International Spotlight: Jorge Lee

Which program/department are you in? 

I am a ​student in English and Comparative Literature.

What is your primary area of study or research?  

Poetry–in particular Romantic poetry and the extent to which it was influenced by the French Revolution. 

Which country (or countries) do you come from? 


How long have you been in the U.S.? 

I have been studying in the United States since K5. 

Is there anything you’d like to share about your research or projects? 

In short:  

A genre intrinsic to the Latino literary canon–one that I am particularly fond of–is that of magical realism. One might assume that whatever connections and parallels may be drawn between Romantic poetry and magical realism would be tenuous, and reasonably so–the two seem, at least at first glance, to be diametrically opposed in terms of their respective literary complexions. In reality, however, they are fundamentally similar.  

Although the extent to which the French Revolution influenced the work of Romantic poets continues to be debated, one opinion–supported by Columbia professor and bona-fide genius Erik Gray–is that the French Revolution appears to have stifled the imagination and changed the hopeful spirit of idealism of many supporters of the movement–including Romantic poets. Undergirding this theory is a perspective of poetry and literature that sees the two as reflecting the hopes of their authors; it is through this hermeneutic lens that Romantic poetry may be understood as thematically similar to magical realism.  

After the Reign of Terror and in the years following the French Revolution, although many poets seemed less inclined to write using fantastical language and in the idealistic tone that had characterized the pre-revolutionary poets, others did precisely the opposite: their imagination leaped into a world of abstractions and phantasmagorical imagery. It was a sort of statement of defiance; they refused to allow the failure of the French Revolution to stifle their optimism. In a similar way, one of the many reasons why magical realism became and remains such a potent literary genre is because it, too, reflected the hopes of the authors. Despite the conditions and circumstances in which these individuals found themselves, they still dared to dream and create these alternate realities that incorporated impossibly magical elements into their narratives while simultaneously presenting a realistic portrait of the human condition. 

Albeit unexpectedly, Romantic poetry has helped me deepen my appreciation and understanding of my literary and intellectual genealogy and, by extension, my Latino community. 

What do you like best about living in the U.S.? 

Being able to interact with individuals from an electric range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds on a daily basis, always having a bookstore/library only a few minutes away, being able to enjoy the variety of cuisines that are available, and having the opportunity to engage with peers willing to take the liberal arts as seriously as most would a branch of science. 

What is the hardest thing about living here? 

Homesickness–missing my family and friends from home–and adjusting to the cold! 

What do you know now that you wish you knew before coming here? 

 A few things: 

  • The cold is no joke, prepare!
  • Making friends is more about ​trying to be a friend to others rather than having others be a friend of yours
  • A cultural disconnect represents a bridge to be built, not always crossed
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