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Simón Rodríguez and the American Essay at Revolution
In Tropes of Enlightenment in the Age of Bolívar, Ronald Briggs shines a much-needed light on the writings and life of Simón Rodríguez, early tutor to the hero of Latin American independence Simón Bolívar and an accomplished essayist in his own right. Bolívar and Rodríguez's lives intersected often after those early years. When Bolívar swore his life to Spanish American independence on a hill outside Rome in 1805, Rodríguez was there to witness the historic moment. And when Bolívar needed to shape the new government of Bolivia, he enlisted Rodríguez to serve roles in developing both its educational system and its infrastructure. The book, released during the bicentennial of the early wars for Latin American independence, boldly places Rodríguez in the pantheon of important writers who influenced philosophical thought during the upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Noah Webster, and Tom Paine. Beyond merely providing the first in-depth analysis of Rodríguez's writings and life work, Briggs also reveals an innovator of style as Rodríguez shaped the utility and vitality of the essay as an emerging form of argument. Tropes of Enlightenment in the Age of Bolívar is an essential study of a unique and playful writer who is finally revealed as a foundational figure in Spanish American independence and an influential thinker in the larger field of hemispheric studies.
Culinary Coups in Caribbean Literature
The ubiquitous presence of food and hunger in Caribbean writing—from folktales, fiction, and poetry to political and historical treatises—signals the traumas that have marked the Caribbean from the Middle Passage to the present day. The Tropics Bite Back traces the evolution of the Caribbean response to the colonial gaze (or rather the colonial mouth) from the late nineteenth century to the twenty-first. Unlike previous scholars, Valérie Loichot does not read food simply as a cultural trope. Instead, she is interested in literary cannibalism, which she interprets in parallel with theories of relation and creolization.
For Loichot, “the culinary” is an abstract mode of resistance and cultural production. The Francophone and Anglophone authors whose works she interrogates—including Patrick Chamoiseau, Suzanne Césaire, Aimé Césaire, Maryse Condé, Edwidge Danticat, Édouard Glissant, Lafcadio Hearn, and Dany Laferrière—“bite back” at the controlling images of the cannibal, the starved and starving, the cunning cook, and the sexualized octoroon with the ultimate goal of constructing humanity through structural, literal, or allegorical acts of ingesting, cooking, and eating.
The Tropics Bite Back employs cross-disciplinary methods to rethink notions of race and literary influence by providing a fresh perspective on forms of consumption both metaphorical and material.
Spanish American novels of the Boom period (1962–1967) attracted a world readership to Latin American literature, but Latin American writers had already been engaging in the modernist experiments of their North American and European counterparts since the turn of the twentieth century. Indeed, the desire to be "modern" is a constant preoccupation in twentieth-century Spanish American literature and thus a very useful lens through which to view the century’s novels. In this pathfinding study, Raymond L. Williams offers the first complete analytical and critical overview of the Spanish American novel throughout the entire twentieth century. Using the desire to be modern as his organizing principle, he divides the century’s novels into five periods and discusses the differing forms that "the modern" took in each era. For each period, Williams begins with a broad overview of many novels, literary contexts, and some cultural debates, followed by new readings of both canonical and significant non-canonical novels. A special feature of this book is its emphasis on women writers and other previously ignored and/or marginalized authors, including experimental and gay writers. Williams also clarifies the legacy of the Boom, the Postboom, and the Postmodern as he introduces new writers and new novelistic trends of the 1990s.
Elena Garro, Octavio Paz, and the Battle for Cultural Memory
Blending biography, literary analysis, and cultural history, Uncivil Wars reveals a new understanding of the works of Elena Garro and Octavio Paz, placing these iconic writers in the context of the revolutions—military, social, and feminist—that shaped their lives.
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.
While the concept of defeat in the Mexican literary canon is frequently acknowledged, it has rarely been explored in the fullness of the psychological and religious contexts that define this aspect of “mexicanidad.” Going beyond the simple narrative of self-defeat, The Uses of Failure in Mexican Literature and Identity presents a model of failure as a source of knowledge and renewed self-awareness. Studying the relationship between national identity and failure, John Ochoa revisits the foundational texts of Mexican intellectual and literary history, the “national monuments,” and offers a new vision of the pivotal events that echo throughout Mexican aesthetics and politics. The Uses of Failure in Mexican Literature and Identity encompasses five centuries of thought, including the works of the Conquistador Bernal Díaz del Castillo, whose sixteenth-century True History of the Conquest of New Spain formed Spanish-speaking Mexico’s early self-perceptions; José Vasconcelos, the essayist and politician who helped rebuild the nation after the Revolution of 1910; and the contemporary novelist Carlos Fuentes. A fascinating study of a nation’s volatile journey towards a sense of self, The Uses of Failure elegantly weaves ethical issues, the philosophical implications of language, and a sociocritical examination of Latin American writing for a sparkling addition to the dialogue on global literature.
Globilization in Recent Mexican and Chicano Narrative
Utopian Dreams, Apocalyptic Nightmares traces the history of utopian representations of the Americas, first on the part of the colonizers, who idealized the New World as an earthly paradise, and later by Latin American modernizing elites, who imagined Western industrialization, cosmopolitanism and consumption as a utopian dream for their independent societies.
Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction
According to Martinican theorist Édouard Glissant, the twentieth century has been dominated in the Caribbean by a passion for the remembrance of colonial history. But while Glissant identifies this passion for memory in the thematizing of nature in Caribbean modernist life, scholar Guillermina De Ferrari claims it is the vulnerability of the human body that has become the trope to which Caribbean postmodernist authors largely appeal in their efforts to revise the discourse that has shaped postcolonial societies. In Vulnerable States: Bodies of Memory in Contemporary Caribbean Fiction, De Ferrari offers a comparative study of novels from across the Caribbean, arguing that vulnerability (symbolic and therefore political) should be seen as the true foundation of Caribbeanness.
While most theories of the region have traditionally emphasized corporeality as a constitutive aspect of Caribbean societies, they assume its uniqueness is founded on race, itself understood either as a "fact" of the body or as the "ethnic" fusion of distinctive cultures of origin. In reconceptualizing corporeality as vulnerability, De Ferrari proposes an alternative view of Caribbeanness based on affect—that is, on an emotional disposition that results from the alienating role historical, medical, and anthropological notions of the body have traditionally played in determining how the region understands itself. While vulnerability thus addresses the role historically played by race in determining systems of social and political powerlessness, it also prefigures other ways in which Caribbeanness is currently negotiated at local and international levels, ranging from the stigmatization of the ill to the global fetishization of the region’s physical beauty, material degradation, and political stagnation.Positioned at the intersection of literary and anthropological study, Vulnerable States will appeal to Caribbeanists of the three major language areas of the region as well as to postcolonial scholars interested in issues of race, gender, and nation formation
Psychological Recovery in the Novels of Latina Writers
For the past three decades, Latin American and Latina women writers have used autobiography, fiction, and a blend of the two genres to address the psychological struggle to heal from both personal and political traumas. Felicia Fahey focuses on six fictional autobiographies as literary representations of psychological recovery: Alina Diaconú's El penúltimo viaje/The penultimate journey (1989), Manuela Fingueret's Hija del silencio/Daughter of Silence (2000), Luisa Valenzuela's La travesía/The Crossing (2001), Sara Sefchovich's Demasiado amor/Too Much Love (1991), Laura Restrepo's Dulce compañía/The Angel of Galilea (1995), and Ana Castillo's The Mixquiahuala Letters (1989).