The Oven
96 pages, 7 x 8
31 color and b&w illus.
Paperback
Release Date:22 Mar 2018
ISBN:9781625343581
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The Oven

An Anti-Lecture

University of Massachusetts Press
After a chance meeting with a shaman in Colombia, Ilan Stavans, the highly regarded literary scholar, found himself in the Amazon rainforest. He had reluctantly agreed to participate in a religious ceremony that involved taking the hallucinogen ayahuasca. Even though he considered himself a skeptic and a rational intellectual, as someone whose worldview was defined by his education and his heritage as a Mexican Jew, Stavans found that the ritual pushed him to reconsider many of his basic understandings, including his perceptions of indigenous cultures in Latin America, as well as his career as teacher, thinker, and artist. This one-act play is delivered in the form of a lecture that mimics the author's startling spiritual journey. The book includes twenty-five bold images, in color and black and white, which capture the author's performance of the play.
How does a mild-mannered scholar/writer/professor become a jaguar, kill and eat a deer? I got to witness Ilan Stavans' re-immersion into what happened to him, telling and showing the audience his impulsive and, transformative journey into the dark Columbian night. He finished the performance shirtless and soaked with sweat. I drove home, filled with the knowledge that there are so many worlds in our world and 'reality' is, indeed, a shifting and terrifying place. And how the theater, in the hands of a great story and good actor, can give reality a good shake.'—Connie Congdon, author of Tales of the Lost Formicans

'Ilan Stavans' wonderful The Oven is a daring reveal of his deep dive into another culture, told with humor, poignancy, and excitement. His self-effacement and emotional awareness pokes holes at academic stuffiness. He is fully in it, and brings his audience along on this spiritual journey both of the shamanic tradition he visits in Latin America and his own deep Jewish heritage.'—Stacy Klein, founder and director, Double Edge

'Ilan Stavans is one of today's most prolific shapers of Latinx letters, in his scholarly and creative work, and both are realized in this hybrid project. The Oven innovates in content and form. It offers a penetrating look behind the façade of our existence, in a non-appropriative way; Stavans is always conscious of his outsider/cosmopolitan status. It will certainly stimulate much critical and creative conversation and scholarship.'—Frederick Luis Aldama, author of Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands and editor of The Routledge Companion to Latina/o Popular Culture

'A compelling piece of stagecraft that documents the inner and outer workings of a mind on a narcotic trip, but it also documents the uncanny and serendipitous curiosity of a literature professor.'—William A. Nericcio, author of Homer from Salinas: John Steinbeck's Enduring Voice for California
Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is the author of many books in a number of genres. Among his more recent works are Quixote: The Novel and The World and Borges, The Jew.
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