Book manuscript abstract

Bodies of Evidence: The Grotesque Body and the Reconfiguration of Nation in Mexican Historiographic Metafiction

Latin American historiographic metafiction is presently enjoying prominence as the object of unprecedented market success and renewed critical attention. Much has been made in recent years of historical fiction’s attitude toward questioning, dismantling, and rewriting stale historical narratives. Despite this attention, few have sought to explore the specific techniques authors employ to compose and organize these new narratives. In this work I explore the ways in which the human body is appropriated and deployed as principle among their strategies of narrative and thematic construction in historiographic metafiction written in Mexico between 1987 and 2008: Fernando del Paso’s Noticias del Imperio (1987), Ignacio Solares’s Madero, el otro (1989), Jorge Volpi’s La paz de los sepulcros (2007), and Álvaro Uribe’s Expediente del atentado (2008). The novels through which I explore this trope are linked thematically through their engagement with specific historical moments and figures, and stylistically through their conceptualization of the body as depicted by the Bakhtinian notion of the grotesque.

I propose in this exploration a fundamental shift in the kinds of bodies that appear in narrative, the uses to which those bodies are put, and the ideological work that they perform. Rather than sketching out the foundations of the nation and national identity based on the improbable union of beautiful bodies who stand in as metaphor and metonymy of the nation’s citizenry, historiographic metafiction systematically deconstructs and explodes the expired definitions handed down by its predecessors, opening a space in which to dramatize the weighty social and political questions that haunt the present-day nation. By examining a specific trope at work within the narrative construction of novels that occupy positions of prominence within the genre, I highlight the salience of the grotesque body as a wedge through which to open a space to interrogate the historical record, and becomes a stage on which to inscribe the problematic epistemology that questions the national narratives upon which modern Mexico is founded.

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