Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
My dissertation focuses on depictions of the Latin American colonial city in contemporary fictions set in the seventeenth century, and investigates how the historical urbanscape is reimagined by contemporary authors in spatial and sonic terms. Based on my examination of fictional reconstructions of viceregal capitals (México and Lima), port cities (Bahia and Cartagena) and capitales de audiencia (Caracas and Quito), I argue that contemporary novels and films appeal to the rewriting of documentary sources and to the sensory imagination to reinvent a historical urbanscape, by amplifying and attenuating all kinds of sounds, in order to characterize the colonial space as a violent and highly hierarchical place, marked by various manifestations of oppression. Considering the interactions between the aural and the visual, I maintain that the fictional staging of church bells, sacred and profane music, noises and screams, serves not only to create a more realistic illusion of the past ruled by Spanish and Portuguese empires, but also to challenge colonialism by bringing to life the struggle of racial and gender alterities against the political forces that compose the contested fabric of the seventeenth-century city. Drawing on colonial history, spatial studies and sound studies, I claim through my analysis of works by Enrique Serna, Ana Miranda, Ana Teresa Torres, among others, the presence of a Latin American “colonial soundscape” in contemporary fiction as an inharmonic site of acoustic tensions that becomes a locus of reflection about the enduring reverberations of the past.