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Where are the borders? (re)imagining the nation in contemporary Ecuadorian literature

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This research revisits the 'eroded space of the nation' in Latin America to tackle one central question: how is Ecuador being (re)imagined in contemporary literature? To offer an answer I first re-examine Jorge Icaza's Huasipungo (1930), Ecuador's national novel, to delineate how it established an enduring normative vision regarding what the nation is and what it must be. Then, I revise how the national model Icaza helped to create collapsed by the end of the twentieth century through the effects of the Feriado Bancario, an economic crisis that, in bankrupting the national economy, also tore down the old notion of hard national boundaries and paved the way to a new type of understanding about the nation.

My project is the first to propose an understanding of the Feriado Bancario and its consequences through literature. By reading Eliécer Cárdenas' novel El oscuro final del Porvenir (2000), I argue that fiction engages with and helps us to make sense of the national reality that emerged after the economic collapse. I expand this point through the analysis of three Ecuadorian novels published after the crisis: Leonardo Valencia's Kazbek (2008), Carlos Arcos' Memorias de Andrés Chiliquinga (2013), and Gabriela Alemán's Humo (2017). My reading of these works suggests that contemporary Ecuadorian literature responds to the crisis by reflecting on the impacts of transnationality on the everyday life of all Ecuadorians as well as on their imagining of the national community they form part of. As such, I argue that contemporary Ecuadorian literature reimagines Ecuador as a transnational space.

Finally, I put forward that, in aiding us to see Ecuador transnationally, contemporary Ecuadorian literature also engages with a broader discussion regarding the exhaustion of single-nation frameworks for understanding and reading literature. I place this discussion not only in the Latin American context but also in the 'global' domain of World Literature, a field of enquiry that is enriched by knowledge of the Ecuadorian case. My analysis suggests that contemporary Ecuadorian literature broadens our consciousness of the world as a whole. However, it does so from a minoritarian position, from where it is capable of revealing alternative paths to consider the globality of Latin American novels as well as their challenges and contributions to the study of World Literature.
Original languageEnglish
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Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2020

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