Writing and ethics in the Southern Cone : literature between the singular and the specific

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2012-05

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Abstract

My dissertation, Writing and Ethics in The Southern Cone: Literature between the Singular and The Specific, reads a series of examples from the last dictatorship and the current post-dictatorship period in the Southern Cone--novels and essays from Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay (including works by Augusto Roa Bastos, Roberto Bolaño and Horacio Verbitsky), and a critical debate between artists and intellectuals in Chile (Nelly Richard and Willy Thayer). My goal is to expose their ways of conceiving how communities and individuals are structured by language that organizes subjects according to logics of belonging and rejection according to political values and practices. I take as my point of departure the work of philosopher Peter Hallward on individuation and the formation of groups and communities, from his book Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing Between the Singular and the Specific (2002). I read my textual examples through the terms developed by Hallward, the Singular, the Specified, and the Specific.
The Singular describes a way of imagining community identity as a self-creating and self-reinforcing unity where the only members are those who are innate to the singular concept that self-defines it. The Specified refers to a method by which subjects individuated themselves over and against a particular cause or people and thus define themselves by means of this difference. Lastly, the Specific describes a community that is radically indifferent to difference, arguing instead for a form of membership where any subject belongs. My dissertation shows how these three concepts are present in the historical and cultural ideas used by a contemporary generation of thinkers and artists to define the effects of the cultures of dictatorship and post-dictatorship in the Southern Cone. Understanding these concepts helps to elucidate how the cultural discourses during this period were structured and executed in relation to communitarian formation. In short, by reading my Southern Cone case studies through the optic of logics of individuation, I am able to produce a new way of seeing how the region’s intellectuals read the intersections of history, culture, politics, and community in the wake of Latin American dictatorships.

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