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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.
Narratives of the Cuban Diaspora
Since travel restrictions from the United States to Cuba began to ease, thousands of Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans have been able to reunite with family and visit their homeland. Yet the subject of return in the Cuban diaspora remains understudied.
In this one-of-a-kind volume, Iraida López explores various narratives of return by the one-and-a-half generation—those who left Cuba as children or adolescents—and the ways in which the desire for homecoming is manifested both abroad and inside Cuba. Including memoirs, semi-autobiographical fiction, and visual arts, many of these works feature a physical arrival in Cuba while others depict a metaphorical or vicarious experience through fictional characters or childhood reminiscences. Impossible Returns ends by looking at how Cubans still living on the island depict returning émigrés in their own narratives, which have evolved from exclusionary to accommodating.
Through a critical reading of works by artists and writers like María Brito, Carlos Eire, Cristina García, Ana Mendieta, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, and Achy Obejas, López highlights the affective ties as well as the tensions underlying the relationship between émigrés and their native country.
The only recent English-language work on Spanish-American indigenismo from a literary perspective, Estelle Tarica’s work shows how modern Mexican and Andean discourses about the relationship between Indians and non-Indians create a unique literary aesthetic that is instrumental in defining the experience of mestizo nationalism.
Engaging with narratives by Jesús Lara, José María Arguedas, and Rosario Castellanos, among other thinkers, Tarica explores the rhetorical and ideological aspects of interethnic affinity and connection. In her examination, she demonstrates that these connections posed a challenge to existing racial hierarchies in Spanish America by celebrating a new kind of national self at the same time that they contributed to new forms of subjection and discrimination.
Going beyond debates about the relative merits of indigenismo and mestizaje, Tarica puts forward a new perspective on indigenista literature and modern mestizo identities by revealing how these ideologies are symptomatic of the dilemmas of national subject formation. The Inner Life of Mestizo Nationalism offers insight into the contemporary resurgence and importance of indigenista discourses in Latin America.
Estelle Tarica is associate professor of Latin American literature and culture at the University of California, Berkeley.
Borges and Translation
It is well known that Jorge Luis Borges was a translator, but this has been considered a curious minor aspect of his literary achievement. Few have been aware of the number of texts he translated, the importance he attached to this activity, or the extent to which the translated works inform his own stories and poems. Between the age of ten, when he translated Oscar Wilde, and the end of his life, when he prepared a Spanish version of the Prose Edda , Borges transformed the work of Poe, Kafka, Hesse, Kipling, Melville, Gide, Faulkner, Whitman, Woolf, Chesterton, and many others. In a multitude of essays, lectures, and interviews Borges analyzed the versions of others and developed an engaging view about translation. He held that a translation can improve an original, that contradictory renderings of the same work can be equally valid, and that an original can be unfaithful to a translation. Borges's bold habits as translator and his views on translation had a decisive impact on his creative process. Translation is also a recurrent motif in Borges's stories. In "The Immortal," for example, a character who has lived for many centuries regains knowledge of poems he had authored, and almost forgotten, by way of modern translations. Many of Borges's fictions include actual or imagined translations, and some of his most important characters are translators. In "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote," Borges's character is a respected Symbolist poet, but also a translator, and the narrator insists that Menard's masterpiece-his "invisible work"-adds unsuspected layers of meaning to Cervantes's Don Quixote . George Steiner cites this short story as "the most acute, most concentrated commentary anyone has offered on the business of translation." In an age where many discussions of translation revolve around the dichotomy faithful/unfaithful, this book will surprise and delight even Borges's closest readers and critics.
Transgressive Sexualities in the Caribbean Imagination
In Island Bodies, Rosamond King examines sexualities, violence, and repression in the Caribbean experience. She analyzes the sexual norms and expectations portrayed in Caribbean and diaspora literature, music, film, and popular culture to show how many individuals contest traditional roles by maneuvering within and/or trying to change their society’s binary gender systems. She skillfully argues and demonstrates that these transgressions better represent Caribbean culture than the “official” representations perpetuated by governmental elites and often codified into laws that reinforce patriarchal, heterosexual stereotypes.
Unique in its breadth and its multilingual and multidisciplinary approach, Island Bodies addresses homosexuality, interracial relations, transgender people, and women’s sexual agency in Dutch, Francophone, Anglophone, and Hispanophone works of Caribbean literature. Additionally, King explores the paradoxical nature of sexuality across the region: discussing sexuality in public is often considered taboo, yet the tourism economy trades on portraying Caribbean residents as hypersexualized.
Ultimately King reveals that despite the varied national specificity, differing colonial legacies, and linguistic diversity across the islands, there are striking similarities in the ways Caribglobal cultures attempt to restrict sexuality and in the ways individuals explore and transgress those boundaries.