Ribas-Casasayas, Alberto and Peterson, Amanda L., editors. Espectros: Ghostly Hauntings in Contemporary Transhispanic Narratives.
Espectros: Ghostly Hauntings in Contemporary Transhispanic Narratives provides a selection of studies that examine the spectral in contemporary Spanish- language cultural production from both sides of the Atlantic. As the first volume-length work in this area, it offers a selection of rigorously researched and thoughtfully analyzed chapters that study the concept of haunting in the cultural production of a wide swath of the Spanish-speaking world. Divided into four thematic sections, the chapters in Ribas-Casasayas and Petersen's edited volume study films, traditional literary texts, and texts with photographic components that use haunting and spectrality to engage with a silenced or forgotten collective history, to reconcile past trauma, or to represent the dehumanizing effects of the neoliberal policies of late capitalism.
While neither of the editors are authors of the chapter contributions, the editorial management of the volume is apparent in the consistent level of quality both in terms of writing and content. Moreover, the editors provide not only an engaging introduction on a history of spectral criticism in the Transhispanic context, they also introduce each section of the volume with an explanation of the ways in which spectrality is studied in the chapters that comprise that unit. Further evidence of the careful selection of contributors and organization of the volume, each of the four sections includes at least one chapter dealing with Latin American texts and one covering Peninsular texts, giving the entire work a balanced Transhispanic coverage. Moreover, the editors include an extensive bibliography of theoretical sources for spectral criticism used throughout the volume.
During the twenty-first century both Spain and numerous Latin American nations have been grappling with unhealed cultural wounds arising from episodes of violence and dictatorship that occurred during the twentieth century, and many of the texts and films studied in this volume present hauntings that evoke the silenced or disappeared victims of that violence. The section entitled "Ghostly Encounters: Haunted Histories" features chapters that examine the historical dimension of haunting in both Spain and Latin America. Megan Corbin's chapter on "Spectral Presences and Metaphoric Re-memberings" deftly discusses the testimonial power and phantasmal presence of objects and body parts belonging to the disappeared in Argentina and Chile's military dictatorships as evidenced in different types of cultural production from the two countries. Similarly, Susana S. Martinez studies novels in which haunting manifests as a means of bearing witness to the state-sponsored violence experienced in Guatemala by prior generations. Isabel Cunado's chapter crosses the Atlantic to analyze the evolution of ghostly figures over the course of several decades of Javier Marias' fiction, tracing the increasingly political representation of the spectral in Marias' writing and aligning it with a growing preoccupation in recuperating the memory of Spain's Civil War and Francoist dictatorship.
The second section of Espectros turns from the broad cultural approach to the spectral to focus instead on the psychological and personal experience with past trauma as manifested in hauntings by ghosts or other spectral beings. In this section Charles St-Georges' chapter on the specters of trauma and their relationship to time in the Spanish-Argentine film Aparecidos stands out as particularly insightful. St-Georges carefully differentiates between ghosts and specters in order to distinguish the spirits of victims and perpetrators in the novel and the relationship of each to temporality. Both Sarah Thomas's chapter on the spectral presence of children Spanish films and Karen Wooley Martin's chapter on spectrality in Argentine novels of the disappeared compare two similar works involving anthropomorphic ghosts of past trauma. Juliana Martinez's chapter, examines spectrality with geographic and spatial manifestations in Colombian literature and film with the purpose of engaging critically with Colombia's culture of violence rather than viewing it as spectacle.
Espectros's third section contains two chapters dealing with the oftentimes controversial spectrality of still images in literature. N. Michelle Murray criticizes the use of the photograph of a dead migrant woman on the cover of a Spanish novel and the description of both the woman and the image as romanticizing the immigrant experience. Marta Sierra's chapter examines the feminine spectral presence through both photography and text in Cristina Rivera Garza's novel Nadie me vera llorar in order to make a broader commentary on the spectral presence of women in Mexican modernity.
While the first three sections of Ribas-Casasayas and Petersen's volume provide excellent analysis, the work is at its strongest in the final section, which discusses representations of the haunting nature of the effects of free-market politics. Maria del Carmen Cana Jimenez's chapter studies the way in which the spectral in Central American narratives coexists with corporeal beings as walking dead. Focusing on the Guatemalan novel Diccionario esoterico by Maurice Echeverria, Cana Jimenez concludes that the walking dead in the novel represent the damaged victims of a destructive economic system. Juan Pablo Lupi studies Enrique Bernardo Nunez's novel Cub agua in which a hallucinatory trip links the representation of Venezuela's neoliberal petrostate to the nation's colonial past. Finally, Victoria L. Garret and Edward M. Chauca offer a brilliant analysis of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Mexican-Spanish film, Biutiful, pointing out that in the film global capitalism acts as a haunting force that instills consumerist fantasies and desires on vulnerable subjects.
Overall, Espectros is a compelling and thought-provoking compilation of articles that serves both as an introduction to and an in-depth analysis of Transhispanic spectral studies.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2018|
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