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LibrlSt 722: Topics in Contemporary Cultural Studies
María del Pilar Melgarejo, Assistant Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
melgarej@uwm.edu
Wed, 6:00-8:40pm, Curtin Hall 939


Writing Revolution in Latin America and Beyond

Literature has been used as a revolutionary tool by cultures on every continent. It has often been a catalyst for social change and political action. This seminar examines the relationship between writing and politics, asking for example: What is the relationship between art and politics? How do we understand what a revolution is? How has revolution been fictionalized in Latin America? What roles have the arts played in the emergence of an imaginary in the Caribbean and Latin America? How were national consolidation and social heterogeneity reconciled in the literary discourses of what is recognized as a "revolution"? This seminar will consider how the political, social and aesthetic problems forced into light by revolutionary ideas are appropriate in literary texts. We will take a journey through Haití, Cuba, Nicaragua, República Dominicana and other countries such as Colombia, México and study how different authors articulate, through poetry, novels and short stories their concerns about the oppressive political and cultural dynamics prevalent in their particular societies. We will answer these by drawing on postcolonial theory, literature, performance arts and performance theory.

This course will be divided into sections. Each section corresponds to a country and specific theme. We will start with the Haitian Revolution as a foundational event that transformed Latin America's political landscape. We will read poems from Cuban and Colombian writers in the light of the idea of revolution. From the Caribbean we will travel to México and read about two fundamental and radically different revolutions: the Mexican Revolution as perceived in Pedro Páramo and the contemporary Zapatista Revolution of Subcomandante Marcos as well. Then through the novel Angel we will witness the Grenadian Revolution through the eyes of a little girl. We will also watch some movies related to revolutions in the region and read short stories from the Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar related to his perspective on the Cuban and Sandinista Revolution. In this course, we will examine texts that reflect on revolution, theorize about revolution and/or attempt to revolutionize by writers such as David Scott, Aimé Césaire, Alejo Carpentier, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Frantz Fanon, Hanna Arendt, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Partha Chaterjee.

In addition we will read, hear and watch the performance of dub poetry from Linton Kwesi Johnson, Benjamin Zephaniah and Jean Binta Breeze. As part of the class the students will develop an assignment on aesthetic politics: based on the readings and the theme of the seminar they will create a dub poetry piece.

Preliminary Reading List:

  • Alejo Carpentier, The Kingdom of this World, El reino de este mundo (1949)
  • Selected Poems from Nicolás Guillén, Luis Palés Matos, Nancy Morejón
  • Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo
  • Ana Menendez, Loving Che
  • Sergio Ramírez, Adiós Muchachos: A Memoir of the Sandinista Revolution
  • Merle Collins, Angel
  • Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Wednesday, 6:00-8:40pm
Curtin Hall 939


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