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Revolution, nation-building and the book

This book looks at a much-misunderstood aspect of the Cuban Revolution: the place of literature and the creation of a literary culture. Based on over 100 interviews with a wide range of actors involved in the structures and processes that produce, regulate, promote and consume literature on the island, it goes beyond the conventional approach (the study of individual authors and texts) and the canon of texts known outside Cuba. The book thus presents a historical analysis of the evolution of literary culture from 1959 to the present, as well as a series of more detailed case studies (on writing workshops, the Havana Book Festival and the publishing infrastructure) that reveal how this culture is created in contemporary Cuba. It contributes a new and complex vision of revolutionary Cuban culture.

Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

2 Understanding literary culture in the Revolution Literary culture in Cuba Understanding literary culture in the Revolution This chapter presents an overview of the existing scholarship on Cuban literature since 1959. The first section thus offers a critical review of the ways in which the whole question of literature and revolution in Cuba has been treated to date, underlining the very valuable work undertaken both inside and outside Cuba, but also exploring the many areas of misunderstanding, neglect or omission. This forms the foundations for a review of

in Literary culture in Cuba

This collection of essays seeks to question the security of our assumptions about the fin de siècle by exploring the fiction of Richard Marsh, an important but neglected professional author. Richard Bernard Heldmann (1857–1915) began his literary career as a writer of boys’ fiction, but, following a prison sentence for fraud, reinvented himself as ‘Richard Marsh’ in 1888. Marsh was a prolific and popular author of middlebrow genre fiction including Gothic, crime, humour, romance and adventure, whose bestselling Gothic novel The Beetle: A Mystery (1897) outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Building on a burgeoning interest in Marsh’s writing, this collection of essays examines a broad array of Marsh’s genre fictions through the lens of cutting-edge critical theory, including print culture, New Historicism, disability studies, genre theory, New Economic Criticism, gender theory, postcolonial studies, thing theory, psychoanalysis, object relations theory and art history, producing innovative readings not only of Marsh but of the fin-de-siècle period. Marsh emerges here as a versatile contributor to the literary and journalistic culture of his time whose stories of shape-shifting monsters, daring but morally dubious heroes, lip-reading female detectives and objects that come to life helped to shape the genres of fiction with which we are familiar today. Marsh’s fictions reflect contemporary themes and anxieties while often offering unexpected, subversive and even counter-hegemonic takes on dominant narratives of gender, criminality, race and class, unsettling our perceptions of the fin de siècle.

This book considers how biblical women were read, appropriated and debated in a wide range of early modern texts. It traverses a range of genres and examines literature written by a variety of confessionally diverse writers. By considering literature intended for assorted audiences, the book showcases the diverse contexts in which the Bible's women were deployed, and illuminates the transferability of biblical appreciation across apparent religious divisions. The book has been split into two sections. Part One considers women and feminine archetypes of the Old Testament, and the chapters gathered in Part Two address the New Testament. This structure reflects the division of Scripture in early modern Bibles and speaks to the contemporary method of reading the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament. In spite of this division, the chapters regularly make cross references between the two Testaments highlighting how, in line with the conventions of early modern exegesis, they were understood to exist in a reciprocal relationship. Within each section, the chapters are broadly organised according to the sequential appearance of the women/feminine archetypes in the Bible. The biblical women studied extend from Eve in Genesis to the Whore of Babylon in Revelation. The chapters vary between those that examine dominant trends in appropriation to those that consider appropriations of a particular interest group or individual.

Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

1 Locating literary culture in the trajectory of the Revolution Literary culture in Cuba Literary culture in the trajectory of the Revolution The Revolution’s political and economic trajectory Although historians disagree about the precise timing of the Revolution’s various phases, there is some consensus. The first six to twelve months were clearly characterised by euphoria, unity and uncertainty about the process’s ideological direction. However, radicalisation soon began, rooted in several factors: the 1956–58 guerrilla experience; the influence of radicals

in Literary culture in Cuba
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Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

hidden stories, experiences and decisions – not least the decision to stay in Cuba and continue working within a revolutionary project. 4 Introduction Secondly, we need to understand literature in Cuba as, anyway, going beyond text or author, regardless of the latter’s identity, and, instead, to see it in a wider context: of what we see here as literary culture, namely the whole set of processes, institutions, policies, spaces and the ‘circuit of culture’ (Du Gay, 1997) affecting writing, reading and books. Indeed that is clearly the subject of this study. Finally

in Literary culture in Cuba
Alberto Ajón León’s ¿Qué bolá? (What’s Up?)
Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

7 The history of a novel: Alberto Ajón León’s ¿Qué bolá? (What’s Up?) Literary culture in Cuba Alberto Ajón¿Qué León’s bolá? (What’s Up?) This chapter deals with the illustrative trajectory of a typical new work of literature – a novel by the relatively unknown author, Alberto Ajón León, called ¿Qué bolá? (What’s Up?) – the title referring to the common greeting in Cuban street slang equating to either the ‘What’s up?’ of the subtitle, or, more commonly, ‘How’s it going?’ or ‘What’s new?’. The purpose here is to illustrate the earlier analysis of the

in Literary culture in Cuba
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The years of radicalisation and consolidation
Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

4 1961–89: The years of radicalisation and consolidation Literary culture in Cuba 1961–89: Radicalisation and consolidation As already argued in Chapter 3, most historians of culture within the Cuban Revolution see 1961 as a turning point, because of the PM affair, Lunes and the CNC, and they therefore focus on regulation and Castro’s Palabras. Yet, whatever importance we may attribute to the pre-Palabras meetings, most Cubans remained unaware, the contemporary media giving no indication of the prolonged highest-level talks over the future of cultural

in Literary culture in Cuba
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The first flush of revolution
Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

3 1959–61: The first flush of revolution Literary culture in Cuba 1959–61: The first flush of revolution It was therefore against this backdrop, together with the wider context of an emerging but inchoate cultural policy, that the Revolution’s approach to literature now emerged, partly consciously and partly empirically. Here, one of the most important points to make is that, whether following deliberate policy or feeling its way, it was not so much ‘the state’ which determined the direction for the new literature, because such a state was slow to emerge and

in Literary culture in Cuba
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Par Kumaraswami, Antoni Kapcia and Meesha Nehru

Conclusion Literary culture in Cuba Conclusion This study started by posing the question about the apparent contradiction between the fact that literature in Cuba since 1959 seems to have been both relatively privileged (e.g. in terms of the political profile of writers, the importance of the Feria, its special exemption from the original instructores idea) and also seen as problematic, even being marginalised in terms of the unusual degree of scrutiny and suffering of some of those same writers. What has emerged clearly in the course of this study is that the

in Literary culture in Cuba