Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Inconceivable Saviors: Indigeneity and Childhood in U.S. and Andean Literature
by Metz-Cherne, Emily, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2013, 250; 3573262
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the question of indigenous development and its literary representation through an investigation of depictions of growth in novels from the United States and Peru where boys mature, perhaps, into men. I find that texts with adolescent characters intimately connected to indigenous communities challenge western concepts of maturity and development as presented in the traditional Bildungsroman. Specifically, I read José María Arguedas’s Los ríos profundo s (1958) and Sherman Alexie’s Flight (2007) as parodies of the genre that call into question the allegory of a western civilizing mission with its lineal trajectory of growth in which the indigenous is relegated to an uncivilized time before modernity. I describe the protagonists of these novels as inconceivable saviors; inconceivable in that the West cannot imagine them, as indigenous, to be the saviors of the nation (i.e., its protectors and reproducers). They are border-thinkers who live in-between epistemological spaces and the stories of their lives serve as kinds of border- Bildungsromane, narratives of growth that arise in the blurred time/space of a border culture, or Bil(dung)sroman, stories of the abject or expelled. Arguedas’s and Alexie’s narratives confront the issue of race, a problem that allegories of the consolidation and development of the nation (e.g., Bildungsroman and foundational fictions) evade through magical means by turning the form into a fetish and presenting fetishized fetal origins that offer reassurances of legitimacy for the western narrative of modernity and the nation-state. That is, the traditional form acts like a talisman that magically disappears the fragmentation of coloniality by providing a history to hold on to, creating an origin that does not really exist. Instead of conforming to the model of the genre or rejecting it, Arguedas’s and Alexie’s texts yield to the power of the original form, appearing to tell the familiar story while carrying a subversive message. Their power derives from the uncertainty inherent in this mimesis. In this way, these novels encourage readers to question the maturation process as conceived and represented in the west and in western literature and to consider alternative paths and formations of self.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lamana, Gonzalo
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 74/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Comparative literature, Latin American literature, American literature
Keywords: Alexie, Sherman, Arguedas, Jose Maria, Bildungsroman, Fetish, Foundational fiction, Indigenous, Parody, Peru, Rios profundos, United States
Publication Number: 3573262
ISBN: 9781303430435
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