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Literature > Latin American and Caribbean Literature

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Aesthetics of Equilibrium Cover

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Aesthetics of Equilibrium

The Vanguard Poetics of Vicente Huidobro and Mário de Andrade

by Bruce Willis

Aesthetics of Equilibrium is the first book-length comparative analysis of the theoretical prose by two major Latin American vanguardist contemporaries, Mario de Andrade (Brazil, 1893-1945) and Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893-1948). Willis offers a comparative study of two allegorical texts, Huidobro's "Non serviam" and Mario's "Parabola d’A escrava que nao e Isaura."

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African Diasporic Women's Narratives

Politics of Resistance, Survival, and Citizenship

Simone A. James Alexander

Using feminist and womanist theory, Simone Alexander takes as her main point of analysis literary works that focus on the black female body as the physical and metaphorical site of migration. She shows that over time black women have used their bodily presence to complicate and challenge a migratory process often forced upon them by men or patriarchal society.

Through in-depth study of selective texts by Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Maryse Condé, and Grace Nichols, Alexander challenges the stereotypes ascribed to black female sexuality, subverting its assumed definition as diseased, passive, or docile. She also addresses issues of embodiment as she analyses how women’s bodies are read and seen; how bodies “perform” and are performed upon; how they challenge and disrupt normative standards.

A multifaceted contribution to studies of gender, race, sexuality and disability issues, African Diasporic Women’s Narratives engages with a range of issues as it grapples with the complex interconnectedness of geography, citizenship, and nationalism.

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Afro-Cuban Tales

Lydia Cabrera

As much a storyteller as an ethnographer, Lydia Cabrera was captivated by a strange and magical new world revealed to her by her Afro-Cuban friends in early twentieth-century Havana. In Afro-Cuban Tales this world comes to teeming life, introducing English-speaking readers to a realm of tenuous boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, deities and mortals, the spiritual and the seemingly inanimate.

Here readers will find a vibrant, imaginative record of African culture transplanted to Cuba and transformed over time, a passionate and subversive alternative to the dominant Western culture of the Americas. In this charmed realm of myth and legend, imaginative flights, and hard realities, Cabrera shows us a world turned upside down. In this domain guinea hens can make dour Asturians and the king of Spain dance; little fat cooking pots might prepare their own meals; the pope can send encyclicals about pumpkins; and officials can be defeated by the shrewdness of turtles. The first English translation of one of the most important writers on African culture in the Americas, the collection provides a fascinating view of how African traditions, myths, stories, and religions traveled to the New World—of how, in their tales, Africans in the Americas created a New World all their own.

After-Dinner Conversation Cover

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After-Dinner Conversation

The Diary of a Decadent

By José Asunción Silva

Lost in a shipwreck in 1895, rewritten before the author's suicide in 1896, and not published until 1925, José Asunción Silva's After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) is one of Latin America's finest fin de siècle novels and the first one to be translated into English. Perhaps the single best work for understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century writing in South America, After-Dinner Conversation is also cited as the continent's first psychological novel and an outstanding example of modernista fiction and the Decadent sensibility. Semi-autobiographical and more important for style than plot, After-Dinner Conversation is the diary of a Decadent sensation-collector in exile in Paris who undertakes a quest to find his beloved Helen, a vision whom his fevered imagination sees as his salvation. Along the way, he struggles with irreconcilable urges and temptations that pull him in every direction while he endures an environment indifferent or hostile to spiritual and intellectual pursuits, as did the modernista writers themselves. Kelly Washbourne's excellent translation preserves Silva's lush prose and experimental style. In the introduction, one of the most wide-ranging in Silva criticism, Washbourne places the life and work of Silva in their literary and historical contexts, including an extended discussion of how After-Dinner Conversation fits within Spanish American modernismo and the Decadent movement. Washbourne's perceptive comments and notes also make the novel accessible to general readers, who will find the work surprisingly fresh more than a century after its composition.

