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La modernidad and public transport


This semester I have perhaps the most interesting Spanish class I’ve yet taken: an investigation of the history of modernity in Spain. It crosses some departmental borders—Romance languages (obviously), history, literature, and sociology—so I sometimes feel out of my depth, but the class is riveting and strikes chords with both life and my own academic work.*

In particular, today the border of public/private existence was the topic of conversation. How do we interact with strangers when forced into close proximity with them, i.e. on public transport? Are we allowed to look at them? Are we allowed to talk to them? How do we interact with them?

Personally, I’m extremely reserved in most public situations, on public transport, in the street, etc. The tacit rules of ‘don’t look, don’t touch, don’t speak’ should be firmly upheld. I’m instantly suspicious of people who wish to talk, deeply annoyed by people who seem unaware of their own personal space of mine, and, I suppose, mildly annoyed/embarrassed by people who wish to watch me. Even though they are public spaces, I feel that they are private ones too. I’m not sure entirely how that works, but the existence of the tacit rules mentioned suggests that there is a general consensus that this is the case. It’s an interesting conflict/dichotomy that, if I had more time, I’d probably like to research.

Sadly, living in the modern world also means that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do that…

* A focus of the class, naturally, is religion in/versus modernity, and el amor profano/sagrado—somehow, in English, ‘sacred/profane love’, feels like it has a different meaning—although it didn’t immediately strike me at first, seems to suggest so many fruitful links (many of which I’ll probably never have scope to explore) with my thesis work on Guinevere, adulteress-cum-nun, and chivalric love that borders on/transgresses the border into adulterous love.


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