This essay argues that Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives (1998) offers an orientation toward form and material-historical reality that provides an occasion to think anew about emerging formalisms in contemporary literary criticism. Through a consideration of Bolaño's novel and, based upon its own references to Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851), the essay portrays how The Savage Detectives' presentation of "visceral realism" illuminates aporias within contemporary critical trends that prefer a surface-level engagement with literature. Beginning with an analysis of the visceral realists' engagement with the lost work of their group's enigmatic poetic saint, Cesárea Tinajero, the essay establishes how Bolaño's novel presents a mode of "unflattening" I call "serious depth." It then follows the specific references to Moby-Dick in The Savage Detectives back to Melville's novel to discern formal configurations that further the stakes of Bolaño's work. The essay concludes by discussing how the close of The Savage Detectives sets in motion Bolaño's formal-historical structures.


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pp. 29-62
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