Latin American Gothic Literature in its Early Stages: Trappings, Tropes, and Theories (Panel)

Spanish/Portuguese / Comparative Literature

Megan DeVirgilis (Morgan State University)

The Gothic is having a moment, as it tends to do in times of collective panic and uncertainty. Even Latin America, whose geographical, linguistic, and historical distinctiveness have supported its all-but-exclusion from global Gothic Studies, has experienced a rise in scholarship on contemporary Gothic horror—from studies on the double and hybridity to zombies and cannibals, among others. Typically excluded from this narrative, however, are theories on the origins and early representations of the Gothic, and how regional, linguistic, and historical particularities nourished a Latin American Gothic tradition that, although indebted to its European Gothic predecessors, deviated from it in unique and meaningful ways. There has been some debate over the circulation of translations throughout Latin America: Did Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, for example, circulate in French or, decades later, in English, and to what extent did his formal experimentation influence Latin American writers? This panel diverts from this limited scope of inquiry, suggesting instead a broader perspective that examines the complexity of literary currents, their subcategories, and their subjective means of classification. Why is it that Latin American literary scholarship only begins to use the term Gothic in reference to Carlos Fuentes when Eduardo Wilde, Juana Manuela Gorriti, and Horacio Quiroga, among others, were experimenting with Gothic trappings, the occult, and suspense? The purpose of this panel is to revisit Latin American literary works previously associated with more “respectable” and “valuable” literary currents in terms of the Gothic and a unique Latin American Gothic literary tradition. Of particular interest are theoretical approaches that revisit modernista, romantic, and fantastic literature through a Gothic lens. Collectively, this panel will deepen scholarship on the dialectics at the heart of cultural production in the region: civilization/barbarity, indigenous/European, monstrous/homogenous, etc.

While popular opinion in Latin American literary studies is that the region’s Gothic was born in the works of Carlos Fuentes, strong evidence suggests that Gothic literature emerged much earlier, including in the works of Eduardo Wilde, Leopoldo Lugones, and Horacio Quiroga. This panel invites papers on authors that adapted European Gothic tropes and trappings from the 19th to the turn of the 20th century.