Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America discovers an intimate, mutually constructive relationship between modern heterosexuality and patriotism. Freely chosen and productive passionate alliances seemed "natural" to defenders of laissez-faire, and were the basis for legitimating national independence where those alliances could prosper. And, conversely, the fate of the nation was so sublime a goal that it seemed the natural goad to making passionate alliances. In one country after another, including Brazil with its very peculiar history, the generation between and produced national novels that are still required reading in their respective countries. They are part of a civic education, where teenagers learn that passion and patriotism go together, that decent citizens make alliances across class, race, and regional lines in productive rebellion against colonial and corporatist practices. The book speculates generally on the mutual construction of marital love a modern literary invention, to follow Foucault and collective dreams of national community to follow Anderson.
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After the wars of Latin American independence that took place during the early s, Sommer argues, the Creole class needed to legitimize its authority by wooing and domesticating civil society. According to Sommer, the romance genre also served as an effective way for the Creole bourgeois class to look forward to an idealized future of resolved conflicts rather than toward a past wherein they were not in power. Likewise, unsuccessful or tragic versions of these romances point toward the problems that need to be solved in order to attain an ideal future.
By allegorizing issues of national import into erotic romances, national romances effectively dissolve the boundaries between public and private spheres.
While Sommer does not spend too much time belaboring points of difference between European and Latin American romances, some general differences and similarities stand to be mentioned.
Furthermore, Sommer claims that Latin American romances cross class, gender, and racial stereotypes in ways that are unheard of in European romance—most notably with issues of miscegenation. Foundational Fictions is a highly ambitious examination of Latin American national romances. Perhaps analyses of such texts could help us better understand many repressed national imaginings. Doris Sommer. University of California Press, Reviewed by Ty Alyea.
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Foundational Fictions : The National Romances of Latin America
Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America
Access options available:. Sommer's approach to nineteenth-century Latin American literature has been widely received and generally well accepted. Rather than discount Sommer's enormous contribution to the study of nineteenth-century Latin American literature as over determined, we can take this opportunity to further examine the concepts of foundational fiction and mestizaje with respect to representations of Jewishness in Latin American literature. I would like to begin by briefly reviewing Doris Sommer's approach to the Latin American literary works that she calls "foundational fictions.