Ericka Beckman Lecture

"Unfinished Transitions:  The Dialectics of Rural Modernization in Latin American Fiction"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Lecture: 5:30PM

Rochambeau House, Music Room

This paper examines the dynamics of rural modernization in a set of Latin American novels produced between the mid-twentieth century and the present.  The rural world has most frequently been understood as representing “tradition” (when viewed nostalgically) or “backwardness” (when not); in both cases, the rural world is viewed as anterior to and outside of bourgeois modernity, understood explicitly as urban and industrial.  And yet, as history shows, rural surpluses have sustained different waves of capital accumulation in the Americas, whether through export plantation agriculture or the production of cheap food for local markets.  Latin American fiction, in turn, has captured the specific dynamic of rural modernization as trapped permanently between a logic of extraction, on the one hand, and abandonment, on the other.

Ericka Beckman is Associate Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Her work has appeared in PMLA, Hispanic Review, The Journal of Latin American Studies, Signs, among other journals.  She is author of Capital Fictions: The Literature of Latin America’s Export Age (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), and is currently working on book entitled “Vanishing Horizons:  Literature and the Disappearance of the Rural in Latin America.”