Test Tube Envy Science and Power in Argentine Narrative from Sarmiento to Giardinelli

Brown, James Andrew , Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Pellon, Gustavo, As-Spanish Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Opere, Fernando, As-Spanish Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Shaw, Donald, As-Spanish Italian & Portuguese, University of Virginia
Parshall, Karen, As-Mathematics, University of Virginia

As one examines the many cultural forces that combine in the production of a literary text, the complexities entailed in the creation of rhetorical authority become immediately apparent. Using a Foucauldian-inspired model of power and discourse, I examine the interrelationships of science and ideology in a diachronic study of Argentine narrative. Beginning with Domingo Sarmiento's Facundo, and then continuing through José Mármol's Amalia, Lucio Mansilla's Una excursión a los indios ranqueles, Eugenio Cambaceres En la sangre, Roberto Arlt's El juguete rabioso, Julio Cortázar's Rayuela and Mempo Giardinelli's Imposible equilibrio, this dissertation explores the continuing and changing role of scientific reference and imitation in the elaboration of ideological discourse. What is revealed are several situations across time and literary tradition in which references to science and scientists are used as rhetorical devices intended to buttress the cultural power of the literary texts in which these references appear. I call the literary appropriation of scientific prestige and authority for rhetorical reasons "test tube envy," implying that literary discourse seems to exhibit a lack of textual authority that authors attempt to rectify through an appeal to science's ability to produce cultural truth in Western society.

I conclude that an examination of the continuing literary appearance of science in a rhetorical role highlights the need to rethink Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria's system of "masterstories" presented in his book, Myth and Archive. Alongside the shift Gonzalez Echevarria suggests from a nineteenth-century discourse based on scientific travelers to a twentieth-century discourse based on myth and anthropology, this study brings to light a continuing practice of scientific reference in the production of literary and ideological positions. Where Sarmiento uses scientific travel writing and phrenology to privilege his politically motivated depiction of Argentina in 1845, Giardinelli uses chaos theory similarly as a narrative substructure for the ideas on Argentine postmodernity that he presents in 1995's Imposible equilibrio. The differences between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries deal more with the cause to which scientific authority is put. While the nineteenth-century authors used scientific reference for political purposes, their twentieth-century counterparts used the rhetorical power of science to bolster their presentation of the nature of reality. Nevertheless, regardless of differing political or philosophical goal, the texts under consideration share the rhetorical mechanism of scientific reference as a means by which cultural power is created and wielded.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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