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Of Space and Mind

Cognitive Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction

By Patrick L. Hamilton

Publication Year: 2011

Chicano/a fiction is often understood as a literature of resistance to the dominant U.S. Anglo culture and society. But reducing this rich literary production to a single, binary opposition distorts it in fundamental ways. It conflates literature with life, potentially substituting a literature of protest for social activism that could provoke real changes in society. And it overlooks the complex range of responses to Anglo society that actually animates Chicano/a fiction. In this paradigm-shifting book, Patrick L. Hamilton analyzes works by Rudolfo Anaya, Ana Castillo, Denise Chávez, Rolando Hinojosa, Arturo Islas, John Rechy, Alfredo Véa, and Helena María Viramontes to expand our understandings of the cultural interactions within the United States that are communicated by Chicano/a fiction. He argues that the narrative ethics of “resistance” within the Chicano/a canon is actually complemented by ethics of “persistence” and “transformation” that imagine cultural differences within the United States as participatory and irreducible to simple oppositions. To demonstrate these alternative ethics, Hamilton adapts the methodology of cognitive mapping; that is, he treats the chosen fictional texts as mental maps that are constructed around and communicative of the narrative’s ethics. As he reads these cognitive maps, which envision Chicano/a culture as being part of U.S. society rather than as “resistant” and separate, Hamilton asserts that the authors’ conception of cultural difference speaks more usefully to current sociopolitical debates, such as those about gay marriage and immigration reform, than does the traditional “resistant” paradigm.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

I first met Frederick Aldama in his Re-Imagining the Metropolis seminar at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a course that introduced me to the works of Arturo Islas and Alfredo V

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Introduction: Toward New Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction

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pp. 1-22

These are the questions at the center of this study. The emphasis above on the words “can” and “ask” highlights how texts, in the worlds they imagine, act upon a reader’s mind. They communicate to that mind a particular meaning, point-of-view, and ethics. Within the field of Chicano/a literature— and U.S. multiethnic literature in general—the tendency has ...

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One. Mapping Resistance in Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima and Rolando Hinojosa’s “Sometimes It Just Happens That Way; That’s All”

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pp. 23-45

... peoples and communities as opposed to, in conflict with, and distant from U.S. society. Implicit within this is a view of these cultures—both hegemonic and marginalized—as homogenous, centered entities. In the specific case of Chicano/a literature, resistance promulgates a view of Chicanos/ as as a wholly homogenous culture, wholly separate from a similarly ...

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TWO. Mapping Persistence in John Rechy’s The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gómez and Helena María Viramontes’s “The Cariboo Café”

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pp. 46-73

Lorna Dee Cervantes’s poem “Freeway 280” imagines its titular freeway as an oppressive and destructive force toward the “wild abrazos of climbing roses / and man-high red geraniums” that formerly occupied its space. However, the grasses and gardens seemingly destroyed by the freeway’s construction not only continue to exist underneath its artificial ...

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THREE. Cosmopolitan Communities in Alfredo Véa’s La Maravilla and Ana Castillo’s So Far from God

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pp. 74-109

In “The Cariboo Café,” persistence is precisely what does not happen in the story. It remains an implicit discourse behind the story’s explicitly tragic events. Véa and Castillo, on the other hand, explicitly emphasize communities of ethnic and cultural differences as the embodiment of persistence.1 Both Buckeye Road, Arizona, in Véa ...

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FOUR. Changing Minds in Ana Castillo’s Sapogonia and Arturo Islas’s La Mollie and the King of Tears

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pp. 110-146

... with their respective spatial and textual constructions of persistence, represent a first step toward answering Anzaldúa’s earlier-mentioned call. These works dramatically embody the need to “leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed” (Anzaldúa 100). Cultural identities—male and female, Anglo and Chicano, gay and ...

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FIVE. The Transformative Spaces of Alfredo Véa’s The Silver Cloud Café and Gods Go Begging

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pp. 147-185

... experiences of its protagonist, Jesse Pasadoble, who, like Zeferino, works in his present as a defense attorney. As Roberto Cantú explains, “Alberto, Zeferino, and Jesse Pasadoble [are] three names of the same ‘fictional’ character” (240). The overlaps and resonances among their respective stories and plots allow the novels to function not only as a trilogy, but also ...

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pp. 186-190

Some of the same problematic rhetorics of difference simply took on new forms in this millennium’s first decade. Previously, this study elaborated others’ critique of cultural studies: that it denied texts their special transcendence by, in a sense, dragging them down into processes of history, power, and sociopolitics (see Farrell 23). Today, the opposite is lamented. ...


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pp. 191-196

Works Cited

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pp. 197-202


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pp. 203-204


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pp. 205-214

E-ISBN-13: 9780292729940
E-ISBN-10: 0292729944
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292723634
Print-ISBN-10: 0292723636

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series