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Volume 58 / Humanities



SARA CASTRO-KLAREN, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures, Johns Hopkins University,
with the assistance of Christian Fernández

AS I WRITE THIS ESSAY in July 2000, I have already resigned as editor of this section of the Handbook of Latin American Studies. It has been more than a positive experience, and it is with nostalgia that I look upon years of voraciously reading the many collections of essays and theoretical works that I have reviewed for the biennial HLAS humanities volume. I want to take this opportunity to thank the many people who work in the field of bibliography and who, by doing so, sustain it. The Handbook is a wonderful and creative endeavor and it is my ardent hope that it will go on well into the new century, for there is nothing more rewarding than the pleasure of new learning. I also want to thank the Library of Congress, and especially the Librarian, James Billington, for having invited me to contribute to this major task of surveying and assessing the scholarship in the field. To the staff of the Hispanic Division, of which I was chief for a few years in the early l980s, also my appreciation.

The amount of space devoted to Spanish American general literature has not decreased, but the volume of scholarship has grown so much that I have had to be ever more selective in choosing materials to review. Nevertheless, I see in these two years the continuation of several trends and the breaking of some new ground. Among the continuing trends, one must indicate the many studies on women writers. These studies contain relatively new approaches in that the thematics vary, but the basic ideas continue to sustain the rationale for each study. A certain unproductive repetition of themes has begun to appear, as has a consistent choice of the same five or six women writers, effectively eclipsing the variety and abundance of other, less politically correct or, globally speaking, "occidental," marketable writers. A similar tendency can, of course, be detected with the writers of the boom. Regardless of the essay topic, the text analyzed is most often one of the handful of canonical writers which now always includes Borges. The exception seems to be José María Arguedas, whose dilemmas and heterogeneous world seem to inspire ever new and productive thinking on the key question in Latin American culture: the colonial legacy, or better put, in the words of Walter Mignolo, the colonial difference from which such texts are enunciated.

Neil Larsen's Reading North by South: on Latin American Literature, Culture, and Politics (item #bi 96001876#), along with other books not reviewed this biennium, for example, Beatriz Sarlo's Escenas de la vida postmoderna (l994), Walter Mignolo's The Darker Side of the Renaissance (l995; see HLAS 56:3414 and 4633), Vicky Unruh's Latin American Vanguards: The Art of Contentious Encounters (1994), and Diana S. Goodrich's Facundo and the Construction of Argentine Culture (l996), represent the best of a theoretical reorientation that is revitalizing the field by entering into deep debates about many unexplored issues. Closer at hand and within the parameters of what is included here, it is important to note the forceful appearance of gay studies in the work of David William Foster (items #bi 97002052#; #bi 97015077#; and, an edited volume, item #bi 97002088#). Along with Sylvia Molloy, he is leading the way into the gay problematization of literary and cultural studies. Notable also is the variety of anthologies and collected studies that are making an attempt to reintroduce the essay, once a vital form in Latin America, into the teaching canon (items #bi 97002047#, #bi 97002053#, and #bi 97002051#).

Finally, it is important to note that some of the most sophisticated studies continue to emerge from reconfigured colonial studies which, in many ways, ask scholars of the contemporary period and historians of literature to take a fresh look at the archives and the ways in which the canon, led by modernist criteria, has been awkwardly formed.

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