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LSP professor receives literature award for ‘Sangre en el Ojo’

LSP professor Lina Meruane has always been fascinated by the relationship between disease and literature.

Meruane, who teaches courses on Cultural Foundations and Latin American Culture, recently received the prestigious Guadalajara International Book Fair’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for her 2012 book “Sangre en el Ojo” — Spanish for “Blood in the Eye” — which explores themes of disease.

“Sangre en el Ojo,” written in Spanish, is a fictional work with autobiographical elements that tells the story of the difficult journey of a Chilean writer who goes blind upon her arrival to New York City.

“I realized that memory is very visual, and it’s a very visual novel, but it’s also complimented with all other senses,” Meruane said.

Meruane has written three other novels: “Póstuma,” “Cercada” and “Fruta Podrida.” Themes of disease and literature are consistent in these works and in her academic research. She comes from a family of doctors and is very familiar with the language of illnesses.

“I have enough [knowledge] of medicines, and I really always loved literature,” Meruane said. “So I [found] a way of connecting these two important languages.”

Before coming to New York and beginning a career as an academic, Meruane pursued journalism in Chile, her native country, after graduating from high school.

“My calculation at the time was ‘Where am I going to write more?’ I figured out that in journalism I would write more,” she said.

As a cultural journalist, Meruane interviewed writers and wrote stories about theater, arts and literature, among other topics.

“What I learned from [writing these stories] is that every writer is from a different world, and a good writer has to find his own voice,” Meruane said.

Meruane said her experience as a journalist also drove away her fear of a blank page when sitting down to write.

She eventually came to New York to pursue a doctoral degree in Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature. After obtaining her degree, she chose to stay and teach at NYU.

Meruane said her teaching position allows her to create a productive intersection between her interests in literature and Latin American culture.

“When you are interested in literature, culture and culture production, teaching these things gives you a lot of pleasure,” she said.

Meruane puts her passion into her classes, and Rachel Sonis, her Cultural Foundations III student and an LSP sophomore, certainly feels it.

“She really listens to what you have to say and challenges you to think outside of the box to gain a deeper understanding of the text and the theme of the class,” Sonis said. “She is approachable, engaging and is, most importantly, passionate about her work.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 19 print edition. Celeste Zhou is a contributing writer. Email her at features@nyunews.com.

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LSP professor receives literature award for ‘Sangre en el Ojo’