student, I believed to be a
genius. However, the teachers didn't.) My
grades ranked in the most amazing way; but the
grades are the not such a relevant criterion when
considering an application – as I later found out.
Most of the times the application
consists, among other things, in a letter of
motivation and an essay. And these are the
things that really count. They show if someone
has sufficient 'wit' and is fit for that program. In
this respect, the aid of someone more
experienced is invaluable. Because in the
application requirements one is not told 'how' to
write them. My essay for example could be on
any topic, the only limit imposed was that of
2500 words. And someone with more
experience – like a junior lecturer or a professor
– can really help one write perhaps the most
important academic paper in one's life. I, for
example, believe that without the help of Ms.
Mihaela Precup and Ruxandra Radulescu I
wouldn't be here right now. Their critical
thinking really pinpointed the flaws of my
writing (even if this sometimes meant rewriting
the whole paper!). And what I learned in those
few days I wrote my application paper still
stands today and I can apply it to every paper I
So with all my papers written I sent the
envelope to Freiburg University. And normally
the answer should come in 2 weeks after the
final deadline – this usually comes by post.
However, you should never trust the Romanian
post. How I found out I had been accepted is
quite a funny story actually. A month later or so
after sending in all the documents I received an
e-mail from the coordinator of the program, Mr.
Wolfgang Hochbruck, which sounded like: “I
would like to congratulate you all for being
admitted to our MA and set up a first meeting
with all of you.” And I was like
“@[email protected]*&@!!#%”. But with an e-mail
everything was sorted out. So my advice would
be (beside checking your e-mails frequently): in
case you don't get an answer, write an e-mail
yourself asking what they thought of your
application. And I think that even a negative
answer is better than no answer at all.
Thus I began looking for a place to live.
The disadvantage of studying abroad is that –
page 36
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
dormitories are usually 'taken', as they accept
basically everyone. So when you are looking for
a place to live, you should start very early. The
prices are about the same as in Bucharest (I
know that because in Bucharest I lived in a
rented apartment too). However, the standard
living conditions are higher than in our country
– I mean this mostly regarding the student
dormitories. This may also depend on the dorm
in which you end up and also on the city. I was
quite lucky I think, as I got a room in a Catholic
dorm, even though I applied quite late. Again:
never rely on the Romanian post. My answer
from the dorm committee came by post and
because it came too late I almost lost the room.
The e-mail is perhaps the most viable solution.
Another solution beside the student dormitories
would be the 'WG's – several people who rent a
house and live together (I don't know if there is
a word for that in English).
Once I arrived (regarding the arrival:
you should always check the low-cost company
airlines. Sometimes they have really cheap
tickets – I just bought one for E20, all taxes
included), the bureaucracy will keep hunting
you, as you cannot register at the university
unless you have a place to live, medical
insurance etc. The good thing is that things go
rather smoothly as they are very well organized
(I don't know if it's a German thing or if this
applies for the whole of Western Europe). You
have to register at the Resident Registration
Office, you have to open a bank account and
you need medical insurance (a very important
thing: you can be spared from the stress of a
new medical insurance if you go to the
Romanian CAS and just ask for the European
Medical Card. It takes about 2 weeks to be
issued and it can save you a lot of trouble.) Very
useful are also the Tourist Info points as they
can direct you basically anyway and spare you a
lot of time. I received a sort of a leaflet from my
Master Study coordinators before arriving in
Freiburg, where they listed all the stuff I needed
to do and where are the most important
institutions. (If you wish, I can send it to you to
look over it. Maybe you can take something out
of there too, regarding practical info.) And
another very helpful thing will be the basis
knowledge of the German language – the most
important things are most of the times written in
German (though in Freiburg you can get along
with English very well too).
