A Pedagogy of Horror: The Counter-hegemonic Discourse of Latin American Short Narratives (1830-1920)
Rodriguez Tsouroukdissian, Carolina
I examine the political function of short narratives during the period of nation formation in Latin America (1830-1920). I focus on Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba as case studies to show that the genre was a prominent platform for counter-hegemonic discourse. I define counter-hegemonic discourse as a type of discourse that pushed for social change and challenged the ruling classes. In addition to short narratives for adults, I examine short narratives for children as they played a key role in shaping the sociopolitical attitudes of the new generations. Latin American brief narratives from the period privileged the representation of subaltern realities. They condemned racism, slavery, gender asymmetries, and labor exploitation. They also demonized figures of power and questioned the dehumanizing effects of civil war and modernization. I read these texts through an interdisciplinary approach that draws from history, hegemony theory, theories of nation, postcolonial studies, and gender studies. I found that the two main features of the counter-hegemonic discourse were a “pedagogy of horror” and ambiguity. I define the pedagogy of horror as a didactic device aimed at raising awareness about social injustices through the display of traumatizing images of death and violence. At the same time, these narratives were highly ambiguous because authors incorporated conservative elements into the counter-hegemonic discourse, in addition to concealing literary devices such as allegories and inversions. Whether deliberate or not, I suggest that ambiguity made these stories less radical, increasing their chances of influencing an ideologically diverse spectrum of readers. Another finding has to do with the differences between the counter-hegemonic discourse of short narratives for adults and children. While the first took a dystopian approach, the second favored social utopias of subaltern liberation. This dissertation responds to a lack of scholarship exploring the political function of short narratives during the period of nation formation in Latin America. Therefore, it brings a novel perspective that will improve our understanding of the interplays between literature and politics between 1830 and 1920.