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Volume 54 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA


General

SARA CASTRO-KLAREN, Professor of Hispanic and Italian Studies, The Johns Hopkins University


IN THE LAST TWO YEARS we have seen a flowering of the field. Several very important books have been published in Latin America, the US, and England. A distinguishing feature of the publications included in this selection is the remarkable quality and number of the books published in English, with Cambridge University Press assuming a leading role.

Interest in the "novela del dictador" continues to elicit publications which attempt periodization and groupings according to narrative rhetoric and theme. The new historical novel commands a great deal of attention. Fernando Ainsa's La reescritura de la historia (item bi 92009933) is an in-depth and comprehensive treatment of the new historical novel which takes up many of the same issues central to the discussions on parody and testimony. All the texts in question are concerned with the inscription of the forgotten voices of women and other subaltern subjects, and degradations of foundational myths of nationality. Several articles explore the double strand woven in the relationship of genre and textuality. Others such as George Yúdice (item bi 91027245) and Geisdorfel-Feal (item bi 92010463) ponder the problematic readership that postmodern theory deploys for texts authored by women such as Domitila de Chungara. Carlos Rincón writes a capital essay on the problematic fit of the narrative of the "boom" and of John Barth's appropriation of Borges and García Márquez for his characterizations of postmodernism (item bi 91027243).

Interest in women writers also continues to produce a large body of research. Interviews with women writers grow in length, variety, and number. García Pinto's collection of long, frank, and thoughtful interviews is probably the best of its kind (item bi 92020153). Too numerous to mention individually, the articles in journals or collected in books explore women's diverse relations to political, economic, and family problems. One of the most interesting of these approaches is Mary Louise Pratt's consideration of women in dialogue with masculinist ideologies (item bi 92013784). El placer de la palabra is a welcome anthology of texts which celebrate the positive power of eroticism in women's fiction (item bi 92020172).

The outstanding feature of this chapter is the significance of the books published in the last three years. Gordon Brotherston has written a masterpiece on the literatures of the American Indians, a book that the field has been striving towards for many years and which has finally found its proper form in this comprehensive, informed, intelligent, and sensitive study of the classics of the Fourth World (item bi 94006278). Martin Lienhard's history of the oral trace in texts authored by "indios letrados" also accomplishes a goal towards which the entire field has been moving (item bi 92020255). In the modern period we find that books by Sylvia Molloy on autobiography (item bi 92020149), Roberto González on the archive of the Latin American novel (item bi 92020148), Carlos Alonso on the "novela de la tierra" (item bi 92020157), and Lucille Kerr on the "death" of the author (item bi 92020151) not only deal with their subjects brilliantly but also provide theoretical frameworks which attempt to account for the particular character and success of fiction written in Spanish America. Though immensely persuasive and extremely well researched, these theories or interpretations of origins are not all compatible with one another. Yet, each one of these books will become a landmark in the field. I urge anyone with an interest in Latin American cultural history to take and make the time to become familiar with these theoretically sophisticated books, for they spell out a dominant trend in Latin American studies.


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