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Reading North by South: On Latin American Literature, Culture, and Politics

Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Reading North by South
    Book Description:

    Concerned with misleading interpretations of literature and culture that dominate Latin American studies, Larsen proposes the need for a freshly conceived historical materialist approach to Latin American texts and cultural practices. He provides insightful commentaries on political discourses, cultural events, films, and literary texts, as he draws upon a wide diversity of texts written in Portuguese, Spanish and English. Of particular interest is Larsen's discussion of writings from the Caribbean, an area that is not frequently included in Latin American studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8641-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note to Readers
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    There is a certain sense in which the act of writing and reading about Latin America, from a location outside it, has never required an apology. At least this has been so when the “outside” was “inside” metropolitan Europe and North America. This seemingly natural and spontaneous availability of Latin America as a subject for discourse is no doubt partly a holdover from the colonial past and the impression, evident in the earliest texts of “discovery” and conquest, that here was a place so different, and yet at the same time so integral with itself, so nearly planetary (Orbis novus,)...

  6. I. “Occupation Texts”

    • CHAPTER TWO Teaching Caribbean Texts: Outline for a Counterhegemonizing Pedagogy
      (pp. 25-38)

      A number of important questions confront the analyst undertaking the “study of revolutionary literatures.”¹ First and most obviously, what is meant by “revolution”? Socialist, communist, nationalist, anticolonialist, anti-imperialist, a historical synthesis of these—or is there some sense in which “revolution” can be considered in itself as a generic entity in Hispanic and Lusophone societies? Such a question, even if it is considered to be either too intractable or too polemical to be broached when discussing “revolutionary literature,” cannot ultimately be bracketed without affecting subsequent analysis. But even supposing that such a bracketing is tolerable, there remain other questions scarcely...

    • CHAPTER THREE “People without History”: Central America in the Literary Imagination of the Metropolis
      (pp. 39-52)

      With the fall of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in 1979, and the subsequent round of massive U.S. military involvement in the region, Central America was transformed from a blank space on the conceptual map of most North Americans into a familiar landmark along the routes of the world-as-we-know-it on television screens and the pages of daily and weekly newsprint. The graphic profiles of the narrow isthmus—which runs from just below the Yucatán peninsula to the northern extreme of the South American landmass—were recognized by millions who would perhaps not have been able to spell correctly the names...

  7. II. Sui generis

    • CHAPTER FOUR Narrating the trujillato
      (pp. 55-63)

      In the sphere of official political reality, the regime of Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo—known as thetrujillato—is History. Although certain sectors of the most reactionary private opinion may still long for the days ofel Jefe, the parameters of legitimized public consensus in Santo Domingo, narrow as they may otherwise be, universally exclude such nostalgias. A claim to political legitimacy in Dominican society today is necessarily a disavowal of any complicity in the long night of 1930–61.

      But behind the veil of official truths, the spectral image of Trujillo and of daily life under his particular...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The “Boom” Novel and the Cold War in Latin America
      (pp. 64-78)

      One of the collateral if perhaps somewhat fortuitous benefits of the current preoccupation with postmodernism in the humanities is that it has now become much more difficult to sustain what was for decades the dominant mode of apology for modernism itself and the underlying ideology of its “canonicity”: the idea thatmodernismand modernity were consubstantial categories, that modernism was somehow already precontained in the raw and immediate experience of contemporary life. To defend, say, the Joycean interior monologue or the surrealist principles of montage it was once necessary only to declare the fidelity of the aesthetic device to “modern”...

  8. III. Uncivil Society

    • CHAPTER SIX Sport as Civil Society: Argentina’s Generals Play Championship Soccer
      (pp. 81-92)

      The recourse to “authoritarian” forms of state power in the southern cone of Latin America must be understood primarily as a structural response to a “crisis in hegemony” internal to the social formations in question, but externally provoked by the longer-term global crisis of overaccumulation of capital that dates, at the latest, from the final period of the Vietnam War. Many, if not most, of the policies of military rule in the southern cone can in fact be explained as requirements of the imperialist “solution” to global capitalist disequilibrium whereby the latter’s most damaging effects are transferred to the dependent...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Hegemony or Ideology? Observations on Brazilian Fascism and the Cultural Criticism of Roberto Schwarz
      (pp. 93-100)

      Attempts to devise a generalized theory of the literary and cultural transformations brought about by fascism in the southern cone have by and large centered on the concept of a “crisis in hegemony.” In its basic outlines, this line of thinking regards the recourse to state terror and massively brutal repression common to the successive praetorian regimes in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina as proof that the rule of imperialist-backed capitalist elites could no longer base itself on a “consensus” politics, however restricted. The traditional “ruling bloc” faced the alternative of an inexorable shift of hegemony toward subaltern and opposed...

  9. IV. Recolonizations

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Aesthetics and the Question of Colonial “Discourse”
      (pp. 103-109)

      In a widely read essay, Rolena Adorno has proposed what she considers to be the “emergence of a new paradigm” within the area of Latin American colonial studies.¹ Adorno explains, with estimable clarity, that we are experiencing a transition from a “literary-historical model that studies the transformation of aesthetic ideas in time to a discourse model, according to which the colonial setting becomes one of cultural practices studied for their synchronic, dialogical relations and interactive properties” (11). Whereas, previously, “aesthetic” categories had led to the depreciation of the typically “hybrid” texts of the colony, effectively blotting them out of the...

