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Reviewed by:
  • New Readings of Silvina Ocampo: Beyond Fantasy ed. by Patricia N. Klingenberg, and Fernanda Zullo-Ruiz
  • Gabriela Romero Ghiretti
Klingenberg, Patricia N., and Fernanda Zullo-Ruiz, eds. New Readings of Silvina Ocampo: Beyond Fantasy. Rochester, NY: Tamesis, 2016. 245 pp.

New Readings of Silvina Ocampo: Beyond Fantasy is edited by Patricia Klingenberg and Fernanda Zullo-Ruiz, two leading scholars on Ocampo. The genesis of the volume took place in 2003 in Buenos Aires, while attending a conference on the author. Their intent as editors was to systematize scholarship, and promote a reflection among scholars on existing literature dedicated to Silvina. The book is comprised of eight essays/chapters by various experts, two essays written by the editors, and an afterword. In this collection, we find literature review and three major trends of analysis: Ocampo's pervasive narrative ambiguity, her resort to and subversion of traditional models of classical and popular literature, and what I would call the "Borgesian Ocampo" with a focus on metaliterature and rewriting.

The first essay, "Silvina Ocampo for the Twenty-first Century: A Review of Recent Criticism," by Klingenberg, provides a thorough, although not exhaustive, review of criticism on Ocampo. Klingenberg meticulously summarizes early scholarship, systematizing and commenting on published works. She discusses Annick Mangin's book Temps et écriture dans l'oeuvre de Silvina Ocampo (1996) and Belinda Corbacho's Le monde feminine dans l'oeuvre narrative de Silvina Ocampo (1998), which is a valuable contribution by Klingenberg, given that these texts are not easily accessible in the US. Klingenberg's article constitutes an inescapable starting point for any researcher. She not only provides insights into most of earlier scholarship on Ocampo, but also on the dialogue that may arise among academics studying her.

In "Sur in the 1960s: Toward a New Critical Sensibility," Judith Podlubne delineates the critical work published on Ocampo by authors affiliated with Sur in the second half of the 1960s. She marks Alejandra Pizarnik's review "Dominios ilícitos" from 1968 as an inaugural mode of reading Ocampo's works for the years to [End Page 712] come in Sur. This new reading, according to Podlubne, noted the disturbing ambiguity between the horrific and the innocent, instead of relegating Ocampo's unsettling stories to the fantastic, a lack of expertise, or little intellectual commitment. Besides the fantastic, another recurrent topic in Ocampo's scholarship is the presence of cruelty. In her article "Reading Cruelty in Silvina Ocampo's Short Fiction: Theme, Style, and Narrative Resistance," Ashley Hope Pérez states that the disturbing ambiguity that we feel upon finishing a story is caused by the reader's writing "between the lines" (105). Ocampo's reluctance to resort to cuteness or childhood naiveté, Hope Pérez argues, is a strategy to counteract any traditional expectations regarding "feminine" literature. Ocampo's focus on objects-as-characters reaches beyond the fantastic, and her dispassionate narrators leave the reader responsible for judgment on shocking events.

One of the unsettling features of Ocampo's literature stems from her use of fairy tales and treatment of gender issues. "Eros and its Archetypes in Silvina Ocampo's Later Stories," by Giulia Poggi, examines the writer's recourse to fairy tales and analyzes the inversion of tropes in her stories. With the discussion of archetypes taken from Blue Beard, to Beauty and the Beast, among others, Poggi demonstrates how Ocampo manages to present abnormal couples which, unlike in the fairy tale genre, rejoice in their abnormality, or leave the reader with an ambiguous or unresolved ending. Eros, as the sublimation of love and desire, finds its space in the anomalous, the transgressive, and the inversion of traditional roles, which makes possible, for instance, the existence of a woman who prefers the bestial, rather than the human form of her lover. In another study focusing on gender ("The Gender-Bending Mother of 'Santa Teodora'"), Fernanda Zullo-Ruiz discusses how masterfully Ocampo combines in the sonnet "Santa Teodora" debates on sexuality, motherhood, parenthood, lesbianism, sexual desire, compulsory heterosexuality, cross-dressing, and gender performance, exposing the problematic and ambiguous nature of such social debates. The sonnet allows Teodora's body to potentially challenge patriarchy upon her death, when her...


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