HCIAS Blogcast: Alberto Vital on Latin American literature

Welcome back to the HCIAS Blogcast, where we summarize some of the key points from our most recent podcast episode. For this edition of the Blogcast, we bring you a discussion with renowned writer and academic Prof. Dr. Alberto Vital of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Prof. Dr. Vital was interviewed by two Heidelberg University Master’s Students, Lorena Villate of the Department of Romance Studies and Mariel Elizondo of the HCIAS.

One of the recurring themes in the conversation was the power that art has to cross linguistic and cultural borders. Prof. Dr. Vital’s interest in comparative literature began in university, where he was studying Hispanic language and literature. He realized there that the themes in the writing that interested him extended beyond the boundaries of a single language, leading him to the path that has shaped his academic career.

Prof. Dr. Vital’s passion for German culture, which he shares with the subject of much of his critical work, Mexican author Juan Rulfo, was also a topic of discussion. While the connection between German culture and Latin America is not well-known, there are notable links such as the role of literature in creating a sense of national unity, the impact of German expressionist cinema on the visual arts and the ways in which German writers influenced many Latin American authors.

Juan Rulfo, in whom Prof Dr. Vital holds a long-standing interest, featured prominently in the discussion. Despite the relative brevity of his oeuvre, Rulfo’s work has had a significant impact on the literary scene in Latin America. In the modern world, where we have an abundance of options for literature and other forms of entertainment but too little time to enjoy them all, we are rediscovering the value of concision, a virtue which Rulfo shares with another great Latin American writer, Jorge Luis Borges. Prof. Dr. Vital explains the mutual admiration that Borges and Rulfo shared, as well as the influence that Rulfo had on Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The conversation then turned to the relationship between politics and literature. Prof. Dr. Vital argued that the socio-politicl context makes a big difference in the reception of a work, and that the same text can have different meanings depending on the time and place it is read. He explained that Latin American literature is closely intertwined with politics, including the works of apparently apolitical writers like Borges, whose work, upon closer inspection, reveals preoccupations with contemporary issues like democracy and autocracy.

In his closing remarks, Prof. Dr. Vital explained that the works of writers like Juan Rulfo are still relevant in the modern world because they offer us insight into the “deep rivers” of our own lives. His recent investigations have focused on two ways of approaching literature: the study of argumentation and onomastics. Both of these approaches have a universal character: argumentation because we all have to construct arguments all the time and the way we do so is consistent across cultures, and onomastics because we all have names and give names to others.

This HCIAS Blogcast has been just a short recap of a wide-ranging and thought-provoking discussion. If you would like to learn more about our guest and his research, you can listen to the whole episode here.

The episode has been recorded in Spanish.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
HCIAS Blog (May 4, 2023). HCIAS Blogcast: Alberto Vital on Latin American literature. HCIAS Blog. Retrieved July 25, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/pgbf

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