Instructor: Patrick Duffey, Ph.D.

In Gabriel García Márquez’s 1982 Nobel Lecture, he states that the problem for Latin American authors has not been that they’ve had a lack of stories to tell.  The problem has been that their stories have been so amazing that it’s been almost impossible to find words to make these stories believable. And yet there have been a number of intrepid Latin American men and women who have had success at finding at least some of the words to tell these strange tales.

They have told believable tales about infinite libraries and circular ruins, about salamanders that think, about a coronel who has 17 sons by 17 different women and whose sons are all named Aureliano (after their father), about a mysterious, clairvoyant matriarch, and about a Rio de Janeiro slum-dweller and her sense of inner freedom.

Where did these Latin American writers get their fantastic ideas? Some were actually inspired by North American authors whose works you might have read in high school: Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville, for instance. But Latin American writers read their northern counterparts from unique perspectives. The North American stories that impressed the Latin American writers were ones you probably haven’t read. Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, for example, is an adventure story that is really about the difficulties of interpreting experiences of any kind. Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” and Melville’s “Bartleby” are both stories that attempt to find words for the unnamable, the uncanny.

This course is about why finding words to tell our strange tales is necessary for our very survival as human beings. The stories listed on the syllabus will appeal to adventurous, thoughtful, deep readers.

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