History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fictionby Deborah N. Cohn
First, Cohn proposes that Faulkner's
It is commonplace among literary critics to refer to William Faulkner's influence on Spanish American literature. Yet few studies have delved seriously into why the attraction of the writings of this southerner has been so powerful. In this bold new study, Deborah N. Cohn addresses this question squarely, from two perspectives.
First, Cohn proposes that Faulkner's appeal derives from Spanish American authors' perception of similarities between the South's history and the experiences of their own respective nations. She delineates historical experiences common to the South and Spanish America, including civil wars, defeat and dispossession, regional marginalization, and socioeconomic hardship. She also suggests that Spanish American authors found in Faulkner a set of concerns with which they could identify and that, as a result, they were inspired to take up the stylistic innovations characteristic of his writing. The resulting assimilation and adaptation of Euro-American modernism through Faulkner has been an indispensable part of what is known as la nueva narrativa, "the new narrative, " as well as of successive movements in Spanish American literature.
From another perspective, Cohn's book shows points of contact between works by other southern and Spanish American novelists without positing relations of influence. Specifically, after identifying common, recurrent themes in modern southern and Spanish American literature in general, Cohn reveals levels of a shared understanding of regional history in Faulkner and Mario Vargas Llosa, in Ralph Ellison and Isabel Allende, as well as in Katherine Anne Porter and Juan Rulfo. Her analyses compare and contrast these authors' sharedattempts to provide correctives to official, mainstream historical discourse through alternate, parallel strategies for reconstructing, recording, and reclaiming the past.
The sheer scope of this study achieves its purpose . . . An impressive synthesis of this essential subject, Cohn's work is a welcome addition to Inter-American comparative study.
By facing South and looking toward the Spanish Americas, Cohn reconfigures our understanding of southern literary expression and the cultural forces influencing it. This is a rich and provocative study, beautifully written and deeply insightful.
--Robert H. Brinkmeyer, University of Mississippi
If the task of the comparatist is to create a territory of shared experience in which to trace meaningful patterns of filiation and separation, then Deborah Cohn is a comparatist par excellence. History and Memory in the Two Souths is a major contribution to the study of American literature as a hemispheric matter.
--Lois Parkinson Zamora, University of Houston
Meet the Author
Deborah N. Cohn is assistant professor of Hispanic studies at Indiana University. She specializes in modern Latin American fiction and comparative literature of the Americas, and has published articles in The Comparatist, Comparative Literature Studies, Revista HispanicaModerna, Hispanofila, and College Literature.
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