Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Romance Languages and Literatures: Latin American and Iberian Literatures (Hispanic Literature)


Spanish (es)

Date of Award

January 2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

J. Andrew Brown


Over the last three decades, Southern Cone societies have been transformed dramatically by the global and local determinations of late capitalism. Consumption mechanisms of interpellation and representation have had a central role in these changes. As many contemporary scholars have pointed out, consumption is not just an economic practice of acquisition and exchange, but also, a powerful mechanism of identity formation, designed to foster the reproduction of capitalist division of labor. In Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay these mechanisms are entangled with an array of official political and historical discourses that erase memory and economical, gender, and race inequalities in order to promote a pacified present. This dissertation attempts to locate the place(s) of contemporary Southern Cone literature and visual arts in relation to these signifying strategies, by analyzing works that represent spaces where consumption as material practice takes place. Accordingly, I argue that the supermarket and the display window are in these works topological signifiers of Latin American consumer societies. The first chapter addresses the historical transformations that produced the consumer societies of the Southern Cone. It addresses in addition the relationship between the artwork and consumer societies by putting into dialogue traditional and contemporary aesthetic philosophy together with Marxist and psychoanalytical theories. Grounded in this framework, I argue that each work establishes its place and efficacy on a distinct socio-cultural constellation by transforming its own specific medium and boundaries. In the second chapter, I analyze the novel Tajos: 1999) by Uruguayan writer Rafael Courtoisie and the photographical sequence Vanitas: 2003) by Chilean visual artist Alejandra Prieto. Prieto's work shows the total commodification of the object, and, at the same time, shows the fissures of a representational system that depicts itself as universal and eternal. In Courtoisie's novel the commodities in the supermarket are poetically "assassinated"; this action, I argue, introduces a surplus in the object/commodity, and mobilizes the traditional aesthetic space represented by the supermarket itself. Chapter Three focuses on the novel La prueba: 1992) by Argentinean writer César Aira. I discuss how the novel confronts consumer interpellation mechanisms by proposing a subject constituted in the departure from the constellation of desire produced by market aesthetics. In Chapter Four, I analyze the novel Mano de obra: 2002) by Chilean writer Diamela Eltit, and two installations: Emergency Home: 2005) by Chilean visual artist Carolina Bellei: 2005) and Objeto Inaccesible: 2003) by Argentinean art collective Grupo Escombros. In Mano de obra, Eltit shows a society that has been transformed into an immense supermarket, devoid of historicity and specificity, and where the community: of workers) has been devoid of any right, even the right to have rights. In Emergency Home, the spectator finds the denunciation of the state of emergency brought up by the inhabitancy in a commodified, dehistorized, world--i.e., a house made of logos--and, in the same movement, the affirmation of the possibility of an emergence of other forms of community. Objeto inaccessible transforms traditional aesthetical distance in a metonymy of the distance between the individual and her radical needs, producing, at the same time, a political affirmation of equality. One theory about the artistic response to consumption proposes that the work of art removes itself from the representational field of the market and attempts accordingly to protect a supposedly safe and autonomous artistic space. I argue that the works I examine in this dissertation adopt a different strategy: they respond by confronting in their own terrain the aesthetical, ethical, and political imperatives of consumption.


Romance Languages and Literature: Hispanic Studies

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