- Espectros: Ghostly Hauntings in Contemporary Transhispanic Narratives eds. by Alberto Ribas-Casasayas, and Amanda L. Petersen
The body of work focusing on the pervasiveness of ghosts, haunting, and spectrality in our cultural presents, pasts, and futures has been increasing year on year. Derrida's Specters of Marx (1993) marks the definitive entry of the ghost and haunting into our critical languages. Since that moment, scholarship has turned to perceptions of the present as a frail temporality that is continuously shaken by the debts of the past and the promises of the future. This body of work has also turned its attention to spectrality's cartographies. Humanity's trajectory is steeped in violence and amnesia, so that every culture can lay claim to a haunted history. The editors and authors of the remarkable collection Espectros: Ghostly Hauntings in Contemporary Transhispanic Narratives trace a spectral geography that connects the violent histories of Spain and Spanish America. This is an interesting lens through which to explore the use and aesthetics of haunting, given the extent to which Hispanic literature and arts are haunted by the ghosts of colonial history. However, the collection's focus on the contemporary allows the editors to consider the shared experiences of oppressive regimes across Spanish America and Spain in the twentieth century, which have begotten tremendously complex legacies, as well as the troubling effects of these regions' entries into global capitalism.
It is no surprise that the work of Avery Gordon in Ghostly Matters (1997) is cited throughout Espectros. Following the rise in hauntological studies after Specters of Marx, Gordon was among the first critics to think both globally and locally about the persistence of ghosts; she also cast a spotlight on the Southern Cone's recent history of the disappeared, and claimed it as a challenging episode in our haunted present. Thinking with Gordon, the editors of Espectros perceive spectrality in terms of its resistance to the easy erasure of these disquieting histories; it "rises as an aesthetic opposed to conditions or moods generated by military, political, or economic violence in the context of modernity" (6). The specter is thus the creature that emerges through the cracks of official discourse to demand the narration of what would otherwise remain unsaid; its role is to develop a polyphonic and palimpsestic record of the recent transhispanic past.
Spectrality takes on a number of aesthetic forms and emerges out of a number of diverse discourses. The volume's first essay, Megan Corbin's "The Museum of Memory: Spectral Presences and Metaphoric Re-memberings," focuses on the history of everyday objects from Latin America's recent violent past— [End Page 272] specifically those that were present at scenes of torture, and which deliver what Corbin calls a "'spectral testimony' in lieu of the voices of the objects' disappeared owners" (18). Subsequent chapters deal with a diverse range of literary and cinematic examples. In her powerful essay, Susana S. Martínez explores the precarity of life in Tanya María Barrientos's Family Resemblance (2003) and Sylvia Sellers-García's When the Ground Turns in its Sleep (2007), two recent novels dealing with post-conflict Guatemala. Sarah Thomas, in her contribution, reads the liminal status of ghosts and children in Guillermo del Toro's El espinazo del diablo (2001) and J. A. Bayona's El orfanato (2007). In her chapter, Karen Wooley Martin reads the fantasies of the returning disappeared in Tomás Eloy Martínez's final novel Purgatorio (2008) and Carolina de Robertis's Perla (2012), while the specters of globalization in Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful (2010) are brought to life in Victoria L. Garrett and Edward M. Chauca's essay, which closes this volume.
While spectrality is at the core of all of the essays collected in Espectros, the authors offer distinct theoretical architectures to read these narratives of spatial and temporal disquietude. As readers may well guess from the examples of chapters I list above, horror as a genre and as an aesthetic looms large...