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Natural Antagonisms: Violence and the Environment in Contemporary Latin American Narrative

  • Author(s): Lee, Diana Dodson
  • Advisor(s): Williams, Raymond L
  • et al.


Natural Antagonisms: Violence and the Environment in

Contemporary Latin American Narrative


Diana Lynn Dodson Lee

Doctor of Philosophy, Graduate Program in Spanish

University of California, Riverside, August 2015

Dr. Raymond Leslie Williams, Chairperson

This project explores intersections between representations of violence and the environment in contemporary Latin American narrative. I analyze the way in which specific novels represent the wider interconnectedness of a world in which humans commit violence against other humans as well as against non-human actors, and how these complex dimensions of interactions intersect within environments that comprise both the foreground and the background to these violent narratives. In Chapter One I review the literature regarding violence and literature. I also discuss the field of ecocriticism, which studies representations of the environment in literature. In Chapter Two I explore the way in which the urban environment is related to violence in three Mexican novels: Morirás lejos (1967) by José Emilio Pacheco, 2666 (2004) by Roberto Bolaño, and La muerte me da (2007) by Cristina Rivera Garza. I assert that all three works correlate depictions of the urban environment with aggression against humans in order to engage with the topic of violence. I also consider issues of gender and violence in 2666 and La muerte me da. In Chapter Three I analyze two Colombian novels: El ruido de las cosas al caer (2011) by Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Cien años de soledad (1967) by Gabriel García Márquez. In the first section I utilize trauma theory to contend that in Vásquez’s novel, the urban space is diminished in the mind of the narrator due to a violent traumatic event he suffers. I then develop a reading of the novel looking at animal studies, connecting it to Agamben’s theory of biopolitics. I postulate that both animals and humans are vulnerable in the biopolitical state presented in the novel. Finally I connect the same definition of biopolitics to Cien años de soledad and propose that both the characters and the natural environment suffer under the state of exception. In my final analysis chapter I consider Imposible equilibrio (1995) by Mempo Giardinelli, an Argentine novel which consciously explores ecological issues. I incorporate the discipline of posthumanism by positing that the novel challenges traditional subjectivities of animals and denounces the environmental impact of anthropocentric systems of governance.

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