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Volume 56 / Humanities

LITERATURE: SPANISH AMERICA


General

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


THIS BIENNIUM HAS BROUGHT A MIXTURE of anthologies, histories, monographs, and, of course, collections of essays; there are considerably fewer interviews and conference proceedings. Books inspired by the commemoration of the Quincentenary continue to appear and, to judge by the announcements of American university presses, there are still a few more to come. On the anthology front, David William Foster has made a major contribution (item bi 95000539). We also welcome John Keller and Rafael Aguirre's revised edition of Hispanoamérica en su literatura (item bi 95000525). Both should serve as points of departure for future anthological projects. It is unfortunate that Darío Villanueva and José María Viña Liste (item bi 95000534) and Ricardo Gullón (item bi 95000481), the Spanish editors of an anthology and a dictionary, respectively, did not avail themselves of the model provided by these solidly researched works and their intelligent and informed organization. Graduate and undergraduate students will also benefit from Naomi Lindstrom's original and well-grounded history of 20th-century literature (item bi 95000505).

The emergence of a new interest in history is reflected in three monographs. Raymond Souza's study of the weight of history in the modern novel (item bi 95000530) provides an interesting companion for Seymour Menton's study of the new historical novel (item bi 95000510). Aníbal González's history of journalism and the development of fiction in Latin America diverges from the much propounded thesis that locates the genre's origin and character in the early Spanish chroniclers (item bi 95000500). However, the most important studies reviewed in this section are those influenced by post-structuralist theory that use history and historiography to pose radical questions about the conceptual underpinnings of our understanding of cultural history. Following the lead of Imagined communities by Benedict Anderson, Ileana Rodríguez examines the role of gender and ethnicity in relation to the ideology of the nation-state as written in the fiction of women writers (item bi 94016374). Iris Zavala studies the relations of colonialism and modernismo, and in so doing transforms our understanding of not only the "literary" movement, but also of the period when Latin American intellectuals set out to create "their own" project of emancipatory modernity (item bi 95000488). Though very difficult to read because of their complex entwining with post-structural theory, the two books mentioned above, along with the collection of essays edited by Stephen Bell (item bi 95000056), present a series of complex, urgent, and vexing issues concerning Latin American cultural production. The problems that these authors identify, conceptualize and attempt to analyze - colonialism, subject formation, nation formation, gender/ethnicity, "hispanism," historiography - will continue to be major topics for the next decade. As the field continues to evolve from literary criticism into cultural criticism, the importance of historical research will bring forth new knowledge.


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