Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Latin American Literature in Transition 1980–2018

Debra A. Castillo, Mónica Szurmuk

Latin American Literature in Transition (1980-2018) looks at literary and cultural phenomena on the hinge of our millennium. It speaks from the receding hyperpolarization of the dictatorships in much of Latin America in the last third of the 20th century, and looks toward this seemingly intractable unrest afflicting us today. The starting date of the volume is chosen to coincide with the wave of democratization throughout the continent in the 1980s, and it closes as our contributors were polishing their pieces during the first months of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. 

The great pink tide that swept away authoritarian regimes brought in the left-leaning leaders that dominated the political and cultural scene in the first two decades covered in this book.  It also fostered a cultural flowering of post-dictatorship work that asked for a clear reckoning with the systemic injustices and violence of that time.  Then, at the hinge of the 21st century, the pendulum seemed to swing back the other way, so that by the second decade of this century we were ushering in a raft of right wing politicians like Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, as well as witnessing the economic collapse of formerly stable nations like Venezuela.

How do we address literary culture in a time of such tremendous polarization and social upheaval? A time when climate change is forcing people from their homelands and the richer countries are enhancing border control to keep them out?  A time when fact-free internet activism prevents dialogue?  A time when global English increasingly structures discussion in unexpected fora?  A time, in short, when it seems like we are more fractured and factional than ever, and all sorts of potential conversations are shut down.

In this book we don’t turn our back on the challenges, but at the same time we highlight artists and writers who help us to think across these difficult transitions.  Their work cannot be limited to the traditional borders handed down by old-school literary history.  They transit borders, write in multiple languages, put themselves in dialogue with scientific and political understandings, use internet platforms as well as traditional print to reach us, their audience. They respond to settler colonial mind frames with the compassionate knowledge that comes from indigenous relationships to land, human, and non human beings.

Our authors are located in institutions in Latin America, North America, and Europe.. We are lucky to have contributions in this volume from internationally recognized fiction writers who are also scholars like Cristina Rivera Garza (McArthur award), Liliana Colanzi (Aura Estrada award), Melissa Castillo-Planas (Juan Felipe Herrera award) as well as cutting-edge critics from different generations who are thinking new aspects and locales of the literary at the crossroads of different media and languages.

The Transitions series as a whole offers a fresh way of thinking about literature and culture from colonial times to the present.  The contributors to all five volumes have taken up this challenge with great verve and originality. This volume, the last in the series, presents a special challenge since it is the closest to us in time, speaking to a moment that is still unfolding. The closure we offer can only be contingent. But in a time when our unloved politicians are negotiating with a polarized constituency, it is the writers and culture producers who provide us with some hope.

Latin American Literature in Transition 1980–2018 by Mónica Szurmuk and Debra A. Castillo
Latin American Literature in Transition 1980–2018 by Mónica Szurmuk and Debra A. Castillo

About The Authors

Debra A. Castillo

Debra A. Castillo is Emerson Hinchliff Professor of Hispanic Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. She specializes in contemporary narrative and pe...

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Mónica Szurmuk

Mónica Szurmuk is Senior Researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina, and a Professor at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín. She has pub...

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