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Spring 2015


Rafael Arévalo Martínez, Una Vida (1914), Manuel Aldano (1922), Modernismo, Hybridity, Genre, Identity, Vision


The present study explores the relationship between generic ambiguity in Una vida (1914) and Manuel Aldano (1922) by the Guatemalan Rafael Aróvalo Martínez, and the Darwinian/Spencerian discourse with which the narrator attempts to construct an identity that will grant him a legitimate speaking subjectivity in the face of his inability to adapt to the changes in the Spanish American letrado’s role within societies at the periphery of modernization. Through an analysis of the narrator’s development and the emerging relationships between sexuality, language, genre, and vision in Arévalo Martínez’s short novels, the reader will note the irresolute tension between confession and realism that characterizes the narration. This tension is determined by the narrator’s guilt at not being ‘‘modern’’ on the one hand, and on the other, his attempt to conform to the needs of the ciudad modernizada by constructing a ‘‘proper’’ identity and thereby justifying his right to reproduce and to speak. As a result, the works belie the inherent ambiguity of discourses on identity that produce the ambivalence that they are meant to eliminate, thus opening up the possibility of exploring less exclusionary alternatives to both generic definition and self-definition.

Publication Title

Hispanic Review





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University of Pennsylvania Press


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