Decolonizing Modernism
James Joyce and the Development of Spanish American Fiction

José Luis Venegas

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James Joyce
(1882-1941)
Irish novelist
 2 other titles

Legenda: Oxford, 2010
£55.00 ($99.00 US)  Hardback  162pp
ISBN: 978-1-906540-46-3


James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) has been recognized as a central model for the Spanish American ‘New Narrative’. Joyce’s linguistic and technical influence became the unequivocal sign that literature in Spanish America had definitively abandoned narrow regionalist concerns and entered a global literary canon. In this bold and wide-ranging study, José Luis Venegas rethinks this evolutionary conception of literary history by focusing on the connection between cultural specificity and literary innovation. He argues that the intertextual dialogue between James Joyce and prominent authors such as Argentines Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, Cuban Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Mexican Fernando del Paso reveals the anti-colonial value of modernist form. Venegas explores the historical similarities between Joyce’s Ireland during the 1920s and Spanish America between the 1940s and 70s to challenge depoliticized interpretations of modernist aesthetics and propose unsuspected connections between formal experimentation and the cultural transformations demanded by decolonizing societies.

José Luis Venegas is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages at Wake Forest University.

Reviews:

  • ‘There is something delightfully Joycean and Cortazarian about the volume which demands our close collaboration and participation as we jump around to consult the original texts, dipping into Ulysses and Rayuela, for example, then back to the study in question, not necessarily in chronological order. In this sense, I felt like the quintessential lector cómplice. This review is the final step in my literary contribution.’ — John Walker, Bulletin of Spanish Studies 88.6, September 2011, 929-30
  • ‘Among the many valuable assets of Venegas’s cohesive study are its painstaking research and its suggestive ways of interpreting the presence of Joyce in Latin American fiction... A significant contribution to the critical debate over the nature of modernism.’ — Alberto Lázaro, James Joyce Literary Supplement 26.1, Spring 2012, 5-6
  • ‘An impeccably researched and systematic study which has much to offer to the ‘planetary’ dimension of Joyce scholarship.’ — Patricia Novillo-Corvalán, James Joyce Broadsheet 88, February 2011
  • ‘An insightful and illuminating intertextual analysis... takes a refreshing approach by rejecting the notion of a cultural or intellectual ‘centre’ informing the periphery, or, in Latin American terms, the civilized educating the barbaric. Instead, both Joyce and those he influenced (directly or indirectly) are seen as the creators of ‘an alternative literary history’.’ — Victoria Carpenter, Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 72, 2012, 247
  • ‘In this book, José Luis Venegas takes existing debates on James Joyce’s influence on modern Spanish American fiction decisively further... Thanks to its balanced focus on theory, criticism and literary analysis, the book is comprehensive in its approach yet highly readable. With quotations given in both English and Spanish, this comparative study is a valuable research tool not only for Hispanists but also for critics of English literature working on Joyce.’ — unsigned notice, Forum for Modern Language Studies 49.2 (2013), 226-27
  • ‘Must be greeted as a new study that further enriches previous critical revisions of monolithic views of ‘canonical’ modernism... By relocating Joyce as a ‘peripheral’ modernist writer in the literary map of Latin America, Decolonizing Modernism offers an innovative and alternative reinterpretation of both European and Spanish-American literary histories that eschews the restrictions of national boundaries and canonical readings and opens untrodden paths for the emergence of (even) more revisionary studies of modernism in the future.’ — M. Teresa Caneda Cabrera, James Joyce Quarterly 48.4 (2011), 772-75
  • ‘A concise but eloquent demonstration of the potential of truly non-Eurocentric comparative studies between Latin American and European literatures... At the center of Decolonizing Modernism lies the belief in an intimate relationship between literary form and structure and specific history and geography, a relationship that asks for a critical approach that combines the analysis of formal as well as historical aspects.’ — Paulo Moreira, Hispanófila 168 (May 2013), 174-75


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