The Corpus Delicti: A Manual of Argentine Fictions

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One of the preeminent scholars of Latin American literature and cultural studies, Josefina Ludmer turns her sharply focused critical eye to the subject of crime in Argentine literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in The Corpus Delicti. The Corpus is a manual of crime, a compendium of crime tales, and an extended meditation on the central role of crime in literature, in life, and in the life of the nation. Beginning with an excerpt from Karl Marx, and characterizing "crime" as a critical instrument that both defines and constructs culture, Ludmer goes far beyond understanding crime and detective fiction as a genre and exposes how literature -- both high art and mass culture -- function as a hyper-text of social reality. She elucidates the relationship of crime and punishment to the formation of law, the body, and the modern state.

Ludmer thematically arranges the crime stories in the Corpus as a starting point for exploring the space between fiction and reality and discerning the histories those narratives describe. She investigates the stories of marriage and patrician autobiographies of education that were popular in the 1880s and 1890s, and ties them to processes of state formation at the same time. In a chapter on stories of transmutation she examines the shifting border between figures of authority and anti-authority. And when discussing the many real and fictional incarnations of the popular criminal hero Juan Moreira, Ludmer more deeply considers the nature of injustice, honor, and the politics of violence. In meditations on tales of Jews and of women who kill, she discusses how crime in fiction can differentiate and exclude, as well as serve to redefine notions of justice and truth.

The Corpus Delicti draws on a dazzling array of primary sources, social history, and cultural theory. Ludmer has artfully constructed not only her themes, but the text as well. Utilizing diverse stylistic devices, she creates layers of explication, extending to the book's extensive notes. Significant analyses, excerpts, and commentaries take on the substance of a companion text, which allows her primary arguments an unfettered progression rarely seen in scholarly works. Glen Close's translation captures the energy of Ludmer's prose -- simultaneously subtle and daring -- for English-language readers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A brilliant and original book that traces the power of ‘crime’ to fuse and divide the entire social field. Written with a rare wit and humor, The Corpus Delicti draws impartially on every kind of Argentine crime story. . . . One of the few books I have read in which the footnotes are as entertaining as the text."
—Jean Franco, Columbia University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822942283
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 6/6/2004
  • Series: Illuminations Ser.
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Josefina Ludmer, professor of Latin American literature and culture at Yale University, is the editor of Las culturas de fin de siglo en América Latina and the author of several books, including Cien años de soledad: Una interpretación and The Gaucho Genre: A Treatise on the Motherland.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : crime as a critical instrument 3
Introduction : the "stories" of the Corpus Delicti 6
I From transgression to crime 9
II The frontier of crime 59
III The Moreiras 81
IV The history of a best-seller : from anarchism to Peronism 111
V Women who kill 123
VI Stories of truth and stories of Jews 141
Conclusion : the crime story of the very much read 159
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