Dissertation Defense of Gabriel Villarroel

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese cordially invites you to attend the dissertation defense of Gabriel Villarroel, M.S. titled A Fertile Ignorance: Allegory in Felisberto Hernández as a Mark of His Modernity [Una fecunda ignoracia: la alegoría en Felisberto Hernández como señal de su vigencia].

Thesis Advisor: Gwen Kirkpatrick, Ph.D.

Abstract: The Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernández (1902-1964) is too often considered a “weird” or “eccentric”. Although his recognition has grown over the past decades, he still retains that unclassifiable condition that makes it difficult to put him in dialogue with other authors. My thesis studies the work of Hernández from Walter Benjamin’s concept of allegory in order to uncover the lack of systematicity as his foremost characteristic. By using convoluted metaphors, banal episodes, and false clues, the Uruguayan author’s narratives exhaust their own resources, and explore their inability to articulate a coherent discourse. This tendency is symptomatic of numerous contemporary authors and, in order to prove it, my research analyzes the case of César Aira (1949). Through a comparative analysis, I highlight how both writers’ literary projects share an aesthetic of the fragmentary that subverts conventional dichotomies (real / imaginary, subaltern / dominant, beauty / ugliness), thus accentuating the proliferation of meaning as a response to a postmodern society. In this way, my thesis proposes a viewpoint through which not only Hernández is not a marginal figure but can be considered an emblematic author of a rising literary trend in Latin America.