Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Theoretical Fables: The Pedagogical Dream in Contemporary Latin American Fiction

Synopsis

"Latin American fiction, arguably the most inventive literature of recent decades, seems marked by its self-reflexivity, by its playful relationship to history and the everyday, and by its concerns with the ways in which language works. But is it, Alicia Borinsky asks, really a literature whose primary goal is to raise metafictional questions about writing and reading? While the effects of this literature include dismantling the illusions of realism, naturalism, and historicism, the haunting and disturbing energy of its major works lies in their capacity to invoke a region beyond literature through literature. Whether through its use of history, its framing of a non-causal view of the world, or its nostalgic evocation of a feminine realm, Borinsky argues, the contemporary Latin American novel does not just ingeniously dismantle the referential claims of the more traditional novel; it offers a post-modern version of the lessons taught by fiction. For Borinsky, the "theoretical fables" of contemporary Latin American fiction challenge the reader to perform, rather than merely to consume a message; yet they do so while preserving literature's more permanent impetus to persuade, alter, and guide. Theoretical Fables progresses by way of close readings of the works of eight canonical - and not quite canonical - Latin American authors. Borinsky argues that the Latin American "theoretical fable" has its origins in the work of the early twentieth-century Argentinian writer, Macedonio Fernandez. In this light she studies the works of Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, Jose Donoso, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Manuel Puig, and Maria Luisa Bombal. Fresh readings of recognized authors and a new genealogy for Latin American fiction of this century make Theoretical Fables a volume of interest to students, scholars, and the general reader." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

"Maestro," teacher, was the word Jorge Luis Borges used to refer to Macedonio Fernández. Macedonio, an Argentine writer and philosopher, died in 1952 at age 77, relatively unknown to mainstream readers despite the profound mark he had left on a number of younger writers. When I sat in Borges's classes on English and North American literatures at the University of Buenos Aires, the rediscovery of Macedonio had not yet taken place, and listening to Borges talk about him I felt that he was communicating a secret, a register for understanding his own thought, perhaps thought itself. "Maestro," of course, was said with reverence and humor, with no trace of the solemnity of the disciple acknowledging authority. When, years later, I found myself researching Macedonio's work and life and went to consult with Borges, he urged me to hurry and complete the project because it was important to "construct the myth of Macedonio." Frustrating as it was at the time, Borges's response was nevertheless illuminating because Macedonio, who thought of himself as a myth conceived by Borges and Ramón Gómez de la Serna, was a seemingly inexhaustible source for metaphysical connections between what was written on the page and the ultimate goals reading might attain. Macedonio was "maestro," then, not only because he taught but because literature itself was viewed as a matrix for pedagogical efforts.

Contemporary Latin American fiction has attained a singular lucidity about the workings of language. Its self-reflexivity, its playful relationship to history and the everyday, frequently woven into extravagantly complicated plots, have led many to believe that an awareness of writing and reading as such is its main purpose. Although the dismantling of the illusions of realism, naturalism, and historicism figures among the effects produced by its reading, the haunting and disturbing energy of the major works of this period lies in their capacity to invoke, in disparate ways, a region not beyond literature, but through . . .

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