Books

The Borderlands of Culture: Américo Paredes and the Transnational Imaginary

Poet, novelist, journalist, and ethnographer, Américo Paredes (1915-1999) was a pioneering figure in Mexican-American border studies and a founder of Chicano studies. Paredes taught literature and anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin for decades, and his ethnographic and literary critical work laid the groundwork for subsequent scholarship on the folktales, legends, and riddles of the Mexican American people. In this beautifully written literary history, the distinguished scholar Ramón Saldívar establishes Paredes' preeminent place in writing the contested cultural history of the American southwestern borderlands. At the same time, Saldívar reveals Paredes as a precursor to the "new" American cultural studies by showing how he perceptively negotiated the contradictions between the national and transnational forces at work in the Americas in the nascent era of globalization.

Saldívar demonstrates how Paredes' poetry, prose, and journalism prefigured his later work as a folklorist and ethnographer. In song, story, and poetry, Paredes first developed the themes and issues of the "border studies" or "anthropology of the borderlands" for which his later work would be celebrated. Saldívar describes how Paredes' experiences as an American soldier, journalist, and humanitarian aid worker in Asia shaped his understanding of the relations between Anglos and Mexicans in the borderlands of the American southwest and of national and ethnic identities more broadly. Saldívar was a friend of Paredes, and part of The Borderlands of Culture is told in Paredes' own words. By explaining how Paredes' work engaged with issues central to contemporary scholarship, Saldívar extends Paredes' intellectual project and shows how it contributes to the remapping of the field of American studies from a transnational perspective.

Chicano Narrative; The Dialectics of Difference

In struggling for the retention of cultural integrity and unity, the Mexican American communities of the American Southwest in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries produced a significant body of literary texts. Chicano Narrative is an examination of representative aspects of Mexican American narrative forms - including the novel, short story, narrative verse, and autobiography - that have largely been excluded from the canon of American literature.

No longer a regional literature, Chicano narrative is more than a simple mirror of the life and folklore of a heretofore invisible segment of American society. It is a part of American literature and merits expanded and continued exploration.

Figural Language in the Novel: The Flowers of Speech from Cervantes to Joyce

This work draws an analogy between the problem of all authors of prose fiction and that of Ishmael, the narrator of Moby-Dick, who despairs of putting the circumstances of the hunt - "so mystical and well nigh ineffable" - in comprehensible form. Ramón Saldívar contends that a narrator's initial task is to formulate a grammar and a syntax for the communication of the mystical, as well as the "everyday," experience. Tracing this central undertaking in close readings from Cervantes, Stendhal, Melville, Hardy, and Joyce, he shows how modern narratives create an epistemological ground for coherent versions of the world.

Novels affirm the power of fiction to portray the horizons of knowledge and to dramatize the ways that the truths of human existence are created and preserved. Saldívar shows that deconstructive readings of novels remind us that we do not apprehend the world directly but through interpretive codes.