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Rain Forest Literatures

Amazonian Texts and Latin American Culture

2004
Author:

Lucia Sá

Rain Forest Literatures

Recaptures native literatures of the Amazonian rain forest

In this unprecedented study, Lúcia Sá approaches indigenous texts as creative works rather than source material. She offers a historical overview of the impact of these texts on mainstream Spanish-American and Brazilian literatures, detailing comparisons with native sources and making close analyses of major instances, such as Mário de Andrade’s classic Macunaima (1928) and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller (1986).

A strong and lucid argument for respect for native texts, both for their cultural intelligence and for their connection with the vital and often tragic issues of land rights and the survival of cultures.

William Rowe, author of Poets of Contemporary Latin America

Native texts of the Amazonian rain forest have been viewed as myth or ethnographic matter—the raw material of literature—rather than as significant works in their own right. But in this unprecedented study, Lúcia Sá approaches indigenous texts as creative works rather than source material.

Disclosing the existence and nature of long-standing, rich, and complex Native American literary and intellectual traditions that have typically been neglected or demeaned by literary criticism, Rain Forest Literatures analyzes four indigenous cultural traditions: the Carib, Tupi-Guarani, Upper Rio Negro, and Western Arawak. In each case, Sá considers principal native texts and, where relevant, their publication history. She offers a historical overview of the impact of these texts on mainstream Spanish-American and Brazilian literatures, detailing comparisons with native sources and making close analyses of major instances, such as Mário de Andrade’s classic Macunaima (1928) and Mario Vargas Llosa’s The Storyteller (1986).

A redrawing of the lineage of Brazilian and Spanish-American literatures, this book advocates an understanding of the relationships between cultures as a process of “transculturation” rather than “acculturation,” emphasizing the often-ignored impact of the peripheral culture on the one that assumes dominance.


Rain Forest Literatures

Lúcia Sá is assistant professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Stanford University.

Rain Forest Literatures

A strong and lucid argument for respect for native texts, both for their cultural intelligence and for their connection with the vital and often tragic issues of land rights and the survival of cultures.

William Rowe, author of Poets of Contemporary Latin America

A fascinating read. Ambitious in scope and exhaustive in detail, this book examines the literature of the Amazonian basin as a zone of cosmogenesis.

John McDowell, Indiana University

This is an outstanding contribution to the unavoidable and unresolved issue of the ‘indigenous’ in Latin America and cultural history that has occupied critics of the stature of Louis Villoro, Angel Rama, Antonio Cornejo Polar, Amaryll Chanady, Jorge Klor de Alva, and Gordon Brotherston. Sá ’s study brings a significant cultural area and a neglected group of texts to this debate. Sá has written a superb book: erudite, sophisticated, and informative.

The Americas

Rain Forest Literatures presents an enticing invitation to ethnographically informed study of literature. It alone could inspire valuable new courses. Sá has done a valuable job, not only in lucidly teaching English readers a rich vein of literature, but also in heralding an important future research venture. She has cut one side of a literary-linguistic-ethnographic wedge that may yet dislodge the ‘esoteric’ stigma clinging to Amerindian verbal achievements.

Ethnohistory

Rain Forest Literatures

Contents

Note on Translations
Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part I. Roraima and the Carib

1. Pacaraima Texts
2. Macunaíma (1928)
3. Penetrating the Dark Interior

Part II. The Great Lowland Territory of the Tupi-Guarani

4. Tupi-Guarani Texts
5. Romanticism and After
6. Maíra (1976)

Part III. Confluence in the Rio Negro

7. The Upper Rio Negro: Jurupari and the Big Snake
8. Snake Norato (1931)
9. The Green Stage

Part IV. The Arawak and the Uppermost Amazon

10. The Machiguenga and Their Heritage
11. The Storyteller (1987)

Epilogue
Notes
Works Cited

Index