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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Cynthia Steele
C LIT 496
Seattle Campus

Special Studies in Comparative Literature

Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty. Content varies.

Class description

THE NEW POLITICAL NOVEL IN LATIN AMERICA Through a close reading of short novels from seven national contexts, we will explore how Latin American fiction has responded to the changing social and political panorama of the past two decades, including recovery from dictatorship, dirty wars and genocide; drug trafficking and social violence; and failed socialism. Moving away from the magical realism and committed politics of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as from the testimonial literature, highly experimental prose, and romance novels of the 1980s, the best recent fiction is written in a neorrealist vein referred to as ‘gritty realism’ or ‘the new cynicism,’ in which narrators are highly unreliable and/or emotionally distanced from the shocking events they narrate, and the borders between fiction, documentary and autobiography are intentionally blurred. Along with Roberto Bolaño, authors will include six equally talented writers from the same generation who have not yet achieved the same degree of celebrity in the English-speaking world. Students will keep a reading journal, co-direct class discussion, make a group presentation, and write a final analytical essay (5-7 pp). C Lit student should read the texts and write their essays in either English or Spanish; Spanish students should do so in Spanish. (If everyone in the class turns out to be fluent in Spanish, we will conduct the class in Spanish. Otherwise we will conduct the class discussions in English.)

Student learning goals

Familiarize students with major figures and trends in recent Latin American narrative

Improve close reading skills of short novels

Improve oral discussion skills of literary texts

Hone skills in writing literary analysis

Learn more about how to undertake library research and how to read and interpret literary criticism

Consider the relations between recent political and social developments in Latin America and the novels that are being written there

General method of instruction

This will be a seminar, based primarily on readings and class discussion.

Recommended preparation

A basic familiarity with the overall contours of Latin American history will be helpful, though not necessary, as will some familiarity with Latin American fiction from earlier periods.

Class assignments and grading

Texts: Fernando Vallejo, Our Lady of the Assassins (Colombia, 1994); César Aira, How I Became a Nun (Argentina, 1995); Roberto Bolaño, Amulet (Chile, 1999), Rodrigo Rey Rosa, The Good Cripple (Guatemala, 2001); Horacio Castellanos Moya, Senselessness (El Salvador, 2006); Daniel Alarcón, Lost City Radio (Peru, 2007); and Achy Obejas, Ruins (Cuba/US, 2009). Films: Our Lady of the Assassins and Manda Bala.

Reading journal 20% Co-direct class discussions 15% Group presentation 15% Introduction to final essay 10% Final analytical essay (5-7 pp) 30% Class participation 10%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Cynthia Steele
Date: 11/03/2009