Egan, Linda 1945-

views updated

EGAN, Linda 1945-

PERSONAL: Born September 7, 1945, in Las Cruces, NM; daughter of Burl L. (a farmer and electrical and chemical engineer) and Lois M. (a hospital administrator; maiden name, Poole; present surname, Stanford) Logan; married Michael F. Egan, October 25, 1963 (divorced December 17, 1964); children: Kevin Michael. Ethnicity: "Anglo." Education: Attended University of Madrid, 1967-68; California State University—Sacramento, B.A., 1968; University of California—Berkeley, M.A., 1970; attended Santa Barbara City College, 1978-80, and El Colegio de México, 1991; University of California—Santa Barbara, Ph.D., 1993. Politics: Independent. Religion: Episcopalian.

ADDRESSES: Home—7690 Howerton Dr., Sacramento, CA 95831. Office—Department of Spanish and Classics, University of California—Davis, 1 Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616; fax: 530-752-4339. E-mail—[email protected] and [email protected]

CAREER: High school Spanish teacher at a private school, Santa Barbara, CA, 1970-78; Santa Barbara News-Press, Santa Barbara, reporter, 1980-82, editorial page editor, 1983-88; Los Rios Community College District, Sacramento, CA, public information manager, 1982-83; Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, lecturer, 1974-83 instructor in Spanish and chair of journalism department, 1988-90, director of Summer in Salamanca study program, 1999; University of California—Davis, associate professor of Spanish, 1993—. California Polytechnic State University, guest lecturer for editor-in-residence program, 1987; resident Spanish teacher for private tour to Peru, 1989; teaches writing in Santa Barbara area.

MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America, Latin American Studies Association, Santa Barbara/Yalta Sister Cities Association (vice president), Phi Kappa Phi.

AWARDS, HONORS: First place awards, California School Boards Association, 1981, for series on gifted education, and 1984, for editorial on school funding; first place award, Fund for Animals, 1987, for editorial on cougar hunting.


Diosas, demonios y debate: las armas metafísicas deSor Juana, Biblioteca de Textos Universitarios, Equipo Independiente de Investigación y Edición (Salta, Argentina), 1997.

Carlos Monsiváis: Culture and Chronicle in Contemporary Mexico, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2001.

Contributor to books, including Y diversa de mí misma entre vuestras plumas ando. Homenaje internacional a Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, edited by Sara Poot Herrera, Colegio de México (Mexico City, Mexico), 1993; Vivir del cuento (La ficción en México), edited by Alfredo Pavón, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala (Mexico City, Mexico), 1995; El cuento mexicano: homenaje a Luis Leal, edited by Sara Poot Herrera, Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México (Mexico City, Mexico), 1995; The Other Mirror: Women's Narrative in Mexico, 1980-1995, edited by Kristine Ibsen, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1997; and Cuento y figura (La ficción en México), edited by Alfredo Pavón, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala, 1999. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Literatura Mexicana, Mexican Studies, Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Bilingual Review, Revista de Literature Mexicana Contemporánea, Calíope, and Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos.

WORK IN PROGRESS: A comprehensive analysis of the theme and image of (human) sacrifice in Mexican narrative from the Conquest to the present; research for a book on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's so-called "translation" of the language and concepts of accounting into poetic trope and theme, with Sara Poot Herrera; a revised edition of Diosas, demonios y debate; an annotated anthology of chronicles of conquest and colony in Mexico and Peru.

SIDELIGHTS: Linda Egan told CA: "With respect to writing in general, my primary motivation is the satisfaction of having what seems to be a good idea to communicate and then the pleasure in realizing the expression of the idea. It's a mixed pleasure, to be sure. Even at the height or depth of frustration, when I am in the very throes of creating a text, I am aware that I love this awful undertaking. When it's finally done—cut, condensed, rewritten, and tweaked—I take an unseemly pleasure in the beauty of the words I've put together on paper. An inveterate letter-writer even at age ten, I have probably spilled a debilitating amount of my creative energy into envelopes mailed to friends and family over the last forty-five years. Friends say they hold onto a letter until the family is gathered at the table, and then they read it together for dessert. The other day, a dear friend who felt she was going to die soon handed over two or three bulging sacks full of the cards and letters I had sent her over the years. Fortunately, she has had to open another sack because she is still very much alive, and I am still writing to her.

"That's one motivation for writing. Others include those that spurred me to complete Carlos Monsiváis: Culture and Chronicle in Contemporary Mexico. I believed in the project with the fervor of a former editorial page editor and journalism professor. It was my opinion that Monsiváis's thought, and his loyal commitment to writing about the progress of his country toward democratization and modernity, needed to be appreciated among English speakers of the United States and elsewhere. No one had written on his works; certainly there had been no major study such as the book-length project I was working on. I wanted to see in print my study on his writings and, most of all, to watch sales grow as an indication of the meaningful number of readers who would have thus come to understand the transcendent import of a democratic thinker like Monsiváis. Secondly, of course, if I had not published the book, I would not today be an associate professor.

