Humanities 110

Introduction to the Humanities

Humanities 110—Representation and its Discontents

Jan Mieszkowski Professor of German and Humanities

MARCH 2, 2020

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This lecture is part of Reed College's Humanities 110 curriculum. It was presented by Jan Mieszkowski, professor of German and humanities, on March 2, 2020.

Elena Poniatowska is the author of more than 50 books spanning almost every literary genre. Massacre in Mexico (first published in Spanish in 1971 and in English in 1975) is a collective account of the bloody October 2, 1968, assault on student protestors by government forces in Mexico City’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas (the “Plaza of Three Cultures,” also known as Tlatelolco Plaza). Dozens of demonstrators—and perhaps as many as several hundred—were killed, and many more were injured. Poniatowska’s text is a collage of selections from interviews she conducted with eyewitnesses, newspaper headlines, and slogans chanted by demonstrators. At some points, Poniatowska’s editorial interventions are clearly foregrounded; at other moments, they are more subtle.

The Spanish-language version of the text begins with a set of photographs, whereas in the English-language version, the pictures are printed in the middle of the book. There are important differences between the two collections of images regarding the choice of photos, the layout, and the placement of the captions. (Poniatowska herself was involved in making these changes for the English edition.) Please be aware that many of the photographs are quite disturbing, as they include images of dead bodies.