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On Emerging from Hyper Nation

On Emerging from Hyper Nation: Saramago's "Historical" Trilogy

Ronald W. Sousa
Íñigo Sánchez-Llama Series Editor
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    On Emerging from Hyper Nation
    Book Description:

    On Emerging from Hyper-Nation represents Ronald W. Sousa’s attempt to answer the question, “Why do I smile on reading one of Saramago’s ‘historical’ novels?” Why that reaction of emotional release? To answer the “smile question” the book engages in a critical mode that could be described as “discourse analysis.” It combines several critical strains and relies on basic concepts from Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, Adlerian psychology, and contemporary cognitive psychology for their discourse-analytical value rather than as entrées into psychoanalytical reading per se. The introductory chapter presents some of the concepts that underlie that compound analytical modality and sets out an overview of twentieth-century Portuguese social and economic history. Then, with an eye to answering the “smile question,” the book reads Nobel Laureate José Saramago’s three novels, Baltasar and Blimunda (1982), The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (1984), and The History of the Siege of Lisbon (1989). Or, better, it seeks to read Sousa’s own reading of the three works, since focus falls on how each novel seeks to construct both its own reading and also Sousa as its reader. The discussion brings to light a number of textual phenomena that bear upon the “smile question.” Among them are that the novels invoke, often subtly, the fascist hermeneutical heritage remaining from before the revolution of 1974 as a constituent part of their communication with the reader; that they summon up historical trauma; that they function as Freudian-style “tendentious jokes”; and that, through these various invocations, they seek to constitute a postrevolutionary Portuguese subject. The reading of Sousa’s reading, then, ends up being a reