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Volume 52 / Humanities



SARA CASTRO-KLAREN, Professor of Hispanic and Italian Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, with the assistance of Marcy Schwartz.

IN THE LAST THREE YEARS there has been an extraordinary increase in the number of works in literary criticism. These have been published in both specialized journals and as books printed all over the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds, the US, France, and even Russia.

Although books and articles on the writers of the "boom" continue to appear, their focus has changed. Instead of analyzing individual texts and styles, these studies now concentrate on retrospectives or interviews with a widening circle of writers, not necessarily members of the "boom" but of the same literary generation. Critical studies such as Pedro Lastra's Relecturas hispanoamericanas (item bi 89009151), Ana María Barrenechea's El espacio crítico en el discurso literario (item bi 89009127) and Jaime Giordano's La edad de la náusea (item bi 89009153) exemplify a growing sophistication in the critical appreciation and theoretical analysis of texts. Nevertheless, it would be fair to say that the most novel and interesting material produced in the last three years involves historical studies. More and more efforts are being directed towards understanding the development of Latin American literature as a conflicting, heterogenous, complex, and highly creative historical process. Two main approaches are used to explore it: regional studies and global designs.

The two outstanding works on the region produced in the last few years are Roberto Márquez's essay on Caribbean literary production (item bi 90000271) and Richard Jackson's comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of Caribbean literatures within the context of a "humanistic enthnopoetics" (item bi 89009118). Márquez's essay pioneers the way for the interdisciplinary and integrated study of linguistically and socially heterogenous materials, a project that was called for at the UNESCO-sponsored group meeting held in Campinas, Brazil, in 1983. Although not a participant in either the Campinas or the Caracas meeting led by Angel Rama, Márquez has mastered the French, English and Spanish affluents of Caribbean culture as they redefine themselves while meeting and mixing in the ocean of African culture. Equally useful, if not as insightful as Márquez's essay, are those that attempt to revise our received understanding of "indigenismo." Both René Prieto's study of "new indigenismo," which emphasizes the self-creativity of Indian myth, song, and language as literary formations of the present (item bi 90000128), and López-Martínez's study, which traces the changing role of religion in the creation of cultural identities (item bi 90000140), offer an important over-hauling of "indigenismo." Within this circuit of interaction between European cultural formations, their journey to this hemisphere, and the indigenous response to invasion and displacement, Cornejo Polar's strongly theoretical account of the conflictive and yet creative linguistic and socio-political realities that emerge in the Andes is perhaps a "tour-de-force" (item bi 90004621).

However, the novel and dominant trend in this Handbook is represented by essays and books on literary history. Worthy of note are works by Ana Pizarro (item bi 89009148) and Beatriz González Stephan (item bi 89009149). They both have published partial results of a project involving at least 10 scholars whose work is generally associated with the school of socio-criticism. To date, the most valuable effort at rethinking the history of Latin American writing with due attention to its heterogeneity and uneven developments has been Beatriz González's exhaustive bibliography on the histories of Latin American literature.

On the whole, the field is passing through a period of assimilation of the theoretical revolution of the last quarter of a century, utilizing a diversity of approaches to works once considered canonical literary texts. Although their volume remains constant, both feminist studies and socio-criticism continue to reorient the field towards what North American academic circles define as "cultural studies."

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