British Representations of Latin America (University Press of Florida, 2007)
Posted: July 7, 2008
"Clear and well documented, this is a very important contribution to the rich, varied work on British imperial activities and to postcolonial studies."--Helen M. Cooper, Stony Brook University
Ramirez examines British literary representations of Latin America from the 16th through the 20th centuries, with particular attention to travel writing and fiction published during and after Latin American independence. Locating these representations within the political and economic histories of the countries in which they are set, she places works by Sir Walter Ralegh, Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Malcolm Lowry, and Graham Greene within a critical context that can best be called “Americanist” and surveys the prominent themes of these works. She also examines their imperialist impulses and their changing master cultural narratives, from Charles Gould’s “idea” of empire and his faith in commercial development for Latin America in Conrad’s Nostromo to Lowry’s Under the Volcano, a story of a failed and alcoholic English Consul in 1930s Mexico.
Americanist literature, as Ramirez sees it, manifests mostly informal aspects of imperialism, reflecting the British desire to invest, develop, map, and catalog in countries as varied as Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Brazil. Ramirez argues that British representations of Latin America reveal an authorial freedom to advance imperial and commercial projects on one hand, while questioning the English self and sense of strangeness in the New World on the other. Especially in the 19th- and 20-century works under consideration, she reveals an acute sense of vulnerability, as British power worldwide had begun to crumble.
Expanding on the critical conversation surrounding “Orientalism” and “New World Studies,” Ramirez’s examination of informal British imperialism and the struggle of motives represented in each of the selected narratives opens a fascinating new terrain of texts reflecting the historical relationship between Britain and Latin America.
Luz Elena Ramirez is currently an associate professor of English at California State University. Her director was Charles Rossman.