Laureano Corces (Fairleigh Dickinson)
“Baroque Spectacle in La última plena que bailó Luberza by Manuel Ramos Otero and Expressionist Rambling in Eva Perón by Copi”
This presentation was given as part of the "Beyond Narrative" conference on October 11, 2019.
Abstract: A rupture with traditional narrative forms is evidenced in many twentieth-century Latin American texts. In some cases, the experimentation with new ways of telling the story is linked to a dissatisfaction with canonical historical narratives and an attempt to return to a source and to use those origins as a point of departure. This quest shapes the writing, for example, of Alejo Carpentier and Carlos Fuentes, among others. In other cases, e.g. Jorge Luis Borges, the narration takes on a circular path, or reverberates in an intertextual labyrinth, often departing from specific Latin American realities to sketch out a textual landscape that transcends spatial and temporal limits. Similarly, but perhaps with a more playful intention, other authors, Julio Cortázar comes to mind, invite the reader on a hopscotch journey where the importance of the plot (histoire) is eclipsed by the originality and innovation of the story (discours).
Moving beyond the now well-known, and often-studied, texts mentioned above, I would like to explore how narrative, and non-narrative, practices coalesce in the works of two Latin American authors whose works have not yet received the attention they deserve. In La última plena que bailó Luberza by Manuel Ramos Otero, I will study how neo-baroque discourse serves to revivify Luberza Oppenheimer, the madam of one of Puerto Rico’s most famous brothels located in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Here, Ramos Otero reengages with the spectacle of the baroque to elicit a sense of wonder from the reader. Highly theatrical discourse outlines the details of Luberza’s clothing and sketches out her gestures as she attempts to purchase a spot in heaven during the last hours of her life. In this short story, the ontological understanding of the link between the body and the soul, characteristic of the baroque, looms large in prose where highly ornamental motifs, i.e. spectacle in prose, go hand in hand with specific aspects of linear storytelling.
At the same time, I wish to explore Eva Perón by Copi, the pen name of Raúl Natalio Roque Damonte. In this play, dramatic narrative is subverted at the levels of plot and character development. The result is a grotesque version of the historical figure. Eva’s day to day is depicted in sharp contrast to the “official story”. Here, the Argentine leader is unmasked, and undressed, and represented through expressionistic aesthetics. Hardly any new information about Eva Peron emerges from the dialogue, something that also holds true in Ramos Otero’s narrative regarding Ms. Oppenheimer, as Copi steers clear of a historiographic discourse and strives for an affective response from the reader/spectator. How the dialogue positions itself regarding narrative techniques that are juxtaposed to language and images that horrify the audience is at the heart of Copi’s representation Eva Perón.
In both instances, some of the questions that will be explored are: What relationship exists between liminal narratology and marginality/centrality? How and to what degree does narration coexist with spectacle/expressionist display? How are narrative decisions shaped by historical/biographical concerns? Are the aesthetics of representation enhanced by narrative choices? How does trans/gender performance problematize ways of telling a story?