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Ethics, Poetics, and Politics
In 2007 the French newspaper Le Monde published a manifesto titled “Toward a ‘World Literature’ in French,” signed by forty-four writers, many from France’s former colonies. Proclaiming that the francophone label encompassed people who had little in common besides the fact that they all spoke French, the manifesto’s proponents, the so-called francophone writers themselves, sought to energize a battle cry against the discriminatory effects and prescriptive claims of francophonie.
In one of the first books to study the movement away from the term “francophone” to “world literature in French,” Thérèse Migraine-George engages a literary analysis of contemporary works in exploring the tensions and theoretical debates surrounding world literature in French. She focuses on works by a diverse group of contemporary French-speaking writers who straddle continents—Nina Bouraoui, Hélène Cixous, Maryse Condé, Marie NDiaye, Tierno Monénembo, and Lyonel Trouillot. What these writers have in common beyond their use of French is their resistance to the centralizing power of a language, their rejection of exclusive definitions, and their claim for creative autonomy.
This study by Cristina Ferreira-Pinto explores the poetic and narrative strategies twentieth-century Brazilian women writers use to achieve new forms of representation of the female body, sexuality, and desire. Female writers discussed include: Gilka Machado, Lygia Fagundes Telles, Marcia Denser, and Marina Colasanti. While creating new forms, these writers are also deconstructing cultural myths of femininity and female behavior. In order to understand these myths, the book also presents new readings of some male-authored canonical novels by Jose de Alencar, Machado de Assis, Manuel Antonio de Almeida, and Aluisio Azevedo.
Literature and Politics in Latin America
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.
Radical Horizons, Conservative Constraints
The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) reshaped the debates about slavery and freedom throughout the Atlantic world, accelerated the abolitionist movement, precipitated rebellions in neighboring territories, and intensified both repression and antislavery sentiment. The story of the birth of the world’s first independent black republic has since held an iconic fascination for a diverse array of writers, artists, and intellectuals throughout the Atlantic diaspora. Examining twentieth-century responses to the Haitian Revolution, Philip Kaisary offers a profound new reading of the representation of the Revolution by radicals and conservatives alike in primary texts that span English, French, and Spanish languages and that include poetry, drama, history, biography, fiction, and opera.
In a complementary focus on canonical works by Aimé Césaire, C. L. R. James, Edouard Glissant, and Alejo Carpentier in addition to the work of René Depestre, Langston Hughes, and Madison Smartt Bell, Kaisary argues that the Haitian Revolution generated an enduring cultural and ideological inheritance. He addresses critical understandings and fictional reinventions of the Revolution and thinks through how, and to what effect, authors of major diasporic texts have metamorphosed and appropriated this spectacular corner of black revolutionary history.
"Ilan Stavans has emerged as Latin America’s liveliest and boldest critic and most innovative cultural enthusiast," states the Washington Post. And the New York Times described him as "the czar of Latino literature in the United States." But his influential oeuvre doesn’t address Hispanic culture exclusively. It has also opened fresh new vistas into Jewish life globally, which has prompted the Forward to portray Stavans as "a maverick intellectual whose canonical work has already produced a whole array of marvels that are redefining Jewishness."
Neal Sokol devoted almost a decade to the study of Stavans’s work. He applies his substantial knowledge to this candid, thought-provoking series of eight interviews. In them Stavans is caught at the vortex where his Mexican, Jewish, and American heritages meet. He discusses everything from the formative influences that shaped his worldview to anti-Semitism, Edmund Wilson, sexuality in Latin America, Gabriel García Márquez, and the fate of Yiddish. He also contrasts the role of intellectuals in advanced and developing societies, dwells on his admiration for Don Quixote and his passion for dictionaries, and reflects on his groundbreaking, controversial research on Spanglish—the hybrid encounter of English and Spanish that infuriates the Royal Academy in Madrid and also makes people describe Stavans as "the Salman Rushdie of the Hispanic world."
Sokol shrewdly tests Stavans’s ideas and places them in context. By doing so, he offers a map to the heart and mind of one of our foremost thinkers today—an invaluable tool for his growing cadre of readers.
More than 150 years ago, the first Chinese contract laborers ("coolies") arrived in Cuba to work the colonial plantations. Eventually, over 150,000 Chinese immigrated to the island, and their presence has had a profound effect on all aspects of Cuban cultural production, from food to books to painting.
Ignacio Lopez-Calvo's interpretations often go against the grain of earlier research, refusing to conceive of Cuban identity either in terms of a bipolar black/white opposition or an idyllic and harmonious process of miscegenation. He also counters traditional representations of chinos mambises, Chinese immigrants who fought for Cuba in the Wars of Independence against Spain.
Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture fills a void in literary criticism, breaking new ground within the small field of Sino-Cuban studies. It is destined to set the tone for years to come.