Issue 01, December, 2008
getting more to the main issue:
regarding my Master’s Program, it was more or
less by chance that I found it. I actually intended
to continue my study with something related to
German culture. But when I read more details
about it, I knew “this was it”. The Program is
called British and North American Cultural
Studies – so it's a little bit more than American
Studies, as it involves a British part too. And it
is quite new, too. My generation is actually the
2nd that starts the program. I think this might be
the biggest advantage of the whole study, as it
allows the most incredible freedom.
The topics of the lectures vary so much
and encompass rather a ‘cultural’ specter, than
just limiting itself to the literary field. And what
strikes me most is the 'contemporaneity' of the
issues we deal with. Here there is a whole new
approach. First of all, the subject matters are
present-related. I think the people here came to
the conclusion that we are living in the present,
rather than in the past and that we need not only
to relate ourselves to this present, but also to try
to anticipate. I was so impressed when, just after
Barack Obama had been elected in the US, the
dozent who led the seminar played to us his
acceptance speech and he afterwards began a
whole session of discussion regarding the topic
and the impact it has. I would have never
pictured myself taking part in something like
that back in Bucharest. Actually, I believe that
many students in Romania haven't even had the
curiosity to watch the speech by themselves.
(The topic was more or less relevant to the
seminar – it was a seminar about the year 1968
and how 'it changed the face of the world' and
that of America most of all.)
As I was saying before, I think we do a
sort of “multi-kulti” here. I think this is the main
difference as to what I did back in Romania.
There the study focused on literature and
linguistics and that was it. Literature is a focal
point here too, but not only. As a dozent of ours
said, cultural studies is the new literary studies.
And people here understood the importance of
understanding the concept; thus we have a
colloquium called Basics of Cultural Studies –
which opened my eyes to a new kind of
philosophy. And coming back to the way 'nontechnical' sciences interact (I try to avoid the
word 'humanistic', as it can really limit the
field), I think the best example for that are the
Novel/Film Adaptation and Harry Potter Master
seminars. The first concerns books and the
page 37
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
movies based on them – the most recent being
No Country for Old Men, and the
second...well...the name says it: the books
written by J. K. Rowling and the Daniel
Radcliffe Box Office hits.
And another very important point: this
'multi-kulti' thing is reflected not only in the
lectures' structure and subject matter. The
teachers come from so various backgrounds and
from so many countries. We have Austrians
giving lectures about the Black Atlantic and
black history, we have professors who studied in
Canada and began with journalism and I could
go on forever with the examples. And this
applies for the students too. We have people
from Finland, from Ireland, from the US, from
China, we have musicians or people who hold a
Business Management degree. And they are all
in my Master’s Program. I believe that this
heterogeneity comes to the advantage of all of
us, as it can sometimes give birth to the most
interesting solutions in solving dilemmas and it
can create the most interesting approaches. This
kind of thing really opens your eyes. These
things become a part of your identity and you
become yourself a sort of a 'multi-kulti' person.
As you can see, being a foreigner is no longer
such an 'exotic' thing – as it might have been in
However, I can't really say if this is only
specific for some universities. It may be that
Freiburg is an exception, as it is one of the best
ranked universities in Germany and not only (I
think in the top 500 universities of the world it
was somewhere on place 80). And BadenWürttemberg might be an exception in itself in
Germany, as in the latest Pisa Study is was very
well ranked.
Last but not least, everything here is so
much more technologized: not only that in
almost every room there is a video projector and
other countless media devices, but they totally
depend on technology: you can find your
lectures on line, you have a card which is
basically indispensable in order to pay
university-related expenses, and so on. Not to
mention the incredible online resources the
university has. For the first time I was able to
read JSTOR articles. On the other hand,
technology can fail you when you need it most:
I experienced this recently, when I had a
presentation. With 2 laptops and a beamer, I still
couldn't get the darn'd Powerpoint to play and I
Issue 01, December, 2008
had to do it the 'old fashioned' way – writing on
the blackboard.
About what I'm planning to do next...
hard to say. Finish my studies first of all.
