Document Type



Literature (CMC), Modern Languages (CMC)

Publication Date

Fall 2000


It is by now a commonplace that in nineteenth-century Spanish American literature the family serves as a metaphor for the nation and that authors express their political agendas through allegories of courtship and marriage. In such readings, potential love matches symbolize the reconciliation of contesting political or ethnic groups and point toward ways for the newly-formed Spanish American nations to negotiate difference without falling into civil war. Most notably, Doris Sommer's Foundational Fictions: The National Romances of Latin America succinctly explains her project-subsequently taken up and adapted by a generation of critics-as one that wishes "to locate an erotics of politics, to show how a variety of novel national ideals are all ostensibly grounded in 'natural' heterosexual love and in the marriages that provided a figure for apparently nonviolent consolidation during internecine conflicts at midcentury" (6). At its core Sommer's interpretations of what she identifies as the key novels in nineteenth- century Spanish America are concerned with courtship and the process of arriving-or fu.iling to arrive-at successful matches. Her analysis concentrates on erotic love and the ways by which lovers overcome obstacles to marry and thus consummate the political unions signified by their personal relationships. As she says, "Erotic passion was [... an] opportunity (rhetorical and otherwise) to bind together heterodox constituencies: competing regions, economic interests, races, religions" (14). Her work focuses, then, on the characters' struggles to lay claim to their love objects and on the resolution of those struggles in matrimony. Foundational Fictions offers a highly convincing analysis of Latin America's national novels and a rubric for further literary criticism that ties together representations of personal and political events.

Rights Information

© 2000 Hispanic Journal. Posted with permission of copyright holder.