Exploring the fantastic in Spanish American literature as an expression of subversiveness that threatening to undermine the culture
Unraveling the Real
The Fantastic in Spanish-American 'Ficciones'
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A title in the American Literatures Initiative.
In literary and cinematic fictions, the fantastic blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. Lacking a consensus on definition, critics often describe the fantastic as supernatural, or similar to, but quite different from fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism.
In Unraveling the Real, Cynthia Duncan provides a new theoretical framework for discussing how the fantastic explores both metaphysical and socially relevant themes in Spanish American fictions. Duncan deftly shows how authors and artists have used this literary genre to convey marginalized voices as well as critique colonialism, racism, sexism, and classism. Selecting examples from the works of such noted writers as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Carlos Fuentes, among others, she shows how capacious the concept is, and why it eludes standard definition.
Challenging the notion that the fantastic is escapist in nature, Unraveling the Real shows how the fantastic has been politically engaged throughout the twentieth century, often questioning what is real or unreal. Presenting a mirror image of reality, the fantastic does not promote a utopian parallel universe but rather challenges the way we think about the world around us and the cultural legacy of colonialism.
"The clarity of the definitions, the overview of the historic development, and the critical apparatus stated without undue recourse to theoretical jargon make Unraveling the Real a useful study for anyone interested in Latin American fantastic fiction. Duncan’s analysis of Carlos Fuentes's recent collection of short stories confirms her point that the genre is alive and well and living in Latin America, and indicates the ways in which this genre could move in the future. The close textual analyses of works both familiar and not are beautifully done and offer fine models for students to emulate."
"This is a splendid resource for scholars of Spanish American literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"Unraveling the Real offers a welcome update to the existing criticism on the genre and some useful speculation as to its future.... [T]he literature covered is substantial, and all major critical perspectives are well represented. This is a highly readable and useful book for students, scholars, and others interested in the fantastic literature of Latin America."
Cynthia Duncan is Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at University of Washington, Tacoma.