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Against Literature

1993
Author:

John Beverley

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Is there a way of thinking about literature that is “outside” or “against” literature? In Against Literature, John Beverly brilliantly responds to this question, arguing for a negation of the literary that would allow nonliterary forms of cultural practice to displace literature’s hegemony.

Is there a way of thinking about literature that is “outside” or “against” literature? In Against Literature, John Beverly brilliantly responds to this question, arguing for a negation of the literary that would allow nonliterary forms of cultural practice to displace literature’s hegemony.

Gives a new and vitally reconstructed-indeed profoundly political-urgency to the once formulated ideals of solidarity, commitment and engagement. From the thematics of Gongorism, to Sandinist poetics, testimonio, and the politics of postmodernism in Latin America, Beverley's readings testify to the persistent possiblities for an activist critique of ‘literature’-and a still consequential academic imperative of ‘taking sides.’

Barbara Harlow, University of Texas

Is there a way of thinking about literature that is “outside” or “against” literature? In Against Literature, John Beverly brilliantly responds to this question, arguing for a negation of the literary that would allow nonliterary forms of cultural practice to displace literature’s hegemony.

Reminding us that most contemporary theorist speak today of literature with historically and socially specific conditions of production and reading formations, Beverley begins with a provocative exploration of Latin American literature, which he says the legacy of Columbus (discovery, conquest, and colonization) has endowed with an ambiguous cultural function, making it both a colonial institution and a historical agent of nation formation. He moves from this consideration to an extensive discussion of the postcolonial testimonio, poised between literature and the dynamics of subaltern culture. Beverley’s demonstration of how the internal logic that has always driven the dominant conception f literature must of necessity explode int cultural politics is a significant intervention into current debates about cultural studies, the canon, and multiculturalism.


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John Beverley is professor of Hispanic languages and literatures and cultural studies at the University of Pittsburgh, and has published extensively on the problems of narrative, history, ideology, subalternity, politics, imperialism, and revolution.

Book Default Image

Gives a new and vitally reconstructed-indeed profoundly political-urgency to the once formulated ideals of solidarity, commitment and engagement. From the thematics of Gongorism, to Sandinist poetics, testimonio, and the politics of postmodernism in Latin America, Beverley's readings testify to the persistent possiblities for an activist critique of ‘literature’-and a still consequential academic imperative of ‘taking sides.’

Barbara Harlow, University of Texas

Will make a very significant impact in the current debate on cultural studies, the canon, multiculturalism and the rest. This is so because Beverley incorporates the Spanish language and Hispanic tradition, which is always so underrepresented in the high theoretical debates of the time, and these materials inevitably bring with them a very healthy displacement and estrangement of the way the debate is formed.

Fredric Jameson, Duke University

John Beverley’s always intelligent and challenging inquiry into cultural phenomena appears once again in Against Literature. Throughout his book Beverley questions, with lucidity and intelligence the formation, evolution, means and ends of literature as a historically and ideologically grounded institution. As any other institution, literature never is-cannot be-innocent or naive. Only its readers may have that option. If this is the case, then literature should be decentered, via a ‘radically historicized’ concept of the institution, to end up being perceived as another discourse among many others, embodying particular projects and agendas. This discourse needs to be revisited and revised, if it is to serve in the formation of a new social order, rather than in its elimination or repression. Some steps toward this decentering and revision of the institution have been taken by Beverley in his excellent book.

Gustavo Fares, Lynchburg College