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Literature and Subjection

Literature and Subjection: The Economy of Writing and Marginality in Latin America

Horacio Legrás
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    Literature and Subjection
    Book Description:

    Through theoretical, philosophical, cultural, political, and historical analysis, Horacio Legras views the myriad factors that have both formed and stifled the integration of peripheral experiences into Latin American literature. Despite these barriers, Legras reveals a handful of contemporary authors who have attempted in earnest to present marginalized voices to the Western world. His deep and insightful analysis of key works by novelists Juan José Saer(The Witness),Nellie Campobello(Cartucho),Roa Bastos(Son of Man),and Jose María Arguedas(The Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below),among others, provides a theoretical basis for understanding the plight of the author, the peripheral voice and the confines of the literary medium. What emerges is an intricate discussion of the clash and subjugation of cultures and the tragedy of a lost worldview.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7346-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. One Literature, Subjection, and the Historical Project of Latin American Literature
    (pp. 1-23)

    Beginning roughly at the end of the nineteenth century, Latin American writers launched a project to map the whole convoluted reality of their countries in their literary works. However, Latin American countries were (and still are) notoriously heterogeneous spaces. Soon, then, the literary enterprise was confronted with the task of giving voice to a vast array of people with whom literature shared little in terms of values and cultural makeup. Writers did not recoil from the challenge. Convinced as they were of literature’s representational power and its seemingly limitless ethical neutrality, they focused on the best strategies to represent the...

  2. Two Foundling Selves, Foundational Others Juan José Saer’s The Witness
    (pp. 24-52)

    Like philosophy for Plato, the narration of the New World begins with a sense of wonder: the wonder of new lands, new animals, new people, and above all a new sky. With the discovery of America, it is said, modernity comes into being, and the Middle Ages end. A traditional view images the Middle Ages as a period during which human beings stood crucified between the small piece of land where they were born (and where they would, in all probability, die) and the heaven toward which both their thoughts and their soul were directed. Modernity, on the other hand,...

  3. Three Coloniality and the Empire of the Letter
    (pp. 53-82)

    InThe Writing of the Disaster,Maurice Blanchot discusses the performative dimension of language in relationship to its “content”:

    Among certain “primitive” peoples (those whose society knows no State), the chief must prove his dominion over words: silence is forbidden to him. Yet it is not required that anyone listen to him. Indeed, no one pays attention to the chief’s word … and he, in fact, says nothing…. The discourse of the chief is empty precisely because he is separated from power. The chief must move in the element of the word, which is to say, at the opposite pole...

  4. Four Literature as Presentation of the Subject
    (pp. 83-111)

    A fundamental mutation in the question of agency takes place between two movements, in a space that we can label the Enlightenment/post-Enlightenment divide. Literature is one of the cultural sites that embodies the consequences of this mutation. As Peter Bürger notes, there is a point at which the activity of the philosophes needs to slide from philosophical inquiry into aesthetic production to carry out the project of the autonomy of reason (1992, 8–11). Through this movement, aesthetics in general and the literary domain in particular become the site of absolute freedom in modern societies, that is, a site where...

  5. Five Guzmán, Campobello, Muñoz Literary Strategies in the Face of Revolution
    (pp. 112-158)

    “They were not expecting it,” reads the opening line of Aguilar Camín’s and Lorenzo Meyer’sIn the Shadow of the Mexican Revolution(1993, 1), one of the most comprehensive and comprehensible books about the vast revolt that created modern Mexico. What arrives without announcing itself is, of course, the revolution, which was not only unforeseeable but also, if we trust its witnesses, the formless appearance of the present. It surprised the politicians accustomed to mulling over the tired formulas of their rituals as much as the generals educated to revere the European science of war and to underestimate the peasantry....

  6. Six The Cross of Literature in Paraguay The Critical Legacy of Augusto Roa Bastos
    (pp. 159-195)

    Confronted by the work of Roa Bastos, critical reading stands in disavowal. Not that Roa Bastos lacks critical attention: the bibliography on his work, especially on his two great novels,Son of Man(1960) andI the Supreme(1974), has increased year after year. But these readings have been marked by what Gerald Martin calls an unwillingness to draw conclusions that, although inescapable, are also “unacceptable to the great majority of writers, critics and other intellectuals concerned with the problems of contemporary Latin America” (1979, 169). Hence the wearisome insistence on the novels’ formal traits: How many voices composeI...

  7. Seven The End of Recognition Arguedas and the Limits of Cultural Subjection
    (pp. 196-238)

    On the back cover of the English edition ofThe Fox from Up Above and the Fox from Down Below(2000), Alberto Moreiras characterizes Jose María Arguedas’s novel as “epochal” and “intense enough to arrest our world, and any world.” Today few critical readers would object to that description, but when the novel was published in 1971, reactions were mixed. The novel’s form and content, the wild proliferation of unpredictable characters, and what was perceived as a deep-seated pessimism were all difficult to reconcile with the image of Arguedas as a major cultural icon of progressive Peruvian culture. Martin Lienhard...