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Gunshots at the Fiesta

Literature and Politics in Latin America

Maarten van Delden

Publication Year: 2012

The product of a unique collaboration between a literary critic (Van Delden) and a political scientist (Grenier), this book looks at the relationship between literature and politics in Latin America, a region where these two domains exist in closer proximity than perhaps anywhere else in the Western world. The apparently seamless blending of literature and politics is reflected in the explicitly political content of much of the continent's writing, as well as in the highly visible political roles played by many Latin American intellectuals.

Yet the authors of this book argue that the relationship between the two realms is much more complex and fraught with tension than is nowadays recognized. In examining these tensions, and in revealing the diverse ways in which literature and politics intersect in the Latin American cultural tradition, Gunshots at the Fiesta offers a lively challenge to the current tendency--especially strong in the U.S. academy--to read Latin American literature through a narrowly political prism.

The authors argue that one can only understand the nature of the dialogue between literature and politics if one begins by recognizing the different logics that operate in these different domains. Using this idea of the different logics of politics and literature as a guiding thread, Van Delden and Grenier offer bold new readings of major authors such as José Martí, Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa, as well as compelling interpretations of works by less-frequently-discussed figures such as Claribel Alegría, Marisol Martín del Campo and Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

Numerous friends and colleagues provided suggestions and various forms of support as we worked on this book. We would like to mention José Antonio Aguilar Rivera, Esther Allen, Roger Bartra, Jim Castañeda, Jorge Castañeda, Adolfo Castañón, Carrie Chorba...

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pp. xi-xiv

This is a book about the interface between literature and politics in Latin America. Coming from different disciplines—comparative literature (Van Delden) and comparative politics (Grenier)—our goal in this book is to generate a productive conversation from the contrasting perspectives these disciplines bring to our topic. We share an interest in the political...

Part 1. Introduction

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p. 1-1

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1. Politics and Literature

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pp. 1-12

Many Latin American writers have written works that could be described as politically committed literature, but they would reject the notion of literature as a pure means to a political end. Even when writers join parties or embrace causes, they are likely to defend their autonomy. When they try to toe the party line...

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2. The Politics of Contemporary Latin Americanism

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pp. 13-32

In the 1970s and early 1980s, it was not uncommon for emerging critics to complain about the apolitical orientation of literary criticism in the United States. The New Critics, with their aestheticism, their belief in the autonomy of the work of art, and their frequently conservative...

Part II: Foundational Narratives

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p. 33-33

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3. Jose Marti and His Legacy

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pp. 33-52

In contemplating the life and work of José Martí, one is likely to be overcome by a feeling of awe. Born in 1853 in Havana of Spanish parents, at a time when Cuba was one of the last remaining Spanish colonial possessions in the New World, Martí was drawn at a young age...

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4. How to Read La Malinche

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pp. 53-74

In the modern world, the question of national identity has occupied a central position in political life. This is especially true in Latin America, where the states that emerged after Independence faced the challenge of creating unified nations out of highly diverse populations...

Part III: Aesthetics, Liberalism, Modernity: The Literary and Political Career of Octavio Paz

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p. 75-75

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5. From Poetry to Politics: The Romantic Liberalism of Octavio Paz

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pp. 75-97

This chapter aims to contribute to a better appreciation of Paz’s political thought, highlighting—if briefly—how his work improves our understanding of some of the fundamental dilemmas of contemporary Western societies...

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6. The Literary Intellectual in Democratizing Mexico

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pp. 98-114

Paz once wrote that “no todos los intelectuales son escritores pero todos (o casi todos) los escritores son intelectuales” [not all intellectuals are writers but all (or almost all) writers are intellectuals].1 In Latin America, all (or almost all) intellectuals have typically...

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7. The Incomplete End of Modernity of Octavio Paz

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pp. 115-136

The theme of the end of modernity had an extraordinarily tenacious hold on Octavio Paz’s imagination. From the 1940s to the 1990s, over a period of approximately half a century, Paz returned repeatedly to the topic of modernity’s demise. Again and again, he argued that the world was witnessing the end of the modern era and that something...

Part IV: Carlos Fuentes: Literature, Pluralism, Identity

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p. 137-137

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8. Literature and the Political Apprenticeship of Carlos Fuentes

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pp. 137-158

La literatura, como creación humana, trata de enriquecer, ampliando, intuyendo, entendiendo, ordenando la pluralidad de la experiencia; de lo contrario, sacrifica la riqueza de la variedad a una falsa...

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9. Carlos Fuentes: Pan-Hispanism in the Age of Multiculturalism

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pp. 159-174

In his search for the sources of Mexican culture and identity, Carlos Fuentes has repeatedly looked toward Spain. This fascination with the madre patria appears in works such...

Part V: Literary and Political Imagination in the Latin American New Novel

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p. 175-175

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10. Scenes of Instruction in Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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pp. 175-194

Gabriel García Márquez is widely regarded as part of a generation of Spanish American writers who are less didactic and less documentary than their predecessors. Two of García Márquez’s fellow Boom authors helped propagate this view of the Colombian...

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11. The Private and the Public: Mario Vargas Llosa on Literature and Politics

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pp. 195-214

This chapter examines the views of Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa on literature, politics, and the interface between the two. A dual citizen of Peru and Spain, Vargas Llosa...

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12. Claribel Alegria and Ricardo Piglia: Experimental Writing and Political Commitment

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pp. 215-228

From its beginnings, Latin American literature has been both nationalist and cosmopolitan, outward looking and self-obsessed, intensely modern while always in search of its own tradition. One would be hard-pressed to name a literature that boasts as many writers who have lived and worked outside of their native countries...

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Conclusion: A Dialogue on Literature and Politics

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pp. 229-240

Grenier: According to Max Weber’s definition, power is “the chance of a man or of a number of men to realize their own will in a communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action...


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pp. 241-270


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pp. 271-284


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pp. 285-294

E-ISBN-13: 9780826592590
Print-ISBN-10: 0826516343

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012