College of Arts and Sciences

What Does Poverty Look Like? Building Shantytown Fictions with José Donoso

First Mondays Series

Stephen Buttes, International Language and Cultural Studies (Spanish)

Stephen Buttes, SpanishApril 7, 2014
Noon - 1:15 p.m.
Science Building, Room 185

Buttes’s presentation examines two novels by the renowned Chilean author José Donoso: This Sunday (1965) and The Obscene Bird of Night (1970). He will discuss the ways Donoso uses similar representations of poverty to achieve different aesthetic goals in his novels in order to answer the question: why? Why does poverty emerge as a problem and a solution for art? More importantly, if you’re someone (like Donoso) who wants to do something about the problems of the poor, why would you think that fictionalizing or aestheticizing it is a way to do it? Does art (and literature in particular) present the social problem of poverty with an aesthetic solution? Come find out!

Both novels were written amid the rapidly transforming social scene of Cold War Latin America and take up similar imagery of hunger, squalid living conditions, illness, and the precarious lives of the poor. Yet, critics have located these novels in opposing artistic camps: This Sunday as an example of social realism (the novel as a reflection of the world “out there”) and The Obscene Bird of Night as a masterpiece of 20th-century modernism (the novel as a “new world” unto itself, separate from the mandates of the non-artistic world surrounding it).