On the Dark Side of the Archive

Juan Carlos González Espitia

Jacket illustration: "Holland House Library after an air raid." Holland House, Kensington, London. 1940. Copyright (c) English Heritage.

Nation and Literature in Spanish America at the Turn of the Century

250 pages
ISBN 1611483314
Bucknell Studies in Latin American Literature and Theory

On the Dark Side of the Archive examines nineteenth-century nation building through narratives that are not part of the romantic or realist traditions, specifically those associated with the critique of traditional ideas often portrayed in Decadentism and modernismo. The study focuses on the "non-canonical" works of turn-of-the-century authors--including José María Vargas Vila, Horacio Quiroga, Clemente Palma, and José Martí--and concludes with a study that compares the literary portrayal of doomed societies in the nineteenth century with the work of contemporary authors, such as Fernando Vallejo.
González Espitia establishes a critique of the concept of nation building in the romantic narratives of South America. These narratives are generally characterized by underlying erotic discourses meant to set the recently liberated countries of Latin America on a path toward class harmony, racial integration, socially beneficial marriage, and demographic expansion. An analysis of nation-building narratives understood as erotic discourses must also consider novels that manifest a dynamics of self-destruction. The authors included in this book subvert the idea of "nation" as a clear, positive, and fruitful space, bringing a dose of reality to this elusive concept. These authors design alternative futures for Latin America, futures that were seen as fruitless, obscure, contemptible, or doomed.


On the Dark Side of the Archive is an original book in both content and tone. González Espitia performs excellent feats of literary and cultural detection in examining the work of canonical and lesser-known writers, providing new insights and even surprising discoveries about their lives and obsessions."
--Christopher Conway, Bulletin of Spanish Studies , 89:5.

About the author:

Juan Carlos González Espitia is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He pursued studies in philosophy, social communication, journalism, and contemporary problems analysis in his native Colombia. After a period as editor for a Colombian publishing house, he moved to the United States and received his PhD at Cornell University. He is co-editor, with William G. Acree, of the forthcoming Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America: Re-rooted Cultures, Identities, and Nations. González Espitia has published several studies of the Colombian unorthodox writer José María Vargas Vila. He is currently working on a Hispanic literary history of syphilis.


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