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  • The Survival of Theory and the Surviving Fictions of Latin America

As a culture that emerges from a protracted colonial past, Latin America's is a tradition of accommodation that has assimilated numerous cultural discourses projected upon it. The problematics of literary language and literary theory thus stand out starkly here, and it is from this vantage point that I should like to approach the question of theory and its survivability in the context of an overtly problematical literary tradition.

To speak of Latin America in terms of fiction and literary theory amounts to a tautology of sorts. I shall home back on this concomitant, but first I must wander from my hypothesis somewhat in what might appear to be a digression. In this peregrinatio I shall be retracing the ground we are wont to impute, cavalierly at times, to theory, history, representation, and ethics. My sally, both speculative and specular, aims to be more pleading than chastening, more conciliatory gesture than indictment. Participation ultimately requires many parts, and my own must of necessity be partial. By partiality we should understand both a predicament of incompleteness and of unavoidable bias. A bias is by definition indispensable to any fabric and to any fabrication. Texture is what must save even the most unidimensional monolith, and circumspection in the face of that inevitability is ultimately the redeeming grace of even the most monadic doxology, lest the lesson fall into orthodoxy and speculation [End Page 383] into dogma. A dogma is more wont to bark than see, and its irascibility precludes participation with mordant petulance. Speculation must have species recognition and some autorecognizance. And, as we know, a dogma more often than not is deprived of that perspicacity. Lest you begin to speculate that this excursus has so early gone to the dogs, I should hasten to unpack the gist of my tropics. The "gist of my tropics" is a malaprop that may threaten to convert my proleptic composure into your epileptic seizure, but I do want to seize upon your kind attention, and my point is that attentiveness, speculative or otherwise, must always find us beside ourselves. To be beside one's self is not such a bad predicament, a valuation that may be beside the point because the condition may well be, in one way or another, endemic to our ilk as Homo academicus. Besides, a malaprop may not be all that bad a prop when with all honest imposture we venture to pose the theoretical question of theory's vexed composure. The equanimity of our professorial sangfroid (or cold-bloodedness, in the less euphuistic and more honest Saxon) as composure is a conducive redoubt for a communion of poseurs or a conjunction of poses, theoretical or otherwise, whatever the otherwise may be composed of. We are all men and women of compos mentis. And lest I stir the redolent pungency of our composure's compost heap, I hasten to curtail the speaking self beside myself with aplomb, however much feigned, of theory's purported sanguinity and self-belying detachment. Through that supposed innocuousness I may be able to carry on with your cheery indulgence, that indispensable requisite that has accorded immunity and a fat emolument of perquisites to every community of theoroi since time immemorial. The Athenian theoroi, originally, were twenty-five in number. But history's inflationary spiral has wreaked havoc with that numerical economy as well. And as we are part of a New World economy where, since the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María, the Mayflower and the Arbella, the indemnities for brazenness that some may call courage have rendered every man a prophet, it follows that every man and, at last, every woman be blessed with the vatic manteia of the theoretician. The most vexing question now becomes the ratio between the light of vision and the seemingly promiscuous proliferation of visions. But let me tactfully unpack my tropical haversack of self-suspecting strategy.

"I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order." So begins Walter Benjamin in what has now become...


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pp. 383-396
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