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Literature > American Literature > Hispanic American Literature

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The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War Cover

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The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War

Narrative, Time, and Identity

By Jaime Javier Rodríguez

The literary archive of the U.S.-Mexican War (1846–1848) opens to view the conflicts and relationships across one of the most contested borders in the Americas. Most studies of this literature focus on the war’s nineteenth-century moment of national expansion. In The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War, Jaime Javier Rodríguez brings the discussion forward to our own moment by charting a new path into the legacies of a military conflict embedded in the cultural cores of both nations. Rodríguez’s groundbreaking study moves beyond the terms of Manifest Destiny to ask a fundamental question: How do the war’s literary expressions shape contemporary tensions and exchanges among Anglo Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. By probing the war’s traumas, anxieties, and consequences with a fresh attention to narrative, Rodríguez shows us the relevance of the U.S.-Mexican War to our own era of demographic and cultural change. Reading across dime novels, frontline battle accounts, Mexican American writings and a wide range of other popular discourse about the war, Rodríguez reveals how historical awareness itself lies at the center of contemporary cultural fears of a Mexican “invasion,” and how the displacements caused by the war set key terms for the ways Mexican Americans in subsequent generations would come to understand their own identities. Further, this is also the first major comparative study that analyzes key Mexican war texts and their impact on Mexico’s national identity.

Mexico's Ruins Cover

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Mexico's Ruins

Juan Garcia Ponce and the Writing of Modernity

At face value, the concept of modernity seems to reference a stream of social and historical traffic headed down a utopian one-way street named “progress.” Mexico’s Ruins examines modernity in twentieth-century Mexican culture as a much more ambiguous concept, arguing that such a single-minded notion is inadequate to comprehend the complexity of modern Mexico’s national projects and their reception by the nation’s citizenry. Instead, through the trope of modernity as ruin, author Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández explores the dilemma presented by the etymology of “ruins”: a simultaneous falling down and rising up, a confluence of opposing forces at work on the skyline of the metropolis since 1968. He focuses on artists and writers of the generación de medio siglo, like Juan García Ponce, and envisions both the tales of modernity and their storytellers in a new light. The arts, literature, and architecture of twentieth-century Mexico are all examined in this cross-cultural and interdisciplinary book.

Mulattas and Mestizas Cover

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Mulattas and Mestizas

Representing Mixed Identities in the Americas, 1850-2000

Suzanne Bost

In this broadly conceived exploration of how people represent identity in the Americas, Suzanne Bost argues that mixture has been central to the definition of race in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean since the nineteenth century. Her study is particularly relevant in an era that promotes mixed-race musicians, actors, sports heroes, and supermodels as icons of a "new" America. Bost challenges the popular media's notion that a new millennium has ushered in a radical transformation of American ethnicity; in fact, this paradigm of the "changing" face of America extends throughout American history.

Working from literary and historical accounts of mulattas, mestizas, and creoles, Bost analyzes a tradition, dating from the nineteenth century, of theorizing identity in terms of racial and sexual mixture. By examining racial politics in Mexico and the United States; racially mixed female characters in Anglo-American, African American, and Latina narratives; and ideas of mixture in the Caribbean, she ultimately reveals how the fascination with mixture often corresponds to racial segregation, sciences of purity, and white supremacy. The racism at the foundation of many nineteenth-century writings encourages Bost to examine more closely the subtexts of contemporary writings on the "browning" of America.

Original and ambitious in scope, Mulattas and Mestizas measures contemporary representations of mixed-race identity in the United States against the history of mixed-race identity in the Americas. It warns us to be cautious of the current, millennial celebration of mixture in popular culture and identity studies, which may, contrary to all appearances, mask persistent racism and nostalgia for purity.

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¡Muy Pop!

Conversations on Latino Popular Culture

Frederick Luis Aldama

Although investigations of Hispanic popular culture were approached for decades as part of folklore studies, in recent years scholarly explorations—of lucha libre, telenovelas, comic strips, comedy, baseball, the novela rosa and the detective novel, sci-fi, even advertising—have multiplied. What has been lacking is an overarching canvas that offers context for these studies, focusing on the crucial, framing questions: What is Hispanic pop culture? How does it change over time and from region to region? What is the relationship between highbrow and popular culture in the Hispanic world? Does it make sense to approach the whole Hispanic world as homogenized when understanding Hispanic popular culture? What are the differences between nations, classes, ethnic groups, religious communities, and so on? And what distinguishes Hispanic popular culture in the United States? In ¡Muy Pop!, Ilan Stavans and Frederick Luis Aldama carry on a sustained, free-flowing, book-length conversation about these questions and more, concentrating on a wide range of pop manifestations and analyzing them at length. In addition to making Hispanic popular culture visible to the first-time reader, ¡Muy Pop! sheds new light on the making and consuming of Hispanic pop culture for academics, specialists, and mainstream critics.

