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“Damaged Pieces”: Embracing Border Textuality in Revisions of Ana Castillo’s Sapogonia
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Chapter Five of Ana Castillo’s novel Sapogonia (1990) begins with the line, “It wasn’t that he had fallen in love with her” (17). That is, of course, provided you are reading the 1990 Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe edition, which you may have checked out of a library or ordered (used) from Amazon.com. Just as likely, you are reading a newer copy of the 1994 Anchor Books edition put out by Doubleday, in which case Chapter Five begins, “Máximo lived in Barcelona for three months before he decided to look for his father” (16). Chapter Five from 1994 reads nothing like its earlier counterpart, because in 1990 its contents would have been found in Chapter Seven. The contents of the 1990 Chapter Five can now be found in Chapter Fifteen in the 1994 edition, nearly 100 pages away from their earlier home. Although the paperback of the 1994 edition does not hide the fact that it is a revision, most casual readers are likely unaware of the content and context of the substantial changes made to Castillo’s novel between its two publication dates. In fact, roughly half of the small number of literary critics who tackle this novel are unaware of those changes or do not mention them at all.

Scholars of border literature, particularly those who emphasize the narrative role of oral, alternative, counter, and competing histories in border texts, could benefit from attention to the material instability of the texts they study. Literature of the border often advocates sustained attention to the instability of identity and history, asserting mestiza/o identity as a valorization of the spaces between traditionally conceived binaries implied by nation, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. By expanding the field of inquiry to include the material borders of and between texts, we can begin the work of contextualizing the histories and politics of production, publication, and reception particular to border writers. Sonia Saldívar-Hull acknowledges that theorizing the border comes with difficulties:

Because our work has been ignored by the men and women in charge of the modes of cultural production, we must be innovative in our search. Hegemony has so constructed the ideas of method and theory that often we cannot recognize anything that is different from what the dominant discourse constructs. As a consequence, we have to look in nontraditional places for our theories.


The most nontraditional place to look for theories of the border might be the material texts themselves: the evidence of two versions of a border text such as Sapogonia posits the spaces between them as a site from which to critique the notion of stable narratives, texts, and histories.1

Recent textual scholarship increasingly advocates attention to competing versions of texts. As John Bryant argues, most of what we read comes to us in multiple versions:

Consider the Bible, Qur’an, or any foundation text in its variously constructed and continuously translated forms; consider the matter of scribal invention in the variant Piers Plowmans or Canterbury Tales, or the record of performance versions in the quarto Hamlets, or the existence of two Lears (three if you count Nahum Tate’s revision, four with the scholarly composite edition). There are ideological revisions in Paine’s Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence, three versions of Frederick Douglass’s life, two of Moby-Dick, and the manuscript and print revisions in Coleridge, Wordsworth, Whitman, Dickinson, James, Eliot, and Woolf. There is Ulysses in typescript, first edition, and a genetic edition.


Scholars such as Bryant emphasize that the practical problems encountered while writing about “fluid” texts, “written work that exists in multiple material versions due to revisions (authorial, editorial, cultural) upon which we may construct an interpretation” (17), present opportunities to discuss the evidence of a text’s social life and of the impact of publishers, editors, and readers as well as authorial second-guesses on any text’s stability. Furthermore, advocates of the social text such as D. F. McKenzie and Jerome J. McGann have shifted their attention away from the notion of a stable, coherent, singular, definitive text, instead focusing on the complex interactions involved in the production, transmission...

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