Academic journal article Hispanic Review

The Places of History: Regionalism Revisited in Latin America

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

The Places of History: Regionalism Revisited in Latin America

Article excerpt

The Places of History: Regionalism Revisited in Latin America. Ed. Doris Sommer. Durham: Duke UP, 1999. 310 pages.

This skillfully edited volume features a series of short, highly experimental, thought-provoking, and groundbreaking critical essays by some of the most distinctive and progressive voices in the field of Hispanic Studies. Its range of topics is broad and embraces minor and major genres, a good regional representation, as well as transnational and borderland texts, all the standard periods in the Latin American literary field, and an unprecedented variety of methodological and theoretical approaches.

Editor Doris Sommer tentatively proposes that the collection's common thread is its "general focus on micrologies, on untranslatable (not movable) particularity (2);" and that this thread can be understood as a kind of new costumbrismo. Sommer stops short of coining a new term for this recent and experimental movement in literary criticism but does describe some of its distinguishing features. Unlike its nineteenth century antecedent that was mostly evidenced in actual literary production, neo-costumbrismo proposes a way-an approach or a strategy- of reading literary texts. like its nineteenth century antecedent, though, it emerges as a deliberate response to the culturally neutralizing effects of globalization and universal reading formulas endeavoring to make manifest the specificities of time and place; and of cultural and historical particularism. Ultimately, the editor argues, neocostumbrismo expands and renews the nineteenth century costumbrista notion of literature as the locus of pride of place.

This renewed attention to the notion of pride of place is made evident in the collection's heightened attention to history. History, though, in the logic of the collection, is understood in the most expansive and radically inclusive sense of the term. Thus understood, Josefina Ludmer, for example, places her historical focus on the political, juridical, and cultural ramifications of the notion of corpus delicti-"both in its literal sense of evidence, proof of truth, and at the same time the literary notion of the corpus, or body of crime" (11)-as a structuring device and defining feature of twentieth century Argentine narrative in which guilty subjectivities, fictions of exclusion, and dreams of justice plot the dual struggle for literary and political power. In a related approach, Roberto Schwarz's links the structure of the Brazilian novel, and in particular the narrative point of view in Memorial postumas de Brain Cuban, to the specificity of Brazilian social relations, and in particular, to dilemmas that result from the pervasive and capricious practice of the personal favor. …

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