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Aesopus emendatus: the contemporary Latin American fable : forerunners, principal representatives and actual state of affairs


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Matić, Gordana. (2017). Aesopus emendatus: the contemporary Latin American fable : forerunners, principal representatives and actual state of affairs. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Polić-Bobić, Mirjana and Noguerol Jiménez, Francisca].

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The objective of this thesis is to show how one of the oldest literary genres, such as the fable, has undergone various transformations in contemporary circumstances. Contrary to negative predictions by some of the critics in the first half of the 20th century (Pérez Perozo, 1946), who predicted its extinction, or referred to it as the most conservative literary genre (Navarro González, 1976) whose audience was exclusively limited to children and young readers (Irwin, 1992), in the late 20th century and early 21st century, the Latin American fable has flourished. Even though its origin is acknowledged throughout the investigation, this thesis does not explore fables as part of folklore and oral literature. It also bears mentioning that the subject of the research is not fable as part of children and youth literature, but contemporary literary fable targeted at adult readers. Revitalization of fable in the modern-day context is secured by a hybrid, protean literary form – microfiction. Along with the bestiary, fable appears as a separate category at almost every attempt to classify the literary modality considered by some critics as a new narrative genre (Valadés, 1990; Lagmanovich, 2005; Andres-Suárez, 2008, 2010; Brasca and Chitaroni, 2004; Valls, 2008; inter alia), while others believe it is only an extremely short story subcategory (Stevick, 1971; Howe, 1982; Roas, 2008). Additionally, it is also referred to as a genreless (non-generic) type of text (Rojo, 1996) while some authors reject any classification altogether (Corral, 1996). Within the contemporary framework, fable has its own process of growth and in this doctoral thesis, it is not viewed solely as microfiction, even though the analogy stands given the indisputable fact that microfiction was the deciding factor in drawing the attention of Latin American critics to fable and, to an even larger extent, the bestiary. These critics include, among others, Lauro Zavala, Francisca Noguerol Jiménez, David Roas, Violeta Rojo, David Lagmanovich and Esperanza López Parada. Given that we rely on the characteristics of the classical Aesopian genre in the analysis of the contemporary fable, we considered the theoretical contributions of Ben Edwin Perry, Pack Carnes, Morten Nojgaard, Francisco Rodríguez de Adrados, Carlos García Gual, Gert-Jan van Dijk and Mireya Camurati, whose definitions have been critically analyzed in the first part of the dissertation. Among the aforementioned authors, the one who stands out is Geert-Jan van Dijk and his Ainoi, Logoi, Mythoi: Fables in archaic, classical and Hellenistic Greek Literature; With a study of the theory and terminology of the genre (1997) as an extraordinary contribution to the study of fables with definitions of all relevant authors from the Classical Antiquity and a comparative study of the definitions offered by contemporary theoreticians of the fable. This work, as well as analyses of the classical genres by the Spanish philologist Rodríguez de Adrados, have greatly facilitated genre analysis due to their comprehensive and systematic approach, as well as their invaluable insights. In the definition of the fable by Ben Edwin Perry in his article "Fable" (1959), there is a problematic 'logical conclusion', which is a conditio sine qua non of the fable according to the author. On the basis of a wide range of examples, we have demonstrated that a universal and logical conclusion can be arrived at only in an extremely small number of cases, even when there is an epimyth. It is clear that the same epimyth does not communicate the same message in different translations, which brings us back to the origin of Aesop's fable when it was used as a rhetorical tool to denounce a crisis, but not to condemn it or hint at a solution. This indefinition and indirectness of expression is preserved in the contemporary fable, where different reading strategies come to the forefront in decoding meaning. Historical overview of fables is based on scarce information gathered in various historical overviews of Spanish (Rico, Valbuena Prat, Alborg), Hispanic-American (Goić, Franco, Rodríguez Monegal) and Brazilian literature (Bosi, Massaud, Verissimo), which paid relatively little attention to fable, taking into consideration that in certain periods it may have lost its independence as a genre, but not its relevance. Due to oriental influence, fable came into contact and became part of Spanish and Portuguese medieval literature (Lacarra, 1979, 1991, 1998, 2010; Bodelón, 1989; Blecua, 1992; Sotelo, 1997), and it is also present in Hispanic literature of the so-called Golden Age, but always as a segment or a rhetorical device of a larger literary work (Martín García, 1996). After ubiquity in the Middle Ages, the genre underwent a second revival in Spain in the 18th and 19th century when we can practically observe its hyperproduction (Palacios Fernández, 1992, 1998; Sebold, 1992; Talavera Cuesta, 2007; Jareño, 1975). However, this study will only concentrate on the most crucial 18th century authors, such as, Iriarte, Samaniego and Ibáñez de la Rentería, whose works are more than sufficient to provide an analysis of the neoclassical fable. In addition, this can also point out the most common misconception among the critics who have been keen on seeing it only as a didactic and moralistic tool in the hands of enlightened authors, while completely ignoring its critical and subversive component, that was overtly present even during periods when the educational intention of the fable was emphasized. Diachronic analysis of the fable is based on close reading of a large sample of Aesop's fables taken from collections by Demetrius of Phalerum, Babrius and Phaedrus, gathered in valuable editions by Ben Edwin Perry (1952; 1975). In the part dedicated to Spanish and Portuguese Middle Ages, there is an analysis of methods of integration and fable cycles based on the example of medieval collections Sendebar (1253), Calila e Dimna (1251), Disciplina clericalis (early 12th c.), Livro de Exopo (15th c.), Libro de buen amor (1330) and El Conde Lucanor (1335). The revival of the fable in the period of Enlightenment is analyzed critically using the examples of Fábulas en verso castellano para uso del Real Seminario Vascongado (1781) by Félix Maria Samaniego and Fábulas literarias (1787) by Tomás de Iriarte, with emphasis on the functions of fable in Latin American Enlightenment and Romaticism. In this way, the diachronic analysis of the fable pinpoints certain oversights which frequently occur in synchronic genre studies or even comparative analyses of the classical genre and fable from a particular time period. A historical overview of the fable in the Latin American world is brought by Mireya Camurati in La fábula en Hispanoamérica (1978) as an invaluable contribution to the systematic study of this marginal genre. Camurati examines the specific and autochthonous elements of the Hispanic-American fable, offers information about the authors in most Latin American countries, including fables by indigenous peoples, starting from the colonial period to the 1950s. Our study of the most recent stage in the development of fable would not be possible without this relevant piece of research. Camurati's structural and formal definition of a fable points out three main features of the genre – action, types and intention – and we have focused on types of animal characters. The author believes that animals are presented as 'types' which support specific relations. We cannot disagree we the first part of that statement, since animal characters in classical, neoclassical, romantic and modern fables are schematic, plain and reduced to a single quality. However, it seems that the definition of 'type' by the Argentine author is not precise because it overlooks the fact that the same personified character can represent different qualities and that its qualities can change from fable to fable. In contemporary fables, characters become far more complex and we can hardly discuss specific relations, as shown by our analysis, so it is not possible to form such generalized opinions. Finally, while approaching the new fable, Pack Carnes' texts about traditional expectations in modern fables and the characteristics of the so-called new fables or anti-fables were particularly helpful. In his scientific analyses "The American Face of Aesop: Thurber's Fables and Tradition" (1986) and "The Fable and Anti-Fable: The Modern Faces of Aesop" (1992), Pack Carnes introduces the term anti-fable. This dissertation weighs in at the validity of Carnes' terminology. Characteristics and analyses of the new fable offered by the AngloAmerican critic have been of great help in terms of setting the guidelines for our study. Nevertheless, we cannot agree with his claim that every fable which intervenes in the classical subtext in different ways is actually an anti-fable. In a broader sense, that would mean that every literary fable could be characterized as such. The epimyth or moral in the contemporary fable, whether it is explicit or not, really becomes the point of reconsideration and not the dissolution/negation of the genre itself. It has to be pointed out that the destabilization of the classical model also occurred in earlier periods, only more subtly. With regard to other recent studies, we relied on Esperanza López Parada's doctoral dissertation (1993) which analyzes a paradigmatic collection of fables by Augusto Monterroso, along with well-known HispanicAmerican bestiaries authored by Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar and Juan José Arreola. In addition, there is Anne Kleveland's master's thesis (2000) with an analysis of the