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The Fiction of Juan Rulfo

The Fiction of Juan Rulfo: Irony, Revolution and Postcolonialism

Series: Monografías A
Volume: 306
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Fiction of Juan Rulfo
    Book Description:

    This is the first extended, English-language study to focus exclusively on the fiction of Juan Rulfo in over twenty years. It contains innovative analyses of a selection of short stories from Rulfo's collection, El llano en llamas (1953). It also examines in great depth two of the main characters of Pedro Páramo (1955), Rulfo's masterpiece and only novel. The book shows how Rulfo's works can be read as exercises in irony directed against the rhetoric of post-Revolutionary Mexican governments. It also demonstrates the relevance of certain legacies of colony in Rulfo's use of irony. Successive Mexican governments promoted a vision of post-Revolutionary society founded on specific notions of ethnicity, family, nation, education, religion and rural politics. The author combines examination of the speeches, images and newspaper articles which disseminated this vision with incisive literary analyses of Rulfo's work. These analyses are informed both by his original theory of irony, based on "internal" and "external" referents, and by existing postcolonial theories, particularly those of Homi K. Bhabha. Amit Thakkar is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at Lancaster University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-831-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Form and Content, Text and Context
    (pp. 1-6)

    Interpretations of literature tend to hover in the space between form and content (or form and ‘meaning’). The question of balance is an immediate concern for literary critics and one looks to others for guidance. According to Susan Sontag, the analysis of form in a text is far more important than the pursuit of meaning: ‘the function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means’.¹ Nonetheless, in many works of literary criticism, meaning is the very focus and it is easy to...

  5. 1 Juan Rulfo and Fictional Irony
    (pp. 7-26)

    To meet Susan Sontag’s challenge of identifying first what a text is, rather than what it means, as discussed in the introduction, this chapter will approach Rulfo’s work through fictional irony: its philosophical development, its purposes and its operation. The best starting point for this study is the author whose work inspired my interest in Rulfo’s use of irony, Hayden White. I will return to his work in further chapters but, for now, I should mention that it provides a vital philosophical background to our subject. For White, the irony and scepticism of late Enlightenment thought had been contested by...

  6. 2 Centripetal Irony in ‘Nos han dado la tierra’ and ‘El día del derrumbe’
    (pp. 27-42)

    In Rulfo’s fiction, there are few uncomplicated, linear narrative structures; the characters’ lives are not dwelt upon, well-introduced or fully-drawn; sentences are kept to a syntactic minimum and dialogue, particularly, is given without much explanation. The result is an almost Borgesian disturbance of the reader’s orientation which establishes, in turn, a certain aporia, or doubt, ensuring that we are alert to meanings beyond the literal. In many instances, these meanings are transparent, particularly where the ironic referent lies within the fiction itself (centripetally) but, as discussed in the previous chapter, Rulfo’s irony also points to referents outside the scope of...

  7. 3 Centrifugal Irony and ‘La Unidad Nacional’
    (pp. 43-70)

    My main concern thus far has been centripetal irony in Rulfo’s work. In this chapter, and in the chapters that follow, the focus will shift towards centrifugal irony and the revolutionary rhetoric which is its target. This rhetoric has at least been referred to within the two stories discussed so far (‘Nos han dado la tierra’ and ‘El día del derrumbe’). But, if we are to examine Rulfo’s complex deployment of irony even more closely, a much deeper understanding of this referent (in the form of post-Revolutionary speeches, posters, murals, textbooks etc.) is crucial. An appraisal of Mexican revolutionary rhetoric...

  8. 4 Ambivalence and the Crisis of the Mimic Man: Irony and Context in ‘Luvina’
    (pp. 71-98)

    In this chapter, I will consider the ways in which the narrative of a post-Revolutionary teacher, as related by Rulfo, represents ironically the remnants of a colonial discourse.¹ As part of the context for this discussion, it is vital to confront the wider implications of cultural studies in its relationship with ethical considerations. Culture with a capital ‘C’, as Terry Eagleton warns us, is dangerously exclusionary when dominant values become ‘universal’ truths, and therefore exempt from political considerations: ‘Culture in its more mandarin sense, by disdainfully disowning the political as such, can be criminally complicit with it.’² Any such interpretation...

  9. 5 The Priest of Pedro Páramo: Fetishistic Stereotyping and Positive Iconography
    (pp. 99-124)

    The most frequently analysed characters in Pedro Páramo are Juan Preciado, the eponymous cacique, and his unrequited love, Susana San Juan. These figures provoke debates on identity, power, patriarchy, violence and gender as well as opening doors to analyses of Rulfo’s style and narrative structure. It is surprising, however, that so little has been written on one of the central characters of that novel: the priest, el padre Rentería. The characterisation of Rentería brings similar themes to the attention of the reader and, most importantly, provides a vehicle for Rulfo’s multi-layered irony. Fragment 14 of the novel, the first in...

  10. 6 Pedro Páramo: Irony and Caciquismo
    (pp. 125-160)

    Pedro Páramo dies thus in the final pages of Rulfo’s novel: ‘Dio un golpe seco contra la tierra y se fue desmoronando como si fuera un montón de piedras’ (195). The physical death of a cacique, I contend here, is an illusion, both of the death of this cacique and of the death of caciquismo, a colonial discourse. In the major irony of the novel, we find that the protagonist’s ‘desmoronamiento’ does not categorically signify his death, either on a centripetal level (as the character of a novel) or on a centrifugal level (as a representative of caciquismo). In the...

    (pp. 161-164)

    Rulfo’s fiction can be read as a series of ‘centripetally-efficient’ works of irony but his allusions to context through centrifugal irony are given a heuristically useful framework in the form of postcolonial theory, which emphasises the urgency of analysing fictional narratives within the context of political projects of economic and cultural dominance. Postcolonial Studies has not yet dealt adequately with the benefits and limitations of its application to Latin American cultures partly because its growth as a field was related principally to the legacy of British and French empires. One could argue, of course, that Latin American Studies has always...

    (pp. 165-176)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 177-182)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)