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Afterlives of Confinement

Spatial Transitions in Post-Dictatorship Latin America

Susana Draper

During the age of dictatorships, Latin American prisons became a symbol for the vanquishing of political opponents, many of whom were never seen again. In the post-dictatorship era of the 1990s, a number of these prisons were repurposed into shopping malls, museums, and memorials. Susana Draper uses the phenomenon of the “opening” of prisons and detention centers to begin a dialog on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Draper examines key works in architecture, film, and literature to peel away the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures. The afterlife of prisons became an important tool in the “forgetting” of past politics, while also serving as a reminder to citizens of the liberties they now enjoyed. In Draper’s analysis, these symbols led the populace to believe they had attained freedom, although they had only witnessed the veneer of democracy—in the ability to vote and consume. In selected literary works by Roberto Bolaño, Eleuterio Fernández Huidoboro, and Diamela Eltit and films by Alejandro Agresti and Marco Bechis, Draper finds further evidence of the emptiness and melancholy of underachieved goals in the afterlife of dictatorships. The social changes that did not occur, the inability to effectively mourn the losses of a now-hidden past, the homogenizing effects of market economies, and a yearning for the promises of true freedom are thematic currents underlying much of these texts. Draper’s study of the manipulation of culture and consumerism under the guise of democracy will have powerful implications not only for Latin Americanists but also for those studying neoliberal transformations globally.

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Ambiguity and Gender in the New Novel of Brazil and Spanish America

A Comparative Assessment

Payne, Judith A.

In this first book-length study to compare the "new novels" of both Spanish America and Brazil, the authors deftly examine the differing perceptions of ambiguity as they apply to questions of gender and the participation of females and males in the establishment of Latin American narrative models. Their daring thesis: the Brazilian new novel developed a more radical form than its better-known Spanish-speaking cousin because it had a significantly different approach to the crucial issues of ambiguity and gender and because so many of its major practitioners were women.

As a wise strategy for assessing the canonical new novels from Latin America, the coupling of ambiguity and gender enables Payne and Fitz to discuss how borders--literary, generic, and cultural--are maintained, challenged, or crossed. Their conclusions illuminate the contributions of the new novel in terms of experimental structures and narrative techniques as well as the significant roles of voice, theme, and language. Using Jungian theory and a poststructural optic, the authors also demonstrate how the Latin American new novel faces such universal subjects as myth, time, truth, and reality. Perhaps the most original aspect of their study lies in its analysis of Brazil's strong female tradition. Here, issues such as alternative visions, contrasexuality, self-consciousness, and ontological speculation gain new meaning for the future of the novel in Latin America.

With its comparative approach and its many bilingual quotations, Ambiguity and Gender in the New Novel of Brazil and Spanish America offers an engaging picture of the marked differences between the literary traditions of Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking America and, thus, new insights into the distinctive mindsets of these linguistic cultures.

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The Andes Imagined

Indigenismo, Society, and Modernity

Jorge Coronado

Jorge Coronado not only examines but also recasts the indigenismo movement of the early 1900s. He departs from the common critical conception of ndigenismo as rooted in novels and short stories, and instead analyzes an expansive range of work in poetry, essays, letters, newspaper writing, and photography. He uses this evidence to show how the movement's artists and intellectuals mobilize the figure of the Indian to address larger questions about becoming modern, and he focuses on the contradictions at the heart of indigenismo as a cultural, social, and political movement. By breaking down these different perspectives, Coronado reveals an underlying current in which intellectuals and artists frequently deployed their indigenous subject in order to imagine new forms of political inclusion. He suggests that these deployments rendered particular variants of modernity and make indigenismo's representational practices a privileged site for the examination of the region's cultural negotiation of modernization. His analysis reveals a paradox whereby the un-modern indio becomes the symbol for the modern itself. The Andes Imagined offers an original and broadly based engagement with indigenismo and its intellectual contributions, both in relation to early twentieth-century Andean thought and to larger questions of theorizing modernity.

