I have thoroughly enjoyed this class. I think that the structure of the class - the blogs, commentary, paragraph discussion, etc – created a community in class in which students were able to develop opinions about the readings both in and out of class. I have to say something which I unfortunately can’t say about all of my upper level Spanish courses, Jon established an atmosphere in class where I think the majority of students felt comfortable expressing their ideas no matter what their level of Spanish.
The choice of readings in particular taught us about the evolution of Latin American literature and what led to the magical realism movement. The stream-of-consciousness narration in Leyendas de Guatemala shows how the European surrealist movement influenced Asturias. At the same time, he was very lyrical and poetic in his writing. I think that this experimentation with language and form was more attune to the indigenous Maya culture that he was trying to represent. In this first reading, we start to get a feeling for the importance of the question of Latin American identity in the author’s writing. For Asturias, although he had European parents, he still felt a strong connection to the Maya people. I think he identified with the culture’s spirituality, which inspired him to enter the mind of a Maya character in his book Hombres de maíz. By allowing himself to be influenced by the indigenous cultures of Guatemala, Asturias differentiated himself from the European literary movements.
The question of identity is also prevalent in El reino de este mundo. When I talk about identity, I’m thinking that the authors of the “boom” period were trying to differentiate themselves from European literature. Living in a culture thoroughly permeated by European customs, politics, and power, these authors felt that indigenous civilization and mythology, colonization, oppression, African Diaspora, mestizaje…were themes that were specific to Latin America and could not be properly represented by anyone but themselves and with a new style. While Asturias achieved this by writing about Maya mythology, Carpentier achieved this by telling the bloody political history of Haiti. Not just the history however, he told the story from the perspective of Ti Noel, a black slave who practiced vudu. Like Maya mythology, the vudu spirituality allowed Carpentier to experiment with form and narration style as well.
In 100 años, many common themes of Latin American history were brought together. Maybe we can look at Macondo as a microcosm and condensed history for much of Latin America. And it does represent certain parts of Latin American history and politics quite well. The authors of McOndo cannot disagree with this. I think that they were tired of being pigeonholed into a genre that did not adequately represent them. For that reason, more contemporary authors sought to break the stereotype/identity mold by trying something that nobody expected of them, to identify with North American/European culture. Identity remains a question for the authors as seen and discussed in “La mujer quimicamente compatible”. No matter what the authors in McOndo say, technology does not make them so similar to the rest of the world. Latin America experienced a very distinct colonization in which they were left to build a political/economic/social system by themselves post-independence. In most places this was styled after European governments, but was it viable a region so different? I think the question of identity is an overarching question that permeates all of the books we have read and should not be overlooked. Anywho…wrapping up,
Before I took this class, the idea that I had of magical realism was that that reality and fantasy were convoluted in a narration that exceeded the boundaries of time. Although the experimentation with time is a component in magical realism, I now put much more emphasis on the style of narration than anything. I think that the author of the book I am using for my wikipedia article could not have said it better:
“El realismo mágico es el tono en que se cuenta lo fantástico: lo mágico lo aportan las técnicas periodísticas utilizadas en la narración – todo lleno de datos precisos que concretizan el tiempo, el espacio, los personajes, la situación…-; el realismo lo pone la imaginación del escritor.”
Gutiérrez points to the writer when defining magical realism. I think we similarly have come to the conclusion that it is not so much time, space, and lyricism/rhythm that contribute to the genre (all themes that can be found in other genres as well such as surrealism), but how the writer tells the story. We put trust in the author who, as we have seen, manipulates that trust by making the fantastical normal and reality (ie the historical/politically inspired writing) fantastical.
I think this class was…fantastic! Sorry for not completing every single blog but I definitely put in the effort.