Splintered Consciousness: Literary Relationship between Self and Nation

Friday, February 6, 2015
12:00pm – 1:15pm
Race Conference Room 202, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Fernando Rivera, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Tulane University

Secondary Characters and the Politics of Personal Memory in the Southern Cone Post-dictatorship Generation Novel
Sarah Bruni, Tulane University

As the first generation of authors who came of age after the dictatorship years of the 1970s and ’80s in the Southern Cone begin publishing works of literature that engage directly with questions of how we remember and process the period of state violence and repression that casts its long shadow on the present, it is increasingly necessary to interrogate how the narrative techniques they employ to depict the postdictatorial environment are correlated with a culture of forgetting that fragments and obscures sites of memory and the history they conjure up. With the transition into democracy, neoliberal policies swept under the rug any lingering signs of former state repression including the repurposing of sites of memory within the urban spaces where human rights atrocities occurred. Unlike the authors producing literature in the immediate aftermath of the dictatorships, those who were children during the period of state violence in their respective countries must rely more readily on formative experience and social memory to conjure a period of time that governments have striven to erase from public consciousness. The aims of this paper, then, are twofold: I propose to examine the way that such policies of forgetting have fragmented the urban landscape in which many of these writers have grown up, and then analyze the way that a new generation of authors’ narratives respond to this fragmentation. I will take as one of my key case studies of revisions of public space Punta Carretas prison in Montevideo, Uruguay, which was repurposed as Punta Carretas shopping mall in 1994. The key literary texts I will explore include Alejandro Zambra’s (Chile, b. 1975) Formas de volver a casa, and Patricio Pron’s (Argentina, b. 1975) El espíritu de mis padres sigue subiendo en la lluvia, both published in 2011.

The Afro-Caribbean Family, Citizen Consciousness and the Nation-State in Earl Lovelace’s While Gods Are Falling
Cherif Diatta, Tulane University

Early narratives among Afro-Caribbean writers have emphasized the tribulations in the establishment of contemporary Afro-Caribbean communities. Earl Lovelace’s fiction is not an exception. This paper examines the portrayal an Afro-Caribbean community and its significance in Earl Lovelace’s first novel, While Gods Are Falling. The novel explores the interconnected relationship between the individual, the family, the community and the nation-state. I argue that Lovelace’s focus on the Afro-Trinidadian family and community expresses the reality of the Trinidadian political landscape, and emphasizes the paramount necessity of the individual’s sense of responsibility in his community that I call citizen consciousness. The analysis demonstrates how, through the portrayal of Afro-Caribbean family, Lovelace illustrates the emergence and evolution of the People’s National Movement (PNM) and the implication of black political leadership implications in Trinidad and the Caribbean in general. The analysis most fundamentally examines the significance of the individual’s responsibility and participation in the community as citizen consciousness. The concept of citizenship and good citizen has been built around property ownership, class status, social freedom, judicial and administrative responsibilities, and suffrage. In the fiction of Lovelace, the notion of citizen implicates more than these criteria that reinforce class segregation and exclude some human categories. For Lovelace, indeed, citizenship necessitates will, acceptance and desire of belonging to the community or nation as well awareness of both one’s rights and duties.

Revolutionary Fictions: A Critical Reading of the Zapatista Short Story Series Don Durito de la Lacandona
Mark Fitzsimmons, Indiana University

“Since its official inception when it boldly introduced itself to the world on 1 January 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has been heavily defined and characterized by its diverse wealth of written texts. The EZLN is peculiar, and perhaps unique, among Latin American insurgent revolutionary groups in the 20th and 21st centuries in the central role that written texts have played not only in defining critical moments in their movement, but also in gaining an international base of support, sympathy, and solidarity. The texts produced by the EZLN occupy a broad range of styles and genres, from explicitly subversive political writings that seem modeled after the manifesto genre to highly literary short fiction and poetry. As an insurgent guerrilla organization that has openly declared war on the Mexican national government, the centrality of original literary production to the EZLN may appear confounding or even counterintuitive. The Zapatista movement, however, has consistently and decidedly fought as much if not more a battle of ideological and discursive reappropriation than of armed conflict.  In this paper, I analyze the series of short tales that focus on the fictional scarab beetle Don Durito de la Lacandona and the fictionalized autobiographical portrayal of Marcos. I argue that these stories are as subversive in their content and ideas as in their form, style, and aesthetics. In large part precisely because of their literary form and aesthetics, they form a fundamental part of what the EZLN has established as an alternative political voice in a national and global dialogue that continually marginalizes alternative discourses and rhetorical forms.”

Changó el gran putas de Zapata Olivella: la irrupción de una raza y su cultura en el debate cultural hispánico

Antonio Jimenez Morato, Tulane University

Desde la sugerencia de llevar africanos a América para librar de las tareas pesadas a los indígenas de fray Bartolomé de las Casas, y su posterior arrepentimiento que no suele ser recordado con la misma frecuencia, no hay apenas documentos literarios que giren en torno a la «cuestión negra» en la cultura hispanoamericana. Sorprende frente a la profusión de textos existentes relacionados con la «cuestión india». Manuel Zapata Olivella, afrocolombiano, reparó en ese vacío y desarrolló una labor antropológica a lo largo de las décadas centrales del siglo XX que se ve plasmada en su monumental novela Changó el gran putas, publicada en 1983. Allí se lanza a la ambiciosa tarea de 1) esbozar una mitología para la población negra de las Américas, 2) trazar una historia alternativa a la oficial desde su cosmovisión y costumbres y, 3) visibilizar la cultura negra en la literatura hispanoamericana donde había sido silenciada desde sus inicios. El resultado es la que, posiblemente, sea la novela más relevante de la literatura colombiana del siglo XX, casi siempre situada en segundo plano respecto a Cien años de soledad, paradigma de la perspectiva eurocéntrica frente a la mirada de raíces africanas que ofrece Zapata Olivella. Y, sobre todo, se trata de un ejemplo de puesta en práctica de la teoría de Walter Benjamin sobre la reelaboración de la Historia de los vencidos y la irrupción en el escenario político de toda una cultura preterida durante siglos que puede ser descrita y comprendida desde la producción ensayística de Hannah Arendt. Más que exaltar o resumir la novela, la idea de la ponencia pasa por enfatizar la relectura de la historia e inclusión en el debate político de la cultura afroamericana en el mundo hispánico que pone en práctica la novela.