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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 course, we look at foundational issues surrounding identity, power, history and representation as they are addressed and reworked over time within key literary genres in Latin American writing. Each session takes two texts broadly pertaining to a single ‘genre’ (in 2024 these will be: the colonial chronicle, the slave (auto-)biography, the romance, indigenismo in its written and visual articulation, the diary, and the urban chronicle) and focuses on the transhistorical dialogue established between them as they engage with significant moments in Latin American history (conquest, nation- and state-formation, abolition, revolution and urbanization). This paring 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. 

Preliminary Reading:

Students must read *all* of the primary texts before attending seminars.

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)
  • Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America (1991)