Afterwards...hmm... Nowadays I believe that the
sky is the limit. I would like to travel – travel in
the sense of experiencing new cultures. Brussels
would be a wonderful place to live and work for
a few years. But that's quite far in the future. I've
just began here. On the whole, I want – at some
point – to be able to say: “Here is where I want
to grow old.” This is why I intend to do as many
and as various things as possible. So that I can
As a student one is provided with so
many opportunities. It is perhaps the most
productive part of one's life. And with this new
European Union thing and the Bologna system
everything is much easier. Even though the
Bologna system is harshly criticized, it offers
such great mobility! (In Germany is as criticized
as in Romania, but the Germans did something
smarter: they kept the old system too, as a
backup method.) With the European Union it is
the same. I realized this as I stumbled upon all
the bureaucratic issues upon coming here. Just
think about not having to go through the stress
of obtaining a visa! Basically, I see it this way:
for the same money you can get something
much better in terms of quality (at German
universities the tuition fee usually is
E500/semester. In Austria the fee is about
E360). In Denmark tuition is free of charge.)
If you need any other details about my
Master’s Program you can just send me an email at [email protected] Or you
can also look stuff up on their Internet page:
page 38
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Issue 01, December, 2008
by Andra Dicu
Well, I thought I should start by saying
a few words regarding the topic of my column.
Basically I will try to find out as much as
possible about whatever American-related event
taking place in Bucharest. I will try to get
information about coming events, where
students may like to attend...places where they
could have fun. But, I will also try to find out
about places and events that will help you
discover more things about the American Life in
Bucharest and other places. That is why I chose,
as my first article, a book; a book about a
Romanian man who chased the American
Dream, after 1989. I will give you some details
about the book, about the adventures he went
through but I will leave the reading to you.
will start with the
presentation of the book
launch of a volume entitled În
sfârşit, America! This is the
second volume that tells the
story of George Dinu, the
author, who left Romania in
1994 in order to get to New
York. After 10 years, in 2004, he returns to
Romania with a book. The first volume, Către
faţa nevazută a New York-ului, relates the first 3
months of the journey. After 4 years George
Dinu publishes another book in which he tells us
what happened in the following 6 months.
November 19 I attended the book
launch at the Diverta Bookstore on Nicolae
Balcescu Blvd. At the beginning I was not sure
if I was in the right place until one of the staff
members invited me to the coffee shop where
the presentation took place. It was not long until
I saw the author, a very friendly person who, I
can easily say, was extremely nervous. Most of
the guests were friends, people who helped
publish the book or journalists. By way of an
introduction, the author said a few words about
his book, also presenting his first volume, Către
fata nevazută a New York-ului. After the
author’s short speech, one of the guests, Sorin
Paliga, a Professor at the Foreign Languages
Faculty at the University of Bucharest,
expressed his opinion on the two books. He
started by saying that he was not a literary critic
but that he found the first volume passionate,
exciting and that he could not imagine that
someone might come up with such a way of
getting to America (via Belgrade, Budapest,
Madrid, South America, the Caribbean, and then
America). The journey is full of surprises and as
it would have been expected, things sometimes
go wrong. The second volume is more
compressed, “more in the 20th century trend”
and we find that the author finally reached New
York through Canada. As expected, we can find
a love story between the author and a Serbian
woman named Duda (“the memory of the
Serbian woman warms my soul every time”).
The two, members of the same group of
immigrants, separate at a certain point but faith
brings them together again in New York, mostly
because George Dinu was so determined to find
her not only because of their love story but also
because of the Serbian woman’s prophecy.
The author has already started writing
the third volume and promises to keep writing
until the story of his 10 years in America will be
complete. To be honest I was not so impressed
with the launch but the story seems very
interesting and the second volume is easy to
read. It is exciting, it has some funny moments
and it presents a true story.
page 39
[Inter]sections: An [Under]graduate Journal of American Studies
Soft Records and MARGENTO have the
honor to invite you to
The 2008 Gold Disc Ceremony
dedicated to the Award winning multimedia
CD Margento II from Soft Records.
