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2017-18 Key Issues and Texts: Modernity and Marginality in Latin American Literary Culture​

Primary texts are listed for each seminar. You will be expected to have studied all primary texts set for each seminar, together with some of the secondary reading suggested in the bibliographies. Links are given in the bibliographies to online articles, and some additional material is available as PDFs to download from Moodle. 

Some key issues relating to each seminar are identified – you may wish to focus on one or more of these in a seminar paper or an essay.

Michaelmas Term

Seminar 1: The Popul Vuh and Indigenismo (GK)  

Primary texts

  • Popul Vuh
  • Rosario Castellanos​, Balún Canán
  • Guaman Poma de Ayal, El primer nueva corónica [sic] y buen gobierno

(See the bibliography for online versions of some texts)

Key issues

  • status of the ‘book’
  • concepts of writing (and the khipu) and literature
  • literature and representation of ‘race’
  • autochthony and alterity
  • the mediation of culture
  • belletristic traditions
  • symbolization and the sacred
  • the imbrication of gender and ‘race’
  • 'spectral testification'

Bibliography

Seminar 2: Republicanism and Subalternity: Jorge Isaacs, María and Candelario Obeso, Cantos populares de mi tierra (RO) 

Primary Texts

  • María (Jorge Isaacs, 1867)
  • Cantos populares de mi tierra (Candelario Obeso, 1877)

Key issues

  • Foundational fictions and nation building
  • Myths of racial harmony and practices of racial exclusion
  • 'poesía negra' v. 'poesía negrista'
  • Republicanism and cosmopolitanism 1850-1876
  • The aestheticization of politics
  • The Colombian lettered city: writing and politics 
  • Geography and 'race'

Bibliography

Seminar 3: Cybernetic Fictions (JP)

Primary texts

  • Ricardo Piglia, La ciudad ausente (1992)
  • Marcelo Cohen, Variedades (novella, published in Hombres amables​, 1998)

Key issues

  • postmodernity: paranoia, simulation and simulacra  
  • cyborgs and the post-human
  • neoliberalism and the state
  • self-reflexivity
  • literature and science

Bibliography 

Seminar 4: Queer alternative textualities (BE)  ​

Primary texts

  • José Joaquín Blanco, ‘Ojos de dan pánico soñar’ (from Función de medianoche)
  • Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderland/La Frontera (chapters 1, 2, 5)
  • Néstor Perlongher, ‘La desaparación de la homosexualidad’ and ‘Matan a una marica’ from Prosa plebeya
  • Pedro Lemebel, ‘Manifiesto (hablo por mi diferencia)’, ‘Crónicas de Nueva York (El Bar Stonewall)’

Key issues

  • Queer vis-à-vis LGBT
  • The ties and tensions between acts, styles and identities
  • Tradition, norm, vanon: their discontents and defigurations
  • The erotics of (urban) space
  • Borders, crossings and Conflicts
  • Utopia and ideology​

Bibliography

Seminar 5: Rewriting the Gaucho (SB)  

Primary texts

  • José Hernández, Martin Fierro (the Cátedra edition is convenient)
  • Jorge Luis Borges, selected stories and essays from FiccionesEl alephDiscusión and El hacedor

This topic mainly covers the two parts of José Hernández’s Argentinian classic, El gaucho Martín Fierro (1972) and La vuelta de Martín Fierro (1879) together with its analysis and recreation in essays and stories by Jorge Luis Borges. It would be useful to look at some of the established takes on Martín Fierro by Lugones, Ricardo Rojas and Martínez Estrada, which can be easily consulted in Isaacson. To get more of a feeling of the gauchesco genre, Bartolomé Hidalgo’s Diálogos from the 1820s and Estanislao del Campo’s 1866 Fausto would be ideal, and can be found together in Tiscornia. The first four chapters of Sarmiento’ Facundo (1845) are extremely relevant. A more demanding optional work would be Ricardo Güiraldes’s 1926 novel Don Segundo Sombra. Nicolas Shumway’s The Invention of Argentina (especially chapters 3, 6 and 10) offers invaluable political, historical and cultural background.

Bibliography

Lent Term 

Seminar 6: Writing and Revolt (ES and MC) 

Primary texts

Euclides da Cunha, Os Sertões (1902) (London: Penguin, 2010 trans. of Os Sertões. Campanha de Canudos)

Heriberto Frías (Mexican, 1870-1925) Tomóchic (novel, 1893-95)

Key issues

  • Representation of interethnic conflict
  • Resistance and power in textual practice
  • Internal borders and invisible geographies
  • Gender, indigeneity and fictionality in crisis
  • The testimonial and the vernacular
  • Hegemonic state and peripheries

Bibliography

Seminar 7: Central American fiction post-testimonio – Rodrigo Rey Rosa and Horacio Castellanos Moya (RO) 

Primary texts

  • Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Guatemala): Lo que soñó Sebastián (1995), Que me maten si… (1997)
  • Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador): Insensatez (2004), El arma en el hombre (2001)

Key issues

  • Testimonio and its legacies
  • Unfinished memory/truth and reconciliation
  • Crime/social breakdown
  • Paranoia/foreclosure
  • War and capital

Bibliography

Seminar 8: Reading 'Out of Place Ideas' in Machado de Assis (MC)

Primary texts

If you do not read Portuguese, you might find the recent Oxford University Press translations useful - they are available via Kindle on Amazon for a reasonable price.

Key issues

  • Literary aesthetics of a peripheral modernity
  • Importing out of place ideas
  • Brazilian literature’s deceptive realism
  • Liberalism in Latin America
  • Slave culture, the elites and the culture of dependent men
  • Desire, authority and paternity

Bibliography

Seminar 9: Discrepant Subjectivities and Questing Narratives in Latin American Writing (ES) 

Primary texts

  • María Luisa Bombal, La última niebla​ (1935)
  • Julieta Campos, Muerte por agua (1965) 
  • Cristina Rivera Garza, Nadie me verá llorar (1999)

Recommended Further Reading

  • Rosario Castellanos, Meditación en el umbral
  • Cristina Peri Rossi, Descripción de un naufragio (1975) [included in Poesía reunida]

Key issues

  • Subjectivity, identity and writing
  • Poeticising estrangement
  • Desire and perception
  • The aesthetics of ambiguity
  • Representing alienation
  • Subversive play and gender
  • Text and the reconfigured body
  • Contesting victimhood

Seminar 10: Animality, biopolitics and science (JP) 

Primary Texts

  • Julio Cortázar, selected short stories: “Bestiario”, “Cefalea”, “Carta a una señorita en París” (from Bestiario, 1951) and “Axolotl” (from Final del juego, 1956)
  • Clarice Lispector, A paixão segundo G. H. either in the Portuguese original or Spanish translation (Kindle version available at a reasonable price, or borrowable from CLAS library) 
  • Roque Larraquy, Informe sobre ectoplasma animal

Key issues

  • Science and fantasy
  • Animality and subjectivity
  • Biopolitics
  • Spectrality, materiality and the image

Bibliography