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Cooptation, Complicity, and Representation

Desire and Limits for Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Mexican Fiction


Shigeko Mato

Is the affiliation between intellectuals and hegemony unbreakable? When intellectuals attempt to retell history from its bottom side, or when writers try to represent the so-called marginalized subject, are they not simply reinforcing the perspective and agenda of society’s hegemonic currents? Cooptation, Complicity, and Representation engages in a discussion of the problem of this potentially unbreakable affiliation between intellectuals and hegemony. Through five twentieth-century Mexican literary works: Pedro Páramo (1955, Juan Rulfo); Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969, Elena Poniatowska); three short stories from Ciudad Real (1960, Rosario Castellanos); Llanto: Novelas imposibles (1992, Carmen Boullosa); and Muertos incómodos (falta lo que falta) (2005, Subcomandate Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo II), this book attempts to examine the contradictory phenomenon that emerges when intellectuals’ desire to represent a marginalized subject or history clashes with their own limited ability to fully know the marginalized. No critics have compiled these five seemingly unrelated Mexican texts in order to scrutinize such a contradictory tendency. Cooptation, Complicity, and Representation provides an innovative way to connect the five texts by delineating, within specific Mexican historical and geopolitical contexts, how and why intellectuals have difficulty moving away from the reproduction of «otherness», when they attempt to represent a marginalized subject or history. This book can be useful for those who are interested in the Spanish American boom literature, twentieth-century Mexican literature, women writing, testimonial writing, subaltern studies, postcolonial studies, historical novels, and cultural studies.


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Chapter 2. Wanting to Philosophize the Marginal:


Chapter 2 Wanting to Philosophize the Marginal: On Hasta no verte Jesús mío Elena Poniatowska’s Hasta no verte Jesús mío (1969), since its publication, has stimulated discussions and debates on the ethical issue with regard to the representation of the subaltern voice in a testimonial narrative space. This testimonial novel was published in 1969 as a result of a series of interviews that Poniatowska conducted with an underprivileged Mexican woman, Josefina Bórquez, who was to become the fictional first person narrator-protagonist Jesusa Palancares in the novel (Jörgensen 54–55; López 21; Steele 155). Many critics recently have questioned the representability of a subaltern individual in the mediated discourse of a testimonial novel, by drawing attention to the narrative tension between reality and fiction and the power relations between a privileged author who transcribes and publishes and a marginalized informant who tells her life story without obtaining authorship.1 The theme of representability of the underprivileged by the elite has been revisited in Doris Sommer’s article “Host Pursuit and Cold Rewards of Mexicanness.” As the title of her article suggests, Sommer asserts that it is the middle-class critics and readers who irresistibly pursue a way to understand Jesusa, either as a bearer of Octavio Paz’s “Mexican mask,”2 or the voice of a working woman who, sharing her life story of hardships, Wanting to Philosophize the Marginal 40 gives privileged intellectuals a sense of solidarity (140–43).3 However, according to Sommer, the “hot pursuit...

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