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Journeys of Formation

The Spanish American "Bildungsroman</I>


Yolanda A. Doub

Ideal for students of modern Latin American literature, Journeys of Formation: The Spanish American ‘Bildungsroman’ offers a lucid introduction to the Bildungsroman as a genre before revealing how the journey motif works as both a plot-forming device and as a means of characterization in several of the most canonical Spanish American Bildungsromane. In the process, the author demonstrates the overlooked importance of the travel motif in this genre. Although present in the vast majority of Bildungsromane, if the journey is discussed at all by critics it tends to be in superficial terms. The author contends that no discussion of the Spanish American novel of formation would be complete without an exploration of travel. Yolanda A. Doub articulates the role of travel as a catalyst in the formation process of young male and female protagonists by examining in detail six representative novels from three different countries and time periods – from Argentina: Ricardo Güiraldes’s Don Segundo Sombra (1926) and Roberto Arlt’s El juguete rabioso (1926); from Peru: José María Arguedas’s Los ríos profundos (1958) and Julio Ramón Ribeyro’s Crónica de San Gabriel (1960); and from Mexico: Rosario Castellanos’s Balún Canán (1957) and Elena Poniatowska’s La «Flor de Lis» (1988).


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Chapter Two. Argentina: Apprentices and Bohemians 17


• C H A P T E R T W O • Argentina: Apprentices and Bohemians y the early Twentieth Century, Argentina had become a major cultural and commercial center in Spanish America.1 Increased industry and urbanization, combined with a tidal wave of immigration, made this a dynamic period in which the country found itself experiencing the growing pains of economic modernity (Martin, Sarlo).2 In reference to the uniqueness of the colonial history of Latin America, the social historian Jorge Larrain posits that “the Latin American trajectory to modernity is different from other models, in spite of sharing many features” (24), which bolsters our assertion that the Spanish American incarnation of the Bildungsroman—the “sym- bolic form” of modernity—is also different from its European coun- terparts.3 Moreover, in the literary realm, Gerald Martin describes the 1920s as “the highpoint of Modernism itself,” citing “the acutely contradictory, heterogeneous or plural elements and discourses generated within uneven development” in the region (Martin 361).4 It is in this uncertain socioeconomic environment that Ricardo Güiraldes and Roberto Arlt each managed to create enduring artistic responses to the pervasive sense of social tension that afflicted the nation and its citizens during this time of growth. Güiraldes’s Don Segundo Sombra (1926) and Arlt’s El juguete rabioso (1926) are two novels that, on the surface, could not be more different. Closer examination, however, reveals that they are two sides of the same coin, both a response to the changing times in Argentina in the...

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