Latin American Literature: New Thoughts and Perspectives Outside of the Literary Canon

Much like the recent exposure and explosion of interest in Asian-American literature, Latin-American literature has also grown exponentially through the nineteen, twentieth, and twenty-first century. We can see many new ethnic faces in the writing industry writing new material into the traditional literary canon. Reading the works of these new writers has truly reinvigorated the literary world. They have introduced and incorporated the new and the modern in to their literary works and by doing so, rebel against what has traditionally been labeled as the literary canon standards. Many Latin-American writers have incorporated the taboo and have written against the grain. Literature is no longer subjected or imported solely from Europe or the United States, people from all over the world have begun to find a voice through literature and have sparked a worldwide flurry of writing. Earl Fitz from Vanderbilt University states in his Internationalizing the Literature of the Portugese-Speaking World:

As we “slip slide” (as Paul Simon might say) into the early years of the twenty-first century, it is becoming increasingly clear that the literature of the Portuguese- speaking world finds itself presented with an unparalleled opportunity. While perhaps not apparent to the casual observer of world literature, however, Lusophone literature, too, faces an issue of “globalization,” one that has some interesting if unexpected parallels with the ways this same issue relates to the literature of the English-speaking world. Although for English departments, this phenomenon that we like to term “globalization” has been both traumatic and exhilarating (traumatic because, for the first time ever, much of the most interesting and engaging English-language literature currently being written is not coming from either England or the United States but from the “margins” of the old English-speaking empire-Canada [Michael Ondaatje, Alice Munro]; South Africa [Nadine Gordimer]; Australia [Patrick White]; India [Salman Rushdie]; or Trinidad [V. S. Naipaul], to cite a few well-known cases-and exhilarating because these “new” writers are using fresh, alternative perspectives to challenge the primacy of the old, established canons and modes of thought), for Portuguese programs it offers a tremendous opportunity, an opportunity to show the rest of the world the excellence, originality, and vitality of literature written in the supple, melodious, and (like English) synthesizing Portuguese language.

Fitz’s observation offers two perspective points. One of which is literature no longer stems from or is mass-produced from the English nor the Americans, rather they have come from various sources all over the world most prominently Latin America. The second of which states that globalization has graced the literary world of Latin American literature. We can see this through the history of Latin-American literature. Don Quixote for example was revolutionary in its time for its very literary nature. It fought against the traditional sense of literature as we converse across the literary pages with Sancho and Don Quixote themselves with the understanding that there is life outside and within the pages of the text itself; the characters are woven and are directly displaced and interconnected with the author. They are of the same cloth yet of varying natures so to speak. Cobra by Severo Sarduy incorporates the taboo nature of modern society and brings it forth in writing. The various sides of humanity come to light in his writing as we see life and perspective through the eyes of the transgendered and mystical believers in Cobra. Atomik Aztex by Sesshu Foster also challenges against social norms as the very notion outside of the traditional sense of history conveys quite a different perspective through the eyes of a modern day Aztex warrior/Farm John meatpacker and unionizer. Many of these Latin-American works are quickly coming in to light and becoming part of the literary norm; the traditional literary canon is no longer the standard of writing but of a different perspective of writing.

Globalization has begun upon the Latin American literary world. We as an audience have become accustomed to the literary canon which has been globalized and mass produced for a literary uniformity to have settled world wide. However we have been offered new and alternative perspectives and interpretations of literature through the Latin American writers. We are no longer subjected to the wills of Shakespeare, Dickens, Hughs, or Poe but rather doors have been opened to allow writers such as Sarduy, Foster, and Cervantes to exist and flourish. We have gained an insight and a different outlook varying from the traditional canon and this has to due in part by the globalization of Latin American Literature. Fitz has stated as such.

From a comparatist and Latin Americanist perspective, it is interesting to observe the impact this “globalization” is having on English departments because, of course, something very similar happened with respect to Spanish and Portuguese departments back in the early 1960s when the hegemony of the old Spanish and Portuguese literary canons gave way to the newly emergent masters of Spanish America (Borges, Cortazar, Rulfo, Donoso, Fuentes, Paz, and Neruda, for example) and Brazil (Amado, Rosa, Lispector, and Machado de Assis). Then as now the young writers from the old colonies were finding not only their voices but also voices that reinvigorated and reengergized the language and vision of their European forebears. With this subsequent establishment of Latin American literature as a viable area of academic specialization in the late 1960s, the “empire” had already begun to ‘write back” (to paraphrase the title of the well known Ashcroft, Griffths, and Tiffin book and its importance to the emergence of postcolonial literature and literary theory in the English-speaking world of the 1980s and 1990s). The result was that beginning in the 1960s and running at least to the end of the century, Brazil and Spanish America – long regarded as occupying the fringes of the old empire – suddenly and dramatically emerged as the centers of the Spanish and Portuguese literary world, a process aided and abetted in no small way by the repressive dictatorships still in operation at the time in both Spain and Portugal.

We have gained a new voice in literature as writers all over the world break free from the traditional sense of literature. We are no longer bound by the literary canon but rather we have had our eyes opened. There are many written works which can be encompassed or introduced in to the canon; it is no longer a standard in which to follow but a never-ending, constantly expanding list of literary works from all across the world. We can see the effects as such as Don Quixote, Cobra, and Atomik Aztex have begun or have already been a part of mass production. Their literary message provided by Cervantes, Sarduy, and Foster respectively can effectively be distributed globally. Their literary message and alternative perspective have become a part of the mainstream; Latin American literature has been fixed upon by the public eye and its rapid expansion and wealth has been deemed worthy of literary succession. The Latin American literary world has become an ever-growing and ever consuming empire; in the Atomik Aztek sense, it sets to reconquer the literary world by storm and blitzkrieg with blood, martyrs, and human sacrifices.

Internationalizing the Literature of the Portuguese-Speaking World
Earl Fitz
Hispania , Vol. 85, No. 3, Special Portuguese Issue (Sep., 2002), pp. 439-448
Published by: American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese
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One Response to “Response Five”

  1.   salvarez said:

    Justin, sounds like an interesting article. Really it’s within the bounds of Education studies, or even depatmental studies, but it offers a take on the structures of world canons, and what I think this does for teachers in terms of adding a world element to English language courses. That’s more or less exactly what this class is based on by the way.

    With regards to this, it also suggests that unless writers publish their works in English, they won’t be world best sellers. Your classmates Rehana and Rita also touch upon some of these subjects in their response 5 essays. There are no Brazilian writers in the course this semester, but you can open up some of these discussions to Latin American literature on a whole within a world literary canon. There are a few names of example authors listed in the article quotes as well. Borges, Fuentes, and Cortazar are two iconical figures for literary experimentation in the world canon.

    For some revisions, first off, fix the MLA in your works ticed. I took off points for this. I’m not sure what form this is, certainly not MLA nor APA, nor Chicago.

    You didn’t have to include anything about the novels, but you did anyway. Since you gave two extended quotes from the article, I didn’t deduct any points for that.

    No hyphen in Latin American. Mexican-American there could be. Domincan-American, there could be. But Latin American doesn’t get it.

    Over 10 “to be” verbs, stopped counting at 10. Points off for that.

    3.8 out of 5 points.

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