animal characters in classical and contemporary fables. The main literary corpus of this thesis consists of three collections of contemporary fables by Latin American authors Cachorros do céu (2005) by Wilson Bueno (Brazil), Un coro de ranas (1999) by Jaime Alberto Vélez (Colombia) and Libro de animales (1994) by Wilfredo Machado (Venezuela). The latter is observed in the context of the author's entire opus which is dedicated to extremely short narrative forms, which we can classify as microficiton. This is why special attention was given to his work due to its complexity and a specific way of integrating fables into a larger whole. Analysis of both individual texts, as well as collections is preceded by, as mentioned earlier, a study of the development of fable in Latin American literature, starting from the origins of the genre in Western Europe with Aesop's fable with all later versions relying on it in some way. The thesis provides a diachronic overview of the development of fable and insights into how it manifested itself and functioned in specific time periods. It features a genre theory analysis of the fable, beginning with its rhetorical function to its evolution into an independent literary genre. Finally, there is a revision of studies of the modern fable by Anglo-American authors of the 20th century, which planted a seed for what was to become the dominant component of the Latin American fable a few decades later. In that last section, there is an analysis of literary texts by Anglo-American authors, such as, Fantastic Fables (1899) Ambrose Bierce, Fables for Our Time (1939) and Further Fables of our Time (1956) by James Thurber, a collection of fables Fábulas fabulosas (1963) by the Brazilian Millôr Fernandes, and collections of Hispanic authors, La oveja negra y demás fábulas (1969) by Augusto Monterroso and Fabulario (1969) by Eduardo Gudiño Kieffer. Features of postmodernity, i.e. poetics of Postmodernism, will be analyzed on the corpus consisting of aforementioned contemporary Latin American authors. We can complete the list with other collections written in the 1980s, 1990s and the early 21st century: La especie desconocida (1987) by Manuel Fernández Perera, El recinto de animalia (1997) Rafael Junquera, La cola del pavo real. Fábulas (2000) Mario Satz Tetelbaum and Bajo la piel del lobo (2002) by Jaime Alberto Vélez. The chapter which discusses genre hybridization in contemporary fables also uses theory of literary genres, while fables integrated in larger wholes were subjected to a narratological analysis. Analysis and study of contemporary fables, which often appear as microfiction in Latin American production, have shown elements of postmodern poetics. This refers to intertextuality which is not established only on genre level, but also as a ludic or parodic relation to tradition and other canonical texts, metafiction, where mechanisms of fable construction are revealed, as well as autoreferentiality and various genre transgressions and hybrids. This study attempts to secure the continuity of research of fables, one of the oldest literary genres and provide a new methodological framework for its investigation. We showed that there are elements of postmodern poetics in contemporary fables which have been viewed for the first time not only as a specific short narrative form, but in relation to other units in the collection they had been integrated into. Through diachronic genre analysis, we have tried to provide insight into its historical development and break down misconceptions related to the study of fable in certain time periods. Those types of studies often bring generalized opinions about the genre which have been disputed by this comprehensive inquiry. The fable is characterized by the signs of every time period in which it was created, so its most recent versions display features of postmodern poetics. Skepticism of the postmodern era has produced a rhetorical device which urges the reader to develop their own complex reading strategies and come to their own conclusions instead of being moralizing and educational. Regardless of deviations from the classical Aesopian model, contemporary fable production is always reliant on tradition, subverting or reversing genre conventions, playing with them or respecting them to an extent. Even though it is the most distant version of the classical model, contemporary fable remains deeply loyal to it. Contrary to assumptions of some contemporary critics, the main function of the fable, which is two-sided, 'show to teach' and 'show to criticize', is not lost in the contemporary context.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fable, Literary Genres, Diachronic Analysis, Poetics of Postmodernism, Integrated Short Story Collection, Narratological Analysis, Microfiction
Subjects: Comparative literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Polić-Bobić, Mirjana and Noguerol Jiménez, Francisca
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2018 13:26
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2018 13:26

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