Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Revolution, Dictatorship and Democracy in Latin America: Politics and Literature

ENGL 270.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

While the words Revolution, Dictatorship, and Democracy signify radically different meanings, they exist in close relation to one another in discourse about Latin America.  How does one imagine and articulate this dangerous proximity between the terms Revolution, Dictatorship, and Democracy that has yielded intense social, political, and economic effects for the lives of real peoples: civil war, genocide, recessions, migrations, diasporas, all of which today must be thought in relation to globalization.  Yet out of these situations there also emerges aesthetics, and in this course we will focus on narratives.  In our readings of several prominent novels that re-cast specific historical events in Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Haiti, we will think through the complex allure of these terms, their menacing and contradictory intimacies with one another, which on today’s strange political map, may be more entangled than ever.  We may study the following writers: Carlos Fuentes, Rosario Castellanos, and Roberto Bolaño on Mexico; Miguel Angel Asturias and Rigoberta Menchú on Guatemala; Roque Dalton on El Salvador; Reinaldo Arenas and Ena Lucía Portela on Cuba; Alejo Carpentier and Edwidge Danticat on Haiti.  We will also watch several films – Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también, among others– which show how the discourse of Revolution can come to merge with that of nationalism, development, and neoliberalism, since – as opposed to the terms rebellion or insurrection – they are fundamentally concerned with the measured “progress” of nation-states.  

Final essays may be written in Spanish or English.  

This course counts as a Cultural Diversity in the U. S. requirement in the College.