    • CHAPTER NINE Phenomenology and Colony: Edmundo O’Gorman’s The Invention of America
      (pp. 110-116)

      One of the “rediscoveries” occasioned by the events and controversies surrounding the 1992 Columbian quincentennial has been the singular work of Mexican historian Edmundo O’GormanThe Invention of America.In the days leading up to October of that year, even theNew York Timesfound space to spotlight the work and its by then aged but still venerated author, detailing, among other things, O’Gorman’s legendary feud with rival Mexican historian and intellectual eminence, Miguel León-Portilla.¹

      O’Gorman clearly merits the renewed attention. But in rereading and reassessingThe Invention of America,we are faced with the question, among others, of the...

  10. V. Culture and Nation

    • CHAPTER TEN Split Nationalities
      (pp. 119-131)

      In keeping with a growing trend in critical theory, D. Emily Hicks’sBorder Writing: The Multidimensional Texttakes as its implicit point of departure the following problem: how are we now to think about, produce, and/or consume culture without succumbing either to the tainted universalism embodied in Enlightenment notions of “civilization” or to the equally suspect particularisms lurking in notions of “national culture”?¹ Or, to put it more succinctly: how to think about culture without nation? For what is perhaps the dominant current of cultural studies, this problem is “solved” through a tacit mapping of the cultural domain to correspond...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Indigenism, Cultural Nationalism, and the Problem of Universality
      (pp. 132-139)

      Does literary study as traditionally constituted reflect a Western or Eurocentric bias, and do “emergent literatures,” particularly those from the non- Western and postcolonial world, effectively challenge this bias? Most of us who work in the area of postcolonial literary and cultural studies would not hesitate very long, I think, in answering yes to both these questions. To have been educated before the advent of multiculturalized curricula is typically evidence enough for believing so—which is not to say that multiculturalism as presently institutionalized is guaranteed to counteract Eurocentrism on its deepest levels.

      But having once agreed that postcolonial, emergent...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Nation and Narration in Latin America: Critical Reflections
      (pp. 140-152)

      Toward the end of her subtle and finely written essay on José Mármol’sAmaliaDoris Sommer considers its relationship to José Hérnandez’sMartin Fierroas, in effect, that of one rival national epic to another.¹ Whereas both texts “coincide in projecting a national unity after devastating years of division, to choose one asthecountry’s epic is like taking a particular partisan stand; it is to renew the debates about what kind of unity Argentina should achieve” (112). In the former work, this unity is projected simultaneously across lines of gender (masculine/feminine) and regional spaces (Buenos Aires/provinces). In the latter,...

  11. VI. Postmodernity

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Latin America and Postmodernism: A Brief Theoretical Inquiry
      (pp. 155-163)

      Can one speak, today, of a Latin American postmodernism? Such a question is immediately complicated by two others. The first concerns the specific cultural objectivity of postmodernism per se. For despite the rapid proliferation of the term in recent intellectual and cultural discourse, and what has come to seem its uncontroversial application to particular areas of culture and the arts (such as architecture), there remain suspicions that the postmodern “turn” is rather a case of willful overinterpretation of superficial trends within fashion than any objective shift in artistic and literary method and structure on the order of the modernist “revolution”...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN Postmodernism and Imperialism: Theory and Politics in Latin America
      (pp. 164-186)

      My remarks here concern the following topics of critical discussion and debate: (1) the ideological character of postmodernism both as a philosophical standpoint and as a set of political objectives and strategies, (2) the development within a broadly postmodernist theoretical framework of a trend advocating a critique of certain postmodern tenets from the standpoint of anti-imperialism, and (3) the influence of this trend on both the theory and the practice of oppositional culture in Latin America. So as to eliminate the need for second-guessing my own perspective in what follows, let me state clearly at the outset that I will...

  12. VII. “Cultural Studies”

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN The Cultural Studies Movement and Latin America: An Overview
      (pp. 189-196)

      Since roughly the mid-1980s, students, critics, and theorists of Latin American culture and literature have found themselves dogged by the question of Latin America and postmodernism. Is there a Latin American postmodernism or a Latin postmodernity? If so, is it merely an extension of the metropolitan version, or is it an alternative to it? Do the various critical theories often termed “postmodern” enable us to make better sense of contemporary Latin American reality, or do they merely continue a covertly imperializing practice of assimilating Latin American or postcolonial culture itself to critical canons that the latter have had no hand...

    • CHAPTER SIXTEEN Transcultural/Subpolitical: Pitfalls of “Hybridity”
      (pp. 197-204)

      It is in no way meant as a detraction to say that William Rowe and Vivian Schelling’sMemory and Modernity: Popular Culture in Latin Americais the kind of book whose appearance might safely have been predicted.¹ Surely it could only have been a matter of time before the new and burgeoning field of what is currently termed cultural studies, under whose multidisciplinary aegis erstwhile humanists now routinely take on mass-cultural forms such as the soap opera or the rock concert, collided with the steadily increasing, multiculturalist interest in Latin America to reveal an intellectual fissure of sorts—at least...

    • CHAPTER SEVENTEEN Brazilian Critical Theory and the Question of Cultural Studies
      (pp. 205-216)

      Two things set me thinking about the conjuncture named in the title of essay. One was a meeting I had in 1992 with a Brazilian social scientist on a research leave at a Boston-area university who was eager to compile a bibliography of “cultural studies” titles to take back with him to Brazil. He had been given the job of obtaining this information by several colleagues back home, among them a well-known social and political analyst whom I inferred to be Octavio lanni. In a very private, almost secretive tone, it was confided to me that at least some left...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 217-226)
  14. Index
    (pp. 227-234)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)