The Subject In Question: Subjectivity In The Fiction Of José Revueltas, Hilda Hilst, And Clarice Lispector

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Romance Languages
Latin American Literature
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Beaudry, Derek Warren

The dissertation “The Subject in Question: Subjectivity in the fiction of Hilda Hilst, Clarice Lispector, and José Revueltas,” examines the ways in which the works of these three twentieth-century Latin American writers question notions of a unitary individual and collective subject. As critics have noted, the issue of defining a national identity has been a recurring preoccupation in Latin American literature, as well as in Latin Americanist thought. These articulations of national identity posit a centered subject, expressed as an essence or as a plurality that nonetheless shares essential national traits. Furthermore, modern political, juridical, as well as economic institutions assume a human subject that is a conscious, centered ego. Contemporaneous with the development of these institutions, however, is a current in western philosophy in which the figure of this subject comes under scrutiny, especially following the publication of Immanuel Kant’s three Critiques in the late 18th century. I identify the fiction of Hilst, Lispector, and Revueltas as various responses to the Kantian challenge, as they foreground a disjunction between notions of a centered subject and the experience of self that is divided or fissured. The methodological approach to the analysis of these works couples the reading of philosophical thought, which attempts to reckon with the implications of Kant’s critical philosophy, with close readings of the literary texts. This dissertation responds to two currents of thought. First, it engages with the ongoing discussion in humanistic and scientific discourses regarding the status of the subject and subjectivity. Second, it responds to a sense of an impasse in certain areas of the Latin Americanist humanities that call for alternatives to both the neoliberal and national popular models of political and economic organization in Latin America. A subject that is not centered signifies a shift in the way that we conceptualize our understanding of identity, citizenship, ethics, politics, and community. Such a change may contribute to envisioning more just societies in Latin America and beyond.

Román . de la Campa
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