Transcolonial listening : dissonances in Cuban and Philippine literature
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This dissertation compares the origins of an aesthetics of dissonance in twentieth century Cuban and Philippine literature. To do so, it examines Cuban authors Alejo Carpentier, Severo Sarduy, and Filipino writers Jesús Balmori and José García Villa, as critical "transcolonial listeners." I argue that their elective affinity to radio productions, music and sound effects in texts produced by people subject to colonization or coloniality, helped them refashion their imperial heritage. I first analyze Balmori's early career as a Romantic poet and novelist, and proceed with a close reading of his war novel Los pájaros de fuego, which reveals the strong disharmonies of Philippines' relationship with Europe, the US and Japan, during the Second World War. Then, I examine Carpentier's interest and consequent disappointment with radio production, his interest in Richard Wagner and his novel Los pasos perdidos. I demonstrate that despite Europe's decline in the wake of the Second World War, Carpentier's fascination with European musical forms, especially atonality, persisted. The second half of the dissertation focuses on the avant-garde tendencies of exile writers Villa and Sarduy. Revealing that Villa remained a "heritage listener" of Spanish, I prove that before publishing his experimental writings in English in the US, Villa avidly read and translated Hispanic poets. Finally, I analyze Sarduy's early poetry and radioplays, written inspired by travels to Asia, America and Western Europe in the late sixties and early seventies. While Villa, away from the Philippines, realized that Latinidad was compatible to Filipino identity, Sarduy compensated the loss of his Cuba by attentively listening to the music and sounds produced (or reproduced and replayed) in the locations he traveled to, such as African American jazz. Expanding Mary Louise Pratt's understanding of transculturation, this dissertation proposes that even though these writers inherited "imperial eyes," their hearing remained transcolonial.