"I don't think of myself as being influenced or 'following' any trend or mentor. But I do believe what theorists suggest: that any new text published is but one more sentence added to an endless dialogue. So, I can say that, when I was thirteen and living on an alfalfa farm in the Mojave Desert, I attempted to write on my portable Smith Corona my version of Gone with the Wind, set in Ripley, California, and featuring myself as a Scarlett whose name I no longer recall choosing, and Buzzie Cox as my incarnation of Rhett Butler. I didn't finish the book, but I subsequently spent many long years communing with writers of historical romances and thrillers about serial killers (I've given up on romance, apparently, but I still read good writers on bad people). I have always thought I would write one of those, and I happen to have tucked away a manuscript for a young-adult novel about the California missions. My two published books are on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, for which the influence, directly, was the seventeenth-century nun's poetry, drama, and essay, and my fascination with what I saw in her thinking through the window opened by my researches into comparative religions, including Kabbalah, neoplatonism, and gnosticism.

"My book on Carlos Monsiváis was influenced by my prior career as a newspaper reporter and subsequently an editorial page editor, and then as the chair of a journalism program. When I decided to resign, first my post at the newspaper, then my position in the journalism program, I told in-taking administrators at the University of California—Santa Barbara that I wanted to do my doctoral dissertation on the equivalent in Mexico of a Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, or Jane Kramer of the U.S. school of 'New Journalism.' I made the acquaintance of many literary journalists of Mexico, including the internationally renowned Elena Poniatowska, but the one who seduced my imagination and sequestered my unflagging loyalty for the ten years it took me to produce the first book on his collected writings is Carlos Monsiváis. He is widely held today to be the foremost intellectual of Mexico, respected throughout Latin America, feted now in Spain, translated by academics in England, sought after for conferences in the United States, and so shy I cannot be entirely sure he has been brave enough as yet even to read the book I wrote about him. I wish he would. His fears would be unfounded, and I'll bet he would learn a lot about himself.

"As a newspaper reporter and editorial writer and editor, I was inspired by a world of problems, challenges, and rare epiphanies that I felt compelled to let my reading public know about. I always wanted to tell the Truth and I wanted to tell it entertainingly and compellingly so that it would make a lasting impression. I was idealistic enough to believe I might inspire the reader to act for peace and justice in a world in which democracy is ever only a good idea unless, daily, people of good will—and a lot of reliable information—get out of their TV chairs and act responsibly to make the ideals of the U.S. Constitution work as a reality. My first assignment was for two weeks writing obituaries; this is apparently an initiation process no beginning journalist can escape. Then I was the education writer for a year. I preferred writing long, in-depth feature stories in which 'immersion reporting' and attention to dramatic detail in writing would not only report the facts of a man's passion for restoring old benches in city parks or a Cuban-Greek woman's reunion after thirty years with an ex-political prisoner from Cuba, but also posit more transcendent, symbolic realities through the suggestion of language itself. People I didn't know picketed the News-Press when I was 'promoted' to cover the doings of the city council. When I left that post, the mayor said she would miss reading on my face an instant editorial about arguments and decisions she presided over on the council. I am grateful for Sheila Lodge's humane acceptance of my tell-tale expression, which often enough must have revealed impatience, incredulity, and disgust.

"The same editorial zeal, you might say, inspired me to write about Monsiváis, whose society, like all of ours, is so much in need of fewer fools in office and more humane leaders who can be grateful for the brand of artistically meaningful analysis and implicit advice that this gifted Mexican thinker extends through his literary journalism to statesmen and ordinary citizens alike.

"Similarly, I am inspired to write about Sor Juana because of her comparable courage and will. She is held to be the best writer of the colonial period in Mexico and for long decades after. She exerts a strong influence still today on new writers of Latin America and among Chicana authors of the United States. Feminism is a concept recently invented among women of the Western canon, but Sor Juana could have spelled out its terms for them. In a place and time defined by religious intransigence and profound hostility toward women, the Mexican nun encrypted impertinent social and personal criticisms in her work while risking, because of the fame and acclaim she had earned from Spain to Peru, censure and worse at the hands of the Inquisition. Today scholars believe they have found documentable evidence that her career was, indeed, cut short by threats of more dire punishment than abrupt silencing. I write about her because she's talented, she's smart, she's influential, she's interesting, and she's brave."