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

Elzbieta Sklodowska


La vanguardia y sus retornos: confabulaciones del presente en cuatro escritores latinoamericanos [The Avant-garde and its Returns: Confabulating the Present in Four Latin American Writers] When reading contemporary Latin American writers from different countries and distinct cultural backgrounds, the relevance of the avant-garde in their work becomes apparent. By placing close readings of texts by César Aira, Mario Bellatin, Roberto Bolaño, and Diamela Eltit, in dialogue with theoretical and philosophical works by Bergson, Nietzsche, Spinoza, and Deleuze, I argue that it is possible to recognize an unexpected and engaging return to the avant-garde in a present which has been commonly portrayed as post-historical, post-ideological, and post-modern. I contend that each of the writers in my corpus returns to the avant-garde in his/her fiction in a renewed and collaborative manner--bringing to the fore the conspiratorial or, as I called it, the confabulating dimension of these movements. This return not only opens up the possibilities for literature in the present, but also sheds new light both on recent past and the historical avant-gardes. In the first chapter I read the return to the avant-garde as a savage confabulation in Bolaño's Los detectives salvajes [The Savage Detectives]. Bolaño fictionalizes the temporal encounter between a marginal event from the past: a disappearing and unknown Mexican avant-garde movement from the twenties) and a particular present: the seventies, a critical decade both in the realm of politics and art). I sustain that is the return of the past embodied by Mexican poet Cesárea Tinajero in the present of the new real visceralistas poets what shows the always-already pending character of the avant-garde project. In Chapter Two, I focus on the affective dimension of confabulation in several of Eltit's collaborative artistic practices. In neo-avant-garde movement CADA [Action Art Collective]'s "No +", the collaborative creation is actualized in the encounter between artists and spectators. This encounter transforms the spectators from accomplices into confabulators and co-creators. In El infarto del alma, Eltit and photographer Paz Errázuriz create a zone of proximity--constituted by love letters, poems, journals, and portrait pictures--which allows them to experience other kinds of love, other affections. In Jamás el fuego nunca, Eltit stages the formation of a militant cell, which literally embodies the confusion of love and politics. Chapter Three revolves around the conception of the avant-garde and confabulation as pure potentiality in Aira's short novels Varamo, Parménides and La vida nueva. In these novels Aira reflects upon the: im)possibility of "becoming": devenir) a writer. What is important to these novels is not that writers write: or do not write), that they get to publish what they write: or do not publish), but the potentiality inherent to the act of writing. Finally, the fourth chapter presents a deceptive confabulation in El Gran Vidrio by Peruvian-Mexican writer Mario Bellatin. El Gran Vidrio renders apparent the precariousness of the divide between life and work, reality and fiction, the autobiographical and the novelesque through an open dialogue with the incomplete work by Duchamp, Le Grand Verre. Bellatin fictionalizes Duchamp's creation of distance from the reader by lying, confounding, and deceiving; all these actions shock the reader and frustrate his/her expectations. I conclude that this return to the avant-garde is renewed and collaborative not because it signals a break with the conventional portrayal of the avant-gardes as historical movements which failed in their utopia of integrating art and life and in the rupture with the past--even though this is also important to my argument--but rather because it actualizes the avant-garde's and neo-avant-garde's immanent desire for creation as a collaborative and conspiratorial--i.e., confabulating--force removed from any transcendent goal and continuous with realities of both past and present. When understood as a confabulation, this return to the avant-garde--removed, for the first time, from a utopian project--not only opens up creative alliances between the present and the past, between writers and readers, but also sheds light to the potentialities of recent Latin American fiction.


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