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Women have always been the muses who inspire the creativity of men, but how do women become the creators of art themselves? This was the challenge faced by Latin American women who aspired to write in the 1920s and 1930s. Though women's roles were opening up during this time, women writers were not automatically welcomed by the Latin American literary avant-gardes, whose male members viewed women's participation in tertulias (literary gatherings) and publications as uncommon and even forbidding. How did Latin American women writers, celebrated by male writers as the “New Eve” but distrusted as fellow creators, find their intellectual homes and fashion their artistic missions? In this innovative book, Vicky Unruh explores how women writers of the vanguard period often gained access to literary life as public performers. Using a novel, interdisciplinary synthesis of performance theory, she shows how Latin American women's work in theatre, poetry declamation, song, dance, oration, witty display, and bold journalistic self-portraiture helped them craft their public personas as writers and shaped their singular forms of analytical thought, cultural critique, and literary style. Concentrating on eleven writers from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, Unruh demonstrates that, as these women identified themselves as instigators of change rather than as passive muses, they unleashed penetrating critiques of projects for social and artistic modernization in Latin America.
Exploring the Self and the Environment
Drawing on narratives from Martinique by Aimé Césaire, Édouard Glissant, Ina Césaire, and Patrick Chamoiseau, among others, Christina Kullberg shows how these writers turn to ethnography—even as they critique it—as an exploration and expression of the self. They acknowledge its tradition as a colonial discourse and a study of others, but they also argue for ethnography’s advantage in connecting subjectivity to the outside world. Further, they find that ethnography offers the possibility of capturing within the hybrid culture of the Caribbean an emergent self that nonetheless remains attached to its collective history and environment. Rather than claiming to be able to represent the culture they also feel alienated from, these writers explore the relationships between themselves, the community, and the environment.
Although Kullberg’s focus is on Martinique, her work opens up possibilities for intertextual readings and comparative studies of writers from every linguistic region in the Caribbean—not only francophone but also Hispanic and anglophone. In addition, her interdisciplinary approach extends the reach of her work beyond postcolonial and literary studies to anthropology and ecocriticism.
The Politics of Race in Panama
Sonja Watson examines the writing of black Panamanian authors to reveal how race is defined, contested, and inscribed in Panama. She tells the story of two competing cultures: Afro-Hispanics whose ancestors came as slaves during the colonial period and West Indians whose families arrived more recently from English-speaking Caribbean countries to build the Panama Railroad and Panama Canal.
While Afro-Hispanics assimilated after centuries of mestizaje (race mixing) and now identify with their Spanish heritage, West Indians hold to their British Caribbean roots and identify more closely with Africa and the Caribbean. The literature discussed in this book displays the cultural, racial, and national tensions that prevent these two groups from forging a shared Afro-Panamanian identity. The Politics of Race in Panama shows why ethnically diverse Afro-descendant populations continue to struggle to create racial unity in nations across Latin America.
Romantic Spain, Modern Europe, and the Legacies of Empire
Michael Iarocci traces the ways in which Spain went from being central to European history and identity during the early modern period to being marginalized and displaced by England, France, and Germany during the Romantic period. He points out that it has long been an unspoken assumption tainting much of literary criticism that Spain did not have a strong Romantic movement even though Spain itself had come to be viewed by the "new" Europe as the location of all that was romantic. Through a close study of Cadalso, Saavedra, and Larra, Iarocci argues that Spanish writers were intensely concerned with the same issues taken up by more famous Romantics and that the ways in which they address these issues provides us with a richer notion, not only of Spain, but of all of Europe.
Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century
As in many literatures of the New World grappling with issues of slavery and freedom, stories of racial insurrection frequently coincided with stories of cross-racial romance in nineteenth-century U.S. print culture. Colleen O’Brien explores how authors such as Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Livermore, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda imagined the expansion of race and gender-based rights as a hemispheric affair, drawing together the United States with Africa, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. Placing less familiar women writers in conversation with their more famous contemporaries—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Maria Child—O’Brien traces the transnational progress of freedom through the antebellum cultural fascination with cross-racial relationships and insurrections. Her book mines a variety of sources—fiction, political rhetoric, popular journalism, race science, and biblical treatises—to reveal a common concern: a future in which romance and rebellion engender radical social and political transformation.