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Artful Assassins

Murder as Art in Modern Mexico

Fernando Fabio Sánchez

Violence as a way of life, and murder as a political tool. This philosophy is nothing new to Mexico, most recently demonstrated in the wave of assassination and indiscriminate killing brought on by the drug war gripping the country. In Artful Assassins, author and scholar Fernando Fabio Sánchez unveils the long record of violence inspiring artistic expression in Mexico, focusing on its use and portrayal in film and literature. Sánchez is uniquely positioned to explore this topic, through his work as a novelist and poet in Mexico before entering academia in the United States. Sanchez argues that the seemingly hopeless cycle of violence experienced by Mexico in the 20th century, as reflected in its "crime genre," reveals a broader intrinsic cultural and political failure that suggests grave implications for the current state of crisis. Tracing the development of a national Mexican identity from the 1910 Mexican Revolution onward, Sánchez focuses on the indelible presence of violence and crime underlying the major works that contributed to a larger communal narrative. Artful Assassins ultimately offers a panoramic overview of the evolution of Mexican arts and letters, as well as nationalism, by claiming murder and assassination as literary and cinematic motifs. The collapse of post-revolutionary political unity was presaged all along in Mexican culture, Sanchez argues. It need only to have been sought in the art of the nation.

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Baroque Sovereignty

Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico

By Anna More

In the seventeenth century, even as the Spanish Habsburg monarchy entered its irreversible decline, the capital of its most important overseas territory was flourishing. Nexus of both Atlantic and Pacific trade routes and home to an ethnically diverse population, Mexico City produced a distinctive Baroque culture that combined local and European influences. In this context, the American-born descendants of European immigrants—or creoles, as they called themselves—began to envision a new society beyond the terms of Spanish imperialism, and the writings of the Mexican polymath Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700) were instrumental in this process. Mathematician, antiquarian, poet, and secular priest, Sigüenza authored works on such topics as the 1680 comet, the defense of New Spain, pre-Columbian history, and the massive 1692 Mexico City riot. He wrote all of these, in his words, "out of love for my patria."

Through readings of Sigüenza y Góngora's diverse works, Baroque Sovereignty locates the colonial Baroque at the crossroads of a conflicted Spanish imperial rule and the political imaginary of an emergent local elite. Arguing that Spanish imperialism was founded on an ideal of Christian conversion no longer applicable at the end of the seventeenth century, More discovers in Sigüenza y Góngora's works an alternative basis for local governance. The creole archive, understood as both the collection of local artifacts and their interpretation, solved the intractable problem of Spanish imperial sovereignty by establishing a material genealogy and authority for New Spain's creole elite. In an analysis that contributes substantially to early modern colonial studies and theories of memory and knowledge, More posits the centrality of the creole archive for understanding how a local political imaginary emerged from the ruins of Spanish imperialism.

Beyond the Page Cover

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Beyond the Page

Poetry and Performance in Spanish America

Jill S. Kuhnheim

Poetry began as a spoken art and remains one to this day, but readers tend to view the poem on the page as an impenetrable artifact. This book examines the performance of poetry to show how far beyond the page it can travel. Exploring a range of performances from early twentieth-century recitations to twenty-first-century film, CDs, and Internet renditions, Beyond the Page offers analytic tools to chart poetry beyond printed texts.

Jill S. Kuhnheim, looking at poetry and performance in Spanish America over time, has organized the book to begin with the early twentieth century and arrive at the present day. She includes noteworthy poets and artists such as José Martí, Luis Palés Matos, Eusebia Cosme, Nicomedes Santa Cruz, Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo, and Nicolás Guillén, as well as very recent artists whose performance work is not as well known. Offering fresh historical material and analysis, the author illuminates the relationship between popular and elite cultural activity in Spanish America and reshapes our awareness of the cultural work poetry has done in the past and may do in the future, particularly given the wide array of technological possibilities. The author takes a broad view of American cultural production and creates a dialogue with events and criticism from the United States as well as from Spanish American traditions.

Oral and written elements in poetry are complementary, says Kuhnheim, not in opposition, and they may reach different audiences. As poetry enjoys a revival with modern media, performance is part of the new platform it spans, widening the kind of audience and expanding potential meanings.

Beyond the Page will appeal to readers with an interest in poetry and performance, and in how poetry circulates beyond the page. With an international perspective and dynamic synthesis, the book offers an innovative methodology and theoretical model for humanists beyond the immediate field, reaching out to readers interested in the intersection between poetry and identity or the juncture of popular-elite and oral-written cultures.

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