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Humanism, Rhetoric, and the Historical Imagination in the Early Chronicles of Spanish America
Sarah H. Beckjord’s Territories of History explores the vigorous but largely unacknowledged spirit of reflection, debate, and experimentation present in foundational Spanish American writing. In historical works by writers such as Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, Bartolomé de Las Casas, and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Beckjord argues, the authors were not only informed by the spirit of inquiry present in the humanist tradition but also drew heavily from their encounters with New World peoples. More specifically, their attempts to distinguish superstition and magic from science and religion in the New World significantly influenced the aforementioned chroniclers, who increasingly directed their insights away from the description of native peoples and toward a reflection on the nature of truth, rhetoric, and fiction in writing history. Due to a convergence of often contradictory information from a variety of sources—eyewitness accounts, historiography, imaginative literature, as well as broader philosophical and theological influences—categorizing historical texts from this period poses no easy task, but Beckjord sifts through the information in an effective, logical manner. At the heart of Beckjord’s study, though, is a fundamental philosophical problem: the slippery nature of truth—especially when dictated by stories. Territories of History engages both a body of emerging scholarship on early modern epistemology and empiricism and recent developments in narrative theory to illuminate the importance of these colonial authors’ critical insights. In highlighting the parallels between the sixteenth-century debates and poststructuralist approaches to the study of history, Beckjord uncovers an important legacy of the Hispanic intellectual tradition and updates the study of colonial historiography in view of recent discussions of narrative theory.
Interviews with Critics of Chicana/o Literature
Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity
Just as mariners use triangulation, mapping an imaginary triangle between two known positions and an unknown location, so, David J. Vázquez contends, Latino authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of familiar ideas of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, challenge mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the United States.
In a traditional autobiographical work, the protagonist frequently opts out of his or her community. In the works that Vázquez analyzes in Triangulations, protagonists instead opt in to collective groups—often for the express political purpose of redefining that collective. Reading texts by authors such as Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez engages debates about the relationship between literature and social movements, the role of cultural nationalism in projects for social justice, the gender and sexual problematics of 1960s cultural nationalist groups, the possibilities for interethnic coalitions, and the interpretation of autobiography. In the process, Triangulations considers the potential for cultural nationalism as a productive force for aggrieved communities of color in their struggles for equality.
Conversion in Ethnic American Autobiography, 1965–2002
In The Trouble with Sauling Around, Madeline Walker probes the complex and troubled relationship between ethnicity, society, and religious conversion in late twentieth-century African American and Mexican American autobiography. Religious conversion—the turning away from an old, sinful life toward a new life of salvation—manifests as an intensely personal experience, yet it calls into play a wide variety of social, cultural, economic, racial, political, and psychological forces. Thus, constant change and the negotiation of resistance to and assimilation within the dominant culture have been seminal topics for ethnic Americans, just as the conversion narrative is often a central genre in ethnic writing, particularly autobiographical writing.
Explorations of Place and Belonging
In literary and cinematic fictions, the fantastic blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Lacking a consensus on definition, critics often describe the fantastic as supernatural, or similar to, but quite different from fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism.
In Unraveling the Real Cynthia Duncan provides a new theoretical framework for discussing how the fantastic explores both metaphysical and socially relevant themes in Spanish American fictions. Duncan deftly shows how authors and artists have used this literary genre to convey marginalized voices as well as critique colonialism, racism, sexism, and classism. Selecting examples from the works of such noted writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Carlos Fuentes, among others, she shows how capacious the concept is, and why it eludes standard definition.
Challenging the notion that the fantastic is escapist in nature, Unraveling the Real shows how the fantastic has been politically engaged throughout the twentieth century, often questioning what is real or unreal. Presenting a mirror image of reality, the fantastic does not promoting a utopian parallel universe but rather challenges the way we think about the world around us and the cultural legacy of colonialism.
Why are so many people attracted to narrative fiction? How do authors in this genre reframe experiences, people, and environments anchored to the real world without duplicating “real life”? In which ways does fiction differ from reality? What might fictional narrative and reality have in common—if anything? By analyzing novels such as Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, and Hari Kunzru’s The Impressionist, along with selected Latino comic books and short fiction, this book explores the peculiarities of the production and reception of postcolonial and Latino borderland fiction. Frederick Luis Aldama uses tools from disciplines such as film studies and cognitive science that allow the reader to establish how a fictional narrative is built, how it functions, and how it defines the boundaries of concepts that appear susceptible to limitless interpretations. Aldama emphasizes how postcolonial and Latino borderland narrative fiction authors and artists use narrative devices to create their aesthetic blueprints in ways that loosely guide their readers’ imagination and emotion. In A User’s Guide to Postcolonial and Latino Borderland Fiction, he argues that the study of ethnic-identified narrative fiction must acknowledge its active engagement with world narrative fictional genres, storytelling modes, and techniques, as well as the way such fictions work to move their audiences.
Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production
Transnational Mexican Popular Culture
An innovative application of four social types—the downtrodden Peladita/Peladito and the zoot-suited Pachuca/Pachuco—that illuminates working-class subjects in a broad spectrum of Mexican and Mexican American cultural production.
Reading Chicana Lesbians
With the 1981 publication of the groundbreaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa ushered in an era of Chicana lesbian writing. But while these two writers have achieved iconic status, observers of the Chicana/o experience have been slow to perceive the existence of a whole community—lesbian and straight, male as well as female—who write about the Chicana lesbian experience. To create a first full map of that community, this book explores a wide range of plays, novels, and short stories by Chicana/o authors that depict lesbian characters or lesbian desire. Catrióna Rueda Esquibel starts from the premise that Chicana/o communities, theories, and feminisms cannot be fully understood without taking account of the perspectives and experiences of Chicana lesbians. To open up these perspectives, she engages in close readings of works centered around the following themes: La Llorona, the Aztec Princess, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, girlhood friendships, rural communities and history, and Chicana activism. Her investigation broadens the community of Chicana lesbian writers well beyond Moraga and Anzaldúa, while it also demonstrates that the histories of Chicana lesbians have had to be written in works of fiction because these women have been marginalized and excluded in canonical writings on Chicano life and experience.