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Optional Modules

Centre of Latin American Studies



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Present Pasts, Pasts Present: Reflections on Literature and History in Latin American Writing

Teaching Schedule

Key Issues and Texts

In this module, we look at foundational issues surrounding race, sexuality, power and representation as they are addressed and reworked over time within key literary genres in Latin American writing. Each seminar takes two texts broadly pertaining to a single ‘genre’ (the picaresque, the chronicle, the slave narrative, the sentimental romance, the indigenist novel, autobiography and the epic) and focuses on the transhistorical dialogue established between them as they engage with significant moments in Latin American history (conquest, nation-formation, abolition, revolution, urbanization and war). This pairing of ‘contemporary’ and ‘historical’ narratives – from the late twentieth century and from the colonial and Independence periods – aims to facilitate multi-faceted reflection on the changing relationship between literature and history over time, and to build up a systematic interrogation of the fetish of ‘the contemporary’ that currently determines much current literary inquiry.

A fluent reading knowledge of Spanish is required for this module, which is shared with the MPhil in European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures. The module will be taught by Prof Brad Epps and Dr Rory O’Bryen, who are also its co-convenors. Students who do not yet have a strong background in Latin American literature and culture are encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures given on this subject and open to all University members.

Good introductory works for those who do not have a foundation in Latin American literature include Jean Franco’s Introduction to Latin American Literature (1969), Angel Rama’s La ciudad letrada (1984), Gerald Martin’s Journeys Through the Labyrinth (1989), and Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991).