Re-fictionalizing the Argentine Dream: Poverty and the Return to Literature in <em>La virgen cabeza</em>

  • Stephen Buttes Indiana University/Purdue University--Fort Wayne
Keywords pobreza, políticas de la literatura, villa miseria, Roberto Arlt, Gabriela Cabezón Cámara, poverty, shantytowns, politics of literature


The present essay examines the role of literature in Gabriela Cabezón Cámara’s 2009 shantytown novel La virgen cabeza. While critical reception has mostly focused on the new subjectivities produced in the novel’s villa miseria, this essay argues that the text is focused less on endlessly producing new identities and more focused on using literary form to lay claims for to the material wealth of the the world in order to demand a life lived in equality regardless of who they are. The essay makes these arguments by pursuing two angles. The first seeks to place Cabezón Cámara’s novel in dialogue with a longer historical tradition in Argentine culture by comparatively reading it with Roberto Arlt’s aguasfuertes, Los problemas del Delta (1941). Second, it uses this historical contrast to critique recent critical reception that integrates the novel into the vein of political theory developed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. While the novel does indeed dialogue with the concept of the multitude, a closer reading of the text reveals a more ambivalent perspective regarding that model. By understanding the novel’s insistence on fictionalizing the realities of the villa by endorsing what the novel calls the “[un] volver al principio, a la literatura,”it becomes possible to engage with a political horizon that emerges not only what happens or from what is seen but rather from what is understood.

Author Biography

Stephen Buttes, Indiana University/Purdue University--Fort Wayne
Stephen Buttes is assistant professor of Spanish and Latin American Culture in the Department of International Language and Culture Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne. His work on poverty, debt and the politics of literature has appeared in journals such as Revista de Estudios HispánicosJournal of Latin American Cultural Studies and With Dianna Niebylski, he is co-editor of Pobreza y precariedad en el imaginario latinoamericano del siglo XXI (forthcoming from Editorial Cuarto Propio).
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