Mapping Metaphorical Constructions of Illness and Infidelity in Latin American Literature, 1885-1905

Robert Christopher Vest, Purdue University


This project explores the methods Latin-American naturalist writers use in order to reform their societies and help modernize their countries. Using metaphor theory and cognitive linguistics as established by Lakoff and Johnson (1980 and 1999), this project will analyze how the three primary naturalist conceptual metaphors identified by this project, HUMANS ARE ANIMALS, IMMORALITY IS SICKNESS and SOCIETY IS AN ORGANISM, interface with the reformist agenda of late-nineteenth century positivists. In particular, this project studies the representation of the social landscape of three different Latin-American contexts, namely Mexico, Brazil and Peru, and analyzes how naturalist writers in each of those countries manage the need to reform society in their novels, specifically Federico Gamboa in Mexico, Aldolfo Caminha and Aluísio Azevedo in Brazil, and Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera in Peru. The emphasis these writers place on the lower classes serves the purpose of demonstrating how the nation must move forward into the future. The lower classes serve as a metaphor for the nation: the nation itself cannot modernize unless the social ailments affecting the lower classes are resolved. By calling attention to the what they perceived as the severe social problems of the lower classes, and of the upper class in the final novel, these writers hoped to initiate a series of reforms that would permit their nations to advance into the future, a supposedly positivist future that would only be enhanced by the continued application of their version of the scientific method to social problems.




Dixon, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Latin American literature

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