In August 2000, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa published in the magazine Letras Libres an article titled "Crazy for Lana Turner," which was his review of Suzanne Jill Levine's biography of the Argentine author Manuel Puig. In this review, the Nobel laureate dedicates the final lines of the text to question the supposed importance that the biographer assigns to Puig's work by articulating her position regarding what kind of literature Manuel Puig, originally from General Villegas, wrote: "A lightweight, easygoing, cheerful literature that renounces any purpose other than to entertain. It disdains, as boastful and foolish, the pretension of those polygraphers who believed that by writing, they could change the world, revolutionize life, overturn values, teach how to feel or how to live." (2000, p. 28) Vargas Llosa believed that the literature written by Puig (a lover of Hollywood glamour, sequined dresses, and feminine frivolities) does not in any way represent revolutionary literature. In this assertion, there is a presupposition (a prejudice in the sense of Gadamer as a preceding evaluation) about what themes should be addressed and what forms should be used to create literature that "overturns the values" of the reader. Vargas Llosa's judgment is not only about what Puig writes but also about how he writes it and the idea of literature that underlies it. In other words, for the acclaimed Peruvian writer, the idea that lightweight literature can simultaneously teach how to feel or live seems to be an oxymoron, and this is precisely the symptom that gives rise to the course proposed here.
The course will explore Latin American literature of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries through a critical reading of literary genres that have been created in the region and their relationship with gender beyond the sexed bodies to which they are ascribed. The texts cover a wide Latin American geography, including works from countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Mexico. To accomplish this, we will read canonical texts (Sarmiento, Avellaneda, Darío, Castellanos, Neruda), as well as lesser-known yet respected texts (Lange, Gorriti, Benedetti, Puig), and texts that have been considered deserving of obscurity despite receiving significant attention at the time of their original publication (Sansores, Allende, Naty Menstrual). This approach, which involves engaging with various types of literary productions, aims to question the assumptions that form the foundation of the literary field and the rationale behind the canonization of certain authors. Furthermore, it aims to familiarize students with aspects of Latin American literature that are not readily accessible or are often overlooked. Thus, the course aims to provide students with a panoramic view of canonical Latin American literary creation while questioning the very way in which this canon has come to be constituted.