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Educated readers naturally feel entitled to know what they're reading - often, if they try hard enough, to know it with the conspiratorial intimacy of a potential partner. This text reminds the reader that cultural differences may in fact make them targets of a text, not its co-conspirators. Some literature, especially culturally particular or "minority" literature, actually uses differences and distances to redirect our desire for intimacy towards more cautious, respectful engagements. To name these figures of cultural discontinuity - to describe a rhetoric of particularism in the Americas - is the purpose of this text. In a series of forays, from 17th-century Inca Garcilaso de la Vaga to Julio Cortazar and Mario Vega Llosa, Doris Sommer shows how ethnically marked texts use enticing and frustrating language games to keep readers engaged with difference: Gloria Estefan's syncopated appeal to solidarity with Whiutman's undifferentiated ideal; unrequitable seductions echo through Rigoberta Menchu's protestations of secrecty; Toni Morrison's interrupted confession; and the rebuffs in a Mexican testimonial novel. In these and other examples, Sommer trains the reader to notice the signs that affirm a respectful distance as a condition of political fairness and aesthetic effect - warnings that will be audible once rhetoric and particularism is listened for.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780674536609
ISBN-10: 0674536606
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 20mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 20-Jul-1999
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Doris Sommer

Doris Sommer is Professor of Romance Languages at Harvard University.

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