Nightmares of the Lettered City (Paperback)

Banditry and Literature in Latin America, 1816-1929 (Pitt Illuminations)

By Juan Pablo Dabove

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822959564, 400pp.

Publication Date: June 6, 2007

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/6/2007)

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Nightmares of the Lettered City presents an original study of the popular theme of banditry in works of literature, essays, poetry, and drama, and banditry's pivotal role during the conceptualization and formation of the Latin American nation-state.

Juan Pablo Dabove examines writings over a broad time period, from the early nineteenth century to the 1920s, and while Nightmares of the Lettered City focuses on four crucial countries (Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela), it is the first book to address the depiction of banditry in Latin America as a whole. The work offers close reading of Facundo, Doña Bárbara, Os Sertões, and Martín Fierro, among other works, illuminating the ever-changing and often contradictory political agendas of the literary elite in their portrayals of the forms of peasant insurgency labeled “banditry.”

Banditry has haunted the Latin American literary imagination. As a cultural trope, banditry has always been an uneasy compromise between desire and anxiety (a “nightmare”), and Dabove isolates three main representational strategies.  He analyzes the bandit as radical other, a figure through which the elites depicted the threats posed to them by various sectors outside the lettered city.  Further, he considers the bandit as a trope used in elite internecine struggles. In this case, rural insurgency was a means to legitimize or refute an opposing sector or faction within the lettered city. Finally, Dabove shows how, in certain cases, the bandit was used as an image of the nonstate violence that the nation state has to suppress as a historical force and simultaneously exalt as a memory in order to achieve cultural coherence and actual sovereignty.

As Dabove convincingly demonstrates, the elite's construction of the bandit is essential to our understanding of the development of the Latin American nation in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

About the Author

Juan Pablo Dabove is assistant professor and associate chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Praise For Nightmares of the Lettered City: Banditry and Literature in Latin America, 1816-1929 (Pitt Illuminations)

"There is an impressive breadth to this well-written and original study . . . destined to become the standard work on the role of banditry in the imagination of Latin American thought."
--A Contra Corriente

"We owe Dabove a considerable debt for bringing to our attention a vast corpus of often neglected material."
--Hispanic American Historical Review

”Provides an exquisite and erudite re-interpretation of key texts relating not only to banditry but, more generally, to the anxieties of nation formation and modernity in the fragmented polities and cultures of Latin America.”
—The Americas