Canon Formation

My career in academia really began with one question – why do some novels become ‘classics’ while others are forgotten? This was the question at the heart of my PhD thesis which went on to become my first monograph published by Legenda (2011) and entitled Gender Nation and the Formation of the Twentieth-Century Mexican Literary Canon.

The book consists of six case studies which together span the twentieth-century following the Mexican Revolution. Three case studies are of canonical novels and the other three look at novels which were either completely overlooked, as in the case of Consuelo Delgado’s Yo también, Adelita ,or which were otherwise marginalised by the critical establishment, as in the case of Angeles Mastretta’s Arráncame la vida. Each case study combines analysis of the way in which the text was received in the contemporary press with close textual analysis. In this way I aim to show the specific ways of reading which led novels such as Carlos Fuentes’ La región más transparente becoming cornerstones of the canon. I also show that other readings are possible so demonstrate that the way in which we approach texts is conditioned by, among other things, the author’s gender.

Through the six case studies it emerges that the post-revolutionary Mexican literary canon was formed by cultural and political elites who sought to identify and reward those novels which would best represent the new nation. This approach led to the creation of a male-dominated canon in which women authors were marginalized. To remedy this gender imbalance I aimed to draw attention to the role played by interpretation as well as to develop a new interpretive strategy which provides new readings of the texts discussed.