Vargas Llosa among the Postmodernists

Vargas Llosa among the Postmodernists

Vargas Llosa among the Postmodernists

Vargas Llosa among the Postmodernists

Synopsis

Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the world's most respected and widely read living writers. His work is marked by technical sophistication and by its alliance with a variety of trends in modern culture. To date little criticism of his work has made use of the important developments in literary theory in the past two decades. This book does so, analyzing Vargas Llosa's place in modern and postmodern criticism. Keith Booker begins with an analysis of The Green House within the context of modernism, using this early work to develop several hypotheses concerning the differences between modernism and postmodernism in literature. He tests these hypotheses in the remainder of the book through detailed readings of Vargas Llosa's later novels (from Captain Pantoja and the Special Service onward) and within the context of theoretical discussions of postmodernism by such critics as Fredric Jameson, Terry Eagleton, Linda Hutcheon, and Andreas Huyssen. Booker's specific readings of Vargas Llosa's work are also informed by the insights of a number of critics, including Mikhail Bakhtin, Michel Foucault, and Theodor Adorno. The readings focus on the formal characteristics of Vargas Llosa's writing and on the intense political engagement - characterized in later works by skepticism toward the claims of various political programs - that marks his career. As a result, this study yields insights into both the aesthetics and the politics of postmodernism, and it should be useful to those interested in Latin American literature and in the social and cultural landscapes of Vargas Llosa's works. The book ends with a lucid description of published theories of modernism and postmodernism.

Excerpt

The attempt to characterize the movements known as "modernism" and "postmodernism" (and especially to distinguish between the two) has become a favorite pastime of literary and cultural critics of the past two decades or so. Even critics who bemoan the inadequacy of these terms or the invidiousness of categorization in general typically end up with the weary acceptance that we are stuck with both "modernism" and "postmodernism" as labels and that we might as well make as much sense of the situation as we can.

I will seek in this study to make my own contribution to the various debates over modernism and postmodernism by focusing principally upon the latter but engaging the former as a prerequisite to any coherent understanding of the issues involved. I will seek a fresh perspective on postmodernism through a focus on the work of the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. This emphasis on a single writer will, I hope, simplify some of the complexities that are involved in any attempt to characterize such broad cultural phenomena as modernism and postmodernism. Conversely, reading Vargas Llosa within the context of such broad issues of literary history should illuminate certain important aspects of his work that might otherwise not be clear. And Vargas Llosa is an ideal choice for such a focus, both because he is an important figure and because his work provides some special insights into the issues involved. For one thing (laying aside for a moment the question of just what "modernist" and "postmodernist" might mean), he begins his career in what appears to be a modernist vein, especially in the early novels The Green House and Conversation in the Cathedral, but then shifts into what seems to be a postmodernist mode of writing in later texts like Captain Pantoja and the Special Service . . .

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