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Narratives of Greater Mexico

Essays on Chicano Literary History, Genre, and Borders

By Héctor Calderón

Once relegated to the borders of literature—neither Mexican nor truly American—Chicana/o writers have always been in the vanguard of change, articulating the multicultural ethnicities, shifting identities, border realities, and even postmodern anxieties and hostilities that already characterize the twenty-first century. Indeed, it is Chicana/o writers’ very in-between-ness that makes them authentic spokespersons for an America that is becoming increasingly Mexican/Latin American and for a Mexico that is ever more Americanized. In this pioneering study, Héctor Calderón looks at seven Chicana and Chicano writers whose narratives constitute what he terms an American Mexican literature. Drawing on the concept of “Greater Mexican” culture first articulated by Américo Paredes, Calderón explores how the works of Paredes, Rudolfo Anaya, Tomás Rivera, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Cherríe Moraga, Rolando Hinojosa, and Sandra Cisneros derive from Mexican literary traditions and genres that reach all the way back to the colonial era. His readings cover a wide span of time (1892–2001), from the invention of the Spanish Southwest in the nineteenth century to the América Mexicana that is currently emerging on both sides of the border. In addition to his own readings of the works, Calderón also includes the writers’ perspectives on their place in American/Mexican literature through excerpts from their personal papers and interviews, correspondence, and e-mail exchanges he conducted with most of them.

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Of Space and Mind

Cognitive Mappings of Contemporary Chicano/a Fiction

By Patrick L. Hamilton

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.

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Orientalismo en el Modernismo Hispanoamericano

by Araceli Tinajero

Araceli Tinajero's Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano falls within the present revisionist trend with respect to Spanish American modernism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The text's uniqueness stems from its focus on allusions to images, artifacts, and thought from the East—primarily Japan—found in central and peripheral writings within the Spanish American movement.

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Oshun's Daughters

The Search for Womanhood in the Americas

Vanessa K. Valdés

Examines the ways in which the inclusion of African diasporic religious practices serve as transgressive tools in narrative discourses in the Americas.

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Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins

Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

John Blair Gamber

In this innovative study, Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins, John Blair Gamber examines urbanity and the results of urban living—traffic, garbage, sewage, waste, and pollution—arguing for a new recognition of all forms of human detritus as part of the natural world and thus for a broadening of our understanding of environmental literature.
 
 
While much of the discourse surrounding the United States’ idealistic and nostalgic views of itself privileges “clean” living (primarily in rural, small-town, and suburban settings), representations of rurality and urbanity by Chicanas/Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, on the other hand, complicate such generalization. Gamber widens our understanding of current ecocritical debates by examining texts by such authors as Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Alejandro Morales, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita that draw on the physical signs of human corporeality to refigure cities and urbanity as natural. He demonstrates how ethnic American literature reclaims waste objects and waste spaces—likening pollution to miscegenation—as a method to revalue cast-off and marginalized individuals and communities. Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins explores the conjunction of, and the frictions between, twentieth-century U.S. postcolonial studies, race studies, urban studies, and ecocriticism, and works to refigure this portrayal of urban spaces.

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Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture

By Ellie D. Hernández

In recent decades, Chicana/o literary and cultural productions have dramatically shifted from a nationalist movement that emphasized unity to one that openly celebrates diverse experiences. Charting this transformation, Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture looks to the late 1970s, during a resurgence of global culture, as a crucial turning point whose reverberations in twenty-first-century late capitalism have been profound. Arguing for a postnationalism that documents the radical politics and aesthetic processes of the past while embracing contemporary cultural and sociopolitical expressions among Chicana/o peoples, Hernández links the multiple forces at play in these interactions. Reconfiguring text-based analysis, she looks at the comparative development of movements within women’s rights and LGBTQI activist circles. Incorporating economic influences, this unique trajectory leads to a new conception of border studies as well, rethinking the effects of a restructured masculinity as a symbol of national cultural transformation. Ultimately positing that globalization has enhanced the emergence of new Chicana/o identities, Hernández cultivates important new understandings of borderlands identities and postnationalism itself.

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