In the wake of independence from Spain in 1898, Cuba's intellectual avant-garde struggled to cast their country as a modern nation. They grappled with the challenges presented by the postcolonial situation in general and with the location of blackness within a narrative of Cuban-ness in particular.
In this breakthrough study, Emily Maguire examines how a cadre of writers reimagined the nation and re-valorized Afro-Cuban culture through a textual production that incorporated elements of the ethnographic with the literary. Singling out the work of Lydia Cabrera as emblematic of the experimentation with genre that characterized the age, Maguire constructs a series of counterpoints that place Cabrera's work in dialogue with that of her Cuban contemporaries--including Fernando Ortiz, Nicolas Guillen, and Alejo Carpentier. An illuminating final chapter on Cabrera and Zora Neale Hurston widens the scope to contextualize Cuban texts within a hemispheric movement to represent black culture.
The Political Philosophy of José María Arguedas
Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist José María Arguedas (1911–1969) was a highly conflicted figure. As a mestizo, both European and Quechua blood ran through his veins and into his cosmology and writing. Arguedas’s Marxist influences and ethnographic work placed him in direct contact with the subalterns he would champion in his stories. His exposés of the conflicts between Indians and creoles, and workers and elites were severely criticized by his contemporaries, who sought homogeneity in the nation-building project of Peru. In Rethinking Community from Peru, Irina Alexandra Feldman examines the deep political connotations and current relevance of Arguedas’s fiction to the Andean region. Looking principally to his most ambitious and controversial work, All the Bloods, Feldman analyzes Arguedas’s conceptions of community, political subjectivity, sovereignty, juridical norm, popular actions, and revolutionary change. She deconstructs his particular use of language, a mix of Quechua and Spanish, as a vehicle to express the political dualities in the Andes. As Feldman shows, Arguedas’s characters become ideological speakers and the narrator’s voice is often absent, allowing for multiple viewpoints and a powerful realism. Feldman examines Arguedas’s other novels to augment her theorizations, and grounds her analysis in a dialogue with political philosophers Walter Benjamin, Jean-Luc Nancy, Carl Schmitt, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, and Álvaro García-Linera, among others. In the current political climate, Feldman views the promise of Arguedas’s vision in light of Evo Morales’s election and the Bolivian plurality project recognizing indigenous autonomy. She juxtaposes the Bolivian situation with that of Peru, where comparatively limited progress has been made towards constitutional recognition of the indigenous groups. As Feldman demonstrates, the prophetic relevance of Arguedas’s constructs lie in their recognition of the sovereignty of all ethnic groups and their coexistence in the modern democratic nation-state, in a system of heterogeneity through autonomy—not homogeneity through suppression. Tragically for Arguedas, it was a philosophy he could not reconcile with the politics of his day, or from his position within Peruvian society.
Feminism, Subjectivity, and the Angel of the House in the Latin American Novel, 1887–1903
In Rewriting Womanhood, Nancy LaGreca explores the subversive refigurings of womanhood in three novels by women writers: La hija del bandido (1887) by Refugio Barragán de Toscano (Mexico; 1846–1916), Blanca Sol (1888) by Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera (Peru; 1845–1909), and Luz y sombra (1903) by Ana Roqué (Puerto Rico; 1853–1933). While these women were both acclaimed and critiqued in their day, they have been largely overlooked by contemporary mainstream criticism. Detailed enough for experts yet accessible to undergraduates, graduate students, and the general reader, Rewriting Womanhood provides ample historical context for understanding the key women’s issues of nineteenth-century Mexico, Peru, and Puerto Rico; clear definitions of the psychoanalytic theories used to unearth the rewriting of the female self; and in-depth literary analyses of the feminine agency that Barragán, Cabello, and Roqué highlight in their fiction. Rewriting Womanhood reaffirms the value of three women novelists who wished to broaden the ruling-class definition of woman as mother and wife to include woman as individual for a modern era. As such, it is an important contribution to women’s studies, nineteenth-century Hispanic studies, and sexuality and gender studies.