The Argentinean Avant-Garde Novel

Studies of the avant-garde literature in the past have focused on the theoretical impact of their experimentation in the twentieth century transition from modernism to postmodernism. Following the geographical movements of the historical avant-garde, in its encounters between Europe and the Americas, this seminar proposes to focus on a selected corpus of the avant-garde Argentinean novel, highlighting its particularities.

This seminar will allow the students to get acquainted with some of the canonical novels of Argentinean literature and of the contemporary scholarship on these novels. Questions such as can a unitary concept of avant-garde novel be created—one that could embrace different places, and times- and others will be posed.

We will start with a panoptic vision of the state of avant-garde theories today in its global and local contexts. The course will be based in a close reading of the texts and in the dialogue among the students own understanding of avant-gardism in literature.

We will study a selected corpus that includes Macedonio Fernández’s   Museo de la novela de la eternal [The Museum of Eterna’s Novel]  (1967) which Fernández started to write in 1925, and continued working on it for the rest of his life. It was published posthumously in 1967, 15 years after his death. Fernández is widely regarded as a major influence on Jorge Luis Borges and its writing style bears some resemblance to Borges’s. It has been described as Cortázar’s Hopscotch an “anti-novel.” The novel is written in a non-linear style, as a set of multi-layered diversions, discursions and self-reflections, with over fifty prologues before the “main” text of the novel begins.

Rayuela [Hopscotch] by writer Julio Cortázar (1963) written in Paris is a stream-of-consciousness novel, which can be read according to two different sequences of chapters. This novel is often referred to as an anti-novel as was defined by Cortázar himself. Rayuela [Hopscotch] retakes some of the topics and figures of Macedonio Fernández, particularly in the election of a new language: the glíglico (Chapter 68, is an example). It refers to a language that combines the language of music (jazz) interpreted as playful language of lovers that at the same time it aisles lovers from the rest of the world.

Ricardo Piglia’s Respiración artificial [Artificial Respiration] (1981) takes the form of detective novel and revision of the Argentine intellectual field and adding a meditation on the nature of totalitarian regimes, on the transition to democracy prior to the end of such regimes, and on the power of language to create and define reality.

Luisa Valenzuela’s Cola de lagartija [The Lizard’s Tail] (1983) combines a powerful critique of dictatorship from a feminist perspective by an examination of patriarchal forms of social organization and power structures, which extend to sexuality and gender relationships.

Juan José Saer’s Glosa (1986) [Glossa] written in the tradition of French’s nouveau roman recounts the casual encounter of two known characters who decide to walk together about twenty blocks in the back drop of the previous decade of guerrilla fighting. Glosa deals with history, memory, and trauma.

Macedonio Fernández. Museo de la novela de la eterna (1925)
Julio Cortázar. Rayuela (1963)
Ricardo Piglia. Respiración artificial (1981)
Luisa Valenzuela. Cola de lagartija (1983) (course package)
Juan José Saer. Glosa (1986)

Language of instruction: Spanish

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