Dispossession, Realism and the History of Neoliberalism in Peru and Colombia (1964-2014)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Spanish and Portuguese Studies
Latin American Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Latin American Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
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Lozano Guzman, Lenin

This dissertation belongs to the fields of Latin American literary studies, Marxist literary criticism, and Andean studies. Throughout the dissertation, I explore profound connections between these fields to study the historical dimension in the Peruvian and Colombian novels of the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, a period marked by rural violence and dispossession that, by abandoning national industrialization, paved the way to neoliberalism in both countries. I argue the idea of “persistence and mutation” to theorize the relation between the realist form and the impact of transitions to and within capitalism in Latin America. Working through four different realist modalities (magical realism, conventional realism, noir, the historical novel), I examine the relationship between aesthetic form, social memory, and the processes of dispossession and exploitation that have transformed Peru and Colombia over the past 60 years. While realist prose has often been unfavorably contrasted with modernism (widely considered an aesthetically superior form of representation), I reveal how a realist impulse drives 20th-century Peruvian and Colombian novels toward an innovative means of evoking violent historical change. I claim that new access to social memory can be achieved by way of realist forms that gesture toward the structural roots of paramilitary violence, dispossession, and ecological devastation. In this regard, the novel is fundamental for the reconstruction of historical memory, through which violence can be read as a key strategy of capitalist accumulation. While realism was persistent in the hegemonic modernism of the sixties through a dialectic with magic, and then classic realism returned in the eighties, the detective and historical novel demonstrated a mutation and a predominance of realism as an evocation of totality in the beginning of the twenty-first century; in all these cases, the raw material of realism is social memory. I conclude by suggesting how mutations of realism may contribute to reinterpretations of Latin American Boom and contemporary novels to apprehend the peripherical conditions of uneven development in international and Global South contexts.

Beckman, Ericka, EB
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