Forms of Unevenness: Latin America and the Novel in ‘New World Time’

Comparative Literature Luncheon Series
Apr 04, 2016
12:15 PM to 01:30 PM

Emilio Sauri, University of Massachusetts, Boston

This talk attempts to understand what “the contemporary” has meant to the novel, and in turn should mean, for comparative studies of the novel. Sauri takes the contemporary Latin American novel as a test case, and argue for reading it in relation recent transformations in the political configuration of the world-system. What happens to the novel, when the conditions of possibility for social and economic modernization within the formerly developing world have been radically altered—if not altogether eliminated—by a deepening crisis in the world economic system? This is an historical shift, which, beginning in the 1970s, would eventually give rise to what the Brazilian philosopher Paulo Arantes describes as “o novo tempo do mundo,” or “new world time,” in which “the very modern notion of progress—and the temporality of history that made it thinkable” is neutralized. Sauri holds that in reading recent works by authors like César Aira, Pola Oloixarac, Nicolás Cabral, and Roberto Bolaño, we can see that how this “novo tempo do mundo” has altered the Latin American novel’s sense of the present to reflect something like a development without developmentalism on the level of narrative. Viewed from this perspective, the question of the contemporary not only calls for a modification of comparative approaches to the study of the novel—as exemplified by Casanova, as well as critics like Fredric Jameson, Roberto Schwarz, and Franco Moretti—but also raises new questions about the political horizon of literature today.

Emilio Sauri is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature and visual art from the U.S. and Latin America, and reads these in relation to the development of the world-system.

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