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SP13: Contemporary Latin American Culture

Painting by Roberto Matta, A Cena da Agatone (1985)

This paper is available for the academic year 2017-18.

This paper gives you the opportunity to study Latin American literature, film, art and photography from the 1970s to the present day.

The paper is organized into a series of topics, authors, film directors and artists aiming to give you in-depth insight into the way culture has responded to profound social and cultural changes throughout the region.

Twelve comparative topics allow for study of issues such as the rise of postmodern detective fiction, queer textualities, the filmic culture of the megacity, the return to the land in postmodern eco-fiction, or testimony and memory in contemporary art. In the section on individual authors you can look in depth at the queer narrative of Manuel Puig, the hallucinatory prose of Diamela Eltit and Roberto Bolaño, the meta-testimonio of Laura Restrepo, or the installations of internationally renowned Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, amongst many others.

Although the main focus of the paper is on Spanish-language works, you are welcome to explore Brazilian culture comparatively in answers to the ‘topic’ questions.

There are no prerequisites for studying SP13, although it leads on well (without overlap) from Part IB Latin American Culture (SP5), and makes an interesting sister paper for those who also wish to study the earlier period in Part II Latin American Culture (SP12).


Topics (Section A):

  • La novela de la dictadura
  • Latin American Urban Culture
  • Rewriting History
  • Post-dictatorship Argentine Cinema
  • Escritura femenina
  • Popular Culture
  • Testimonio
  • Queer Textualities
  • The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City
  • Post-modern Ecologies
  • Post-Boom Detective Fiction
  • Pathways of Testimony and Memory in Latin American Art

Writers, Film Directors and Artists (Section B):

  • Manuel Puig
  • Cristina Peri Rossi
  • Ricardo Piglia
  • Luisa Valenzuela
  • Diamela Eltit
  • Roberto Bolaño
  • César Aira
  • Laura Restrepo
  • Fernando Solanas
  • Doris Salcedo
  • Fernando Vallejo
  • Roberto Matta (work post 1968)
Preparatory reading: 
  • Jean Franco, The Decline and Fall of the Lettered City (CUP)
  • Julio Ortega, Arte de innovar (México: Ediciones del Equilibrista, 1994)
  • Idelber Avelar, The Untimely Present: Post-dictatorial Latin American Fiction and the Task of Mourning (1999)
  • Carlos Monsiváis, Aires de familia: cultura y sociedad en América Latina (2000)
  • Francine Masiello, The Art of Transition: Latin American Culture and Neoliberal Crisis (2001).
  • Donald Shaw, The Post-Boom in Spanish American Fiction (1998)
Teaching and learning: 

The paper is taught through a standard course of 20 lectures and 8 supervisions (6 for Optional Dissertation students).

Please see Sp.13's Moodle site. The password can be collected from the paper coordinator.


The paper is assessed either by a three-hour examination in the Easter Term, or by an Optional Dissertation submitted at the end of Lent Term.

Course Contacts: 
Dr Rory O'Bryen (paper co-ordinator)