Rhetorics of Travel and Displacement in Latin American Literature (1845-2009)

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Rhetorics of Travel and Displacement in Latin American Literature (1845-2009)

Spring 2012

M 1-3, Classroom TBA
Prof. Mariano Siskind (siskind@fas.harvard.edu)

Office: 427 Boylston, (617) 495-9371

Office hours: M 3.30-5.00
Course description

As a result of colonial expansions, scientific excursions, exile, tourism, journalistic demands or expeditions to the primitive or to the hyper-contemporary, travel writings that record the experience of being away from home in out in the world are a crucial genre among the narratives of modernity. In this course, we will study a variety of travel narrative as well as their fictional imaginations in order to interrogate the complex assumptions of the genre within the historical specificity of colonial, scientific and leisure explorations throughout Latin America, to and from Europe, and across Asia. Our point of departure will be Sarmiento inaugural tri-continental journey in 1845-147, and we will finish in 2009.

We will start out with general questions to try to elucidate the contours of a theory of travel and travel writing: Is the experience of traveling always mediated by the texts? To what extent travel writing is a ‘reliable’ source of information about a certain culture? What happens when a traveler gets lost or loses him/herself? Is it ever possible to come back home? What is the relation between colonial and scientific explorations? Is there an ideology of travel? Can one ‘visit’ a revolution? Is a woman traveler’s gaze different from a man’s? What is the relation between the desire for modernity and the travel narratives of Hispanic American writers in Paris, as opposed to their experiences in Buenos Aires, Mexico or Sao Paulo? What do images of otherness and self at the center of these narratives tell us about the the formation of cultural identities? And finally, And what is the historical relation between travel and the novel; and why is the idea and rhetoric of travelling such an important topic in Latin American fiction?

A research paper of approximately 15 pages will be due at the end of term (date TBD). Those students who do not want to write a final paper will work on a 15 page-long take home exam to be turned in at the end of the semester. Students will do two 15-minute critical introductions to the readings of a given week. These presentations should be open to class discourse, so preparation of point-by-point outlines of your critical argument and class-handouts are strongly recommended. You should avoid, however, the overly tight, argumentative essay or merely reading aloud. Rather, posit your claims following a train of thought and be prepared to work through your personal insights with the rest of the class. As it is imperative that we allow ample time for class discussion, presenters are kindly asked not to exceed fifteen minutes. On each of the weeks in which a student is presenting, he/she will turn in a written response, summarizing the main points of the readings and stating a hypothesis, an idea of her/his own, relevant to the topic of the course; copies will be distributed for the rest of the class (no more than 3 pages). Please, email me your top three choices to present on to by the second meeting (1/30). Presentations will begin on 2/6. For the second class (1/30), every student will bring a one paragraph summary and a research question about one of the theoretical texts on travel that we will review.

Victoria Ocampo, La viajera y su sombra (Fondo de Cultura 2010).

Lévi-Strauss, Tristes tropiques (in French or in English).

Carpentier, Los pasos perdidos (Lectorum 2002; Akal 2004)

Villoro, Palmeras de la brisa rápida (Alianza 1989; Almadía 2009)

Caparrós, Una luna (Anagrama, 2009)

Roberto Bolaño, Los detectives salvajes (Anagrama, 1998)
*All books are available at Schoenhof’s or at Amazon.com and and/or libraries. All other readings will be available in electronic format on the course’s webpage*

Week 1 (1/23). Introduction. Questions of travel (plus, the questions and books I had to leave out of the syllabus).
Week 2 (1/30). Theories of travel and travelling theories. Dossier on travel teories, problems, genealogies (website): Michel Butor, Michel de Certeau, Homi Bhabha, Georges Van Den Abbeele, Tzvetan Todorov, James Clifford, Edward W. Said, Sylvia Molloy, César Aira, Beatriz Colombi, Jorge Monteleone et al.
Week 3 (2/6). Sarmiento’s tri-continental foundational journey. D.F.Sarmiento. Viajes por Europa, Africa y América. Juan José Saer: “Sobre los Viajes” (Dossier in website).
Week 4 (2/13). Modernistas in Paris: Dossier in website (Darío, Gómez Carrillo, Nervo, Ugarte). Beatriz Colombi, El viaje intelectual (selections). Jacinto Fombona, La Europa necesaria (selections).
Week 5 (2/20). President’s Day. No class.
Week 6 (2/27). Latin American Orientalisms: Gómez Carrillo in Asia. Enrique Gómez Carrillo, De Marsella a Tokio. Sensaciones de Egipto, La India, La China y El Japón. Edward Said, Orientalism (selection).
Week 7 (3/5). Travel, translation and gender: Victoria Ocampo maps and the transnational elites. Victoria Ocampo, La viajera y su sombra. Sylvia Molloy, “Victoria viajera: crónica de un aprendizaje”.
Week 8 (3/12). Spring Break. No class.
Week 9 (3/19). Travel and the ethnographic imagination (I): Lévi-Strauss, Tristes tropiques. Borges, “El etnógrafo” (in Elogio de la sombra, 1969) and and "El informe de Brodie" (1970). Christie McDonald, “On the ethnographic imagination in the eighteenth century”. Jacques Derrida. On Grammatology (section on Tristes tropiques).
Week 10 (3/26). Travel and the ethnographic imagination (II): Alejo Carpentier’s Los pasos perdidos.
Week 11 (4/2). Marxism as a journey: Latin Americans in the USSR, China, Italy and Bolivia. Dossier in Website (USSR: Elías Castelnuovo, Aníbal Ponce; China: María Rosa Oliver; México: Sergei Eisenstein, Vladimir Maiakovski; Italia: José Carlos Mariátegui; Bolivia: Ernesto Guevara). Karl Marx: “The Communist Manifesto”; “The German Ideology”.
Week 12 (4/9). The fiction of travelogues. Juan Villoro in Yucatán. Juan Villoro, Palmeras de la brisa rápida.
Week 13 (4/16). Displacement, refugees and the cosmopolitanism of the wretched. Martín Caparrós, Una luna. Diario de hiperviaje.
Week 14 (4/23). Travel as material and metaphoric making of Latin American modern literatura. Roberto Bolaño. Los detectives salvajes.

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