17 December 2008, 7 PM
At “Studioul de Inregistrări”, 150, Strada Traian
Issue 01, December, 2008
word and action painting
conjunct with music involving keyboards mixes
of trip-hop, progressive and psychedelic rock
spiced up with Eastern European motifs and
acid jazz; operatic vocals that plunge every now
and then into rock-like crescendos and
intriguing jazzy slurs; sound effects and
engineering ranging from backing programmed
musical scores to overlapping computerized
rhythms and theremin explorations; plus off and
on added rhythmical and solo guitars.
award ceremony will also include
video projections and an informal press
conference followed by cocktails.
was started in 2001 by
poet Chris Tănăsescu as a syncretistic project
that united music, poetry and painting in one
single crucible. The project won the Fringiest
Event Award at Buxton Fringe Festival 2005 –
the most important fringe in England – and was
the only Eastern European project that
participated in Adelaide Fringe 2006 – the
second largest fringe in the world – where they
received a 4-Star (out of 5) Mention from the
They released their first multimedia CD
– including videos and painting & photo
galleries – in June 2005 and launched a second
multi-media LP in December 2007, which won
the 2008 Gold CD.
II presents besides its audio
tracks an extensive action painting opera – Hora
Asymptotica – based on the six-month progress
of a one-square-meter painting worked into an
animation that follows the rhythms and
inflections of the musical score and poetry
page 40
As [Inter]sections is a monthly student publication, you are kindly invited to send contributions to our editors, usually during
the last week of each month). Also, should you wish to respond to any of the articles published in this and any other future issues, send
your comments to: [email protected] .
Mihaela Precup - [email protected]
Mihaela Precup - junior lecturer, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Ema Dumitriu - 2nd year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Music Editors:
Flavia Cioceanu - [email protected]
Diana Mihai - [email protected]
Popular Culture Editors:
Mihaela Mircia - [email protected]
Alina Florescu - [email protected]
Ilinca Diaconu - [email protected]
History and Politics Editor:
Marius Bogdan - [email protected]
Andrei Răuţu - 1st Year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Alexandra Magearu - 3rd Year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Clarisa Andreea Mocanu - 2nd Year, ENGLISH- PORTUGESE,
Alexandru Măcărescu Rotari - 3rd Year, AMERICAN STUDIES
Sociology/Anthropology Editors:
Flavia Cioceanu - 3rd Year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Iulia Nentu - [email protected]
Alexandra Vasile - [email protected]
Diana Mihai – 2nd year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Creative Writing Editors:
Dan Olaru - 3rd year, ENGLISH – GERMAN,
Alexandra Magearu - [email protected]
Alexandru Măcărescu - [email protected]
Visual Arts Editors:
Mihaela Precup - [email protected]
Alexandra Magearu - [email protected]
Alexandra Vasile – 4th year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Alina Florescu – 2nd year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
American Studies Abroad Editors:
Silvia Filip - [email protected]
Monica Radu - [email protected]
Literature Editors:
Alexandra Magearu - [email protected]
Alexandru Măcărescu - [email protected]
Mihaela Precup - [email protected]
Film Editors:
Andrei Răuţu - [email protected]
Doiniţa Bănceanu - [email protected]
Opinion Editor:
Emanuela Dumitriu - [email protected]
Bianca Barbu – 3rd year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Ana Roman – 2nd year, COMMUNICATION, SNSPA
Florin Pojoga – 4th year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Andra Dicu – 2nd year, AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM,
Alexandra Magearu
Alexandru Măcărescu Rotari
American Life in Bucharest Editor:
Andra Dicu - [email protected]
Dan Olaru
Alexandra Magearu
Alice Naiman
Haight-Ashbury by niteshade-stock
Center for American Studies, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, 7-13 Pitar Mos St., 1st Floor, Bucharest, Romania.
Tel. no. +4021-318.15.79/80/81 /int.28 Office Hours: 10am-4pm

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