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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 2019-20.

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 appeal to the testimonio genre by subaltern subjects as a means of challenging the elite's hegemony over writing systems since Conquest, the neo-baroque urban chronicles of queer artists and writers like Néstor Perlongher and Pedro Lemebel, the filmic culture of the megacity, the return to the land and rethinking of human-animal relations in postmodern eco-fiction, the appeal to the neo-noir detective fiction format as a means to making sense of criminal subcultures emergning in a context of neoliberal globalization, or questions of witnessing and memory in contemporary art. In the section on individual authors you can look in depth at the experimental narratives of Manuel Puig, with their reworking of mass forms, at the hallucinatory prose of Diamela Eltit and Roberto Bolaño as they revisit the ongoing effects of Pinochet's military dictatorship in Chile, the meta-testimonios of Laura Restrepo as they explore new commonalities between subaltern protest and 'escritura femenina', and at the multi-layered installations of internationally renowned Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, among 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 write a dissertation on the earlier period in Part II Latin American Culture (SP12 - by dissertation only in 2018-2019).

Topics: 

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)

[* an asterisk indicates a topic or author not lectured on in 2018-2019]

Preparatory reading: 
  • Jean Franco, Cruel Modernity (2014)
  • Nelly Richard, Residuos y metáforas - ensayos de crítica cultural sobre el Chile de la transición (1998) 
  • 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).
  • George Gugelberger (ed.) The Real Thing: Testimonial Discourse and Latin America (1996)
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.

Assessment: 

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 Geoffrey Kantaris (paper co-ordinator, Michaelmas Term 2019)
Dr Rory O'Bryen (paper co-ordinator from Lent Term 2020)