A “Superior Magic”: Literary Politics and the Rise of the Fantastic in Latin American Fiction

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Latin America, fantastic, The; realism, literary politics, 1930–1950, aesthetics, narrative strategies, Book of Fantasy, The; Bioy Casares, Adolfo, Borges, Jorge Luis; Arreola, Juan Jose

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Writers in Latin America have theorised about literature throughout the twentieth century, frequently intervening in the literary debates of the times. What happened to fantastic literature, a major mode of literary expression for Latin American literature, in this context? This essay argues that between 1930 and 1950 two major writers, the Argentine Jorge Luis Borges and the Mexican Juan José Arreola, actively engaged in a promotion of the fantastic, a reading and writing code that deviated from the late-nineteenth or early-twentieth-century realist paradigm. The articulation of this convention entailed not only the practice of fiction but also reflection and dissemination in a variety of forms such as essays, prologues, lectures, etc. I call this under-studied process “literary politics”, referring to interventions in favour of a specific way to approach the literary, which, in turn, determined the place and influence of fantastic literature in Latin American literary historiography.

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Forum for Modern Language Studies, v. 44, no. 4, p. 379-393.