Echoes of the Child in Latin American Literature and Film

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Echoes of the Child in Latin American Literature and Film

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Title: Echoes of the Child in Latin American Literature and Film
Author: Buiting, Lotte Bernarda
Citation: Buiting, Lotte Bernarda. 2015. Echoes of the Child in Latin American Literature and Film. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: This dissertation explores the rhetoric of childhood to comprehend how Latin American literature and film signify childhood. It furthermore analyzes the figure of the child as a rhetorical device in the construction of literary and cinematographic meaning in twentieth and twenty-first century poetry, narrative prose and film. I claim that, contrary to prevailing cultural notions of childhood innocence, the child often constitutes an unsettling presence, signaling textual as well as extradiegetic opacities and tensions.
Echoes of the Child is divided into three chapters that each present a different approach to childhood. Chapter 1 posits the politicization of the child narrator’s voice as both enabling and restricting the articulation of socio-political trauma. Analyzing texts by Nellie Campobello, Rosario Castellanos, Juan Pablo Villalobos and Juan Rulfo, I contend that child narrators create and subvert meaning depending on the position they occupy vis-à-vis the socio-political turmoil they witness.
The second chapter postulates an uneasy alliance between what I call the ‘visual pull’ of the child on screen, and the erotic charge of the image in three Argentine films by Lucrecia Martel, Julia Solomonoff and Federico León / Martín Rejtman. I probe the relationship between the child’s strong screen presence and the forms in which the cinematographic image offers the child ways of transforming sexuality into sensuality; resisting heteronormative sexuality; and of eluding the spell of the adult’s libidinal gaze. Performing when she is merely present, I argue that the child bestows a performative dimension on her acting and her very presence.
The third and final chapter posits infancy as an impossible experience in poetry from the historical avant-garde by Oliverio Girondo, César Vallejo and Vicente Huidobro. I contend that reading the poetry guided by the infant reveals two sides of ‘experience;’ the poetic expression of the infant’s experience of the world, a question I broach through psychoanalysis, and the poet’s attempts at articulating transcendental experience in language.
My analyses reveal how the rhetoric of childhood bears on issues and dynamics in the socio-political realm; it thus contributes to our understanding of processes of signification within Latin American culture.
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