The “Development” Dilemma in the Literary Production of the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries: Rethinking Ideologies Across Literature

The “Development” Dilemma in the Literary Production of the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries: Rethinking Ideologies Across Literature

Maria Luisa Di Martino (University of Deusto, Spain)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2391-8.ch004


This chapter aims to explore the debate on “development theory” especially embodied in the dichotomy between “civilization” and “barbarism” in the literary production of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, by reading the ideological and political messages hidden in the most relevant works by classical authors in Latin American and postcolonial Anglophone literature. The chapter is structured into three main sections. Firstly, the author will draw an itinerary across the historical debate on “development”, showing approaches and conceptualizations. Secondly, the author will explore the relationship between the political messages and ideological positions of significant authors and their works in the literary production of the selected period. To conclude, the author will set out the most relevant elements that reveal the link between the ideological debate on “development” and the literary production, suggesting new ways of interpretation for future researches.
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There seems to be a strong connection between the Western myth of modernization and the myth of “development” across history and literature. This link is sometimes hidden in authors’ texts and discourses, as well as being implicit in their characters’ voices. Nevertheless, it is possible to reveal the evolution of these myths from different standpoints through an insightful analysis of the literary works. In this chapter, those myths can be identified in Latin American literature in the dichotomous categories of civilization and barbarism, for example. While, in postcolonial English literature the case of anti-apartheid literature is emblematic, and refers to this same dichotomous discourse. It can be studied in parallel with the political movements and ideological positions in the society and the world outside such narratives. The relationship between the political messages and ideological options, which are included in literary production throughout the history of Hispano-American literature and culture, as well as in the postcolonial literary production in English, brings added value to the necessary interdisciplinary debate through the fields of knowledge and scholars’ work. Indeed, going deeper into this relationship, it could provide a better understanding of cultural and political dynamics, moving towards a cogeneration of meanings, suitable for constructing a more holistic sense of the history and realities of human beings, as well as intercultural dialogue in present day societies.

Constructed as a journey through the history and ideologies contained in literary works, this chapter is structured into three main parts. In the first part, the author draws an itinerary across the debate on development and the analysis of the four historical stages in the evolution of the concept, including a conceptualization of the topic. Arturo Escobar’s plot and dependency theory, and Bakhtin’s relational theory between arts and society, are the main conceptual frameworks used to translate this core idea to the literary production from the 19th to the 21st centuries, which assimilated this debate in the dichotomous thinking of the civilized world and the exotic, barbaric colonies. After that, the main aspects of the debate on development and underdevelopment, and new definition proposals, such as the new/post‐development(s) approaches, will be taken into consideration as part of the background of this chapter and contrasted with the findings in the literary works read. In the following section, the author selects some of the most emblematic literary works produced over the 19th, 20th, and early 21st centuries, in order to explore the relation between art and society, as well as political and ideological positions in literary production. The conclusion sets out the most relevant elements to reveal the existing link between the ideological debates and the development topics in the literature examined, anticipating ideas for further investigations around the topic. Thus, the author will attempt to draw a chronological itinerary through the literary works selected, all of which had major repercussions in the literary world. After the brief introduction to the topic, the main aims of this chapter are to explore the hidden debate on “development” in the literary production of the 19th, 20th, and early 21st centuries, made explicit, mainly, through the dichotomous categories of civilization/barbarism in the work of some Hispano-American, British, and African authors, selected for their political and artistic relevance. It aims to give a bird’s-eye view of the novels in the cited centuries, in order to rethink the ideologies presented. However, the present chapter is not intended to be an in-depth analysis of the novels themselves, but tries instead to give a view of the connection between social constructions of the “development” dilemma and political ideologies through literature, as product of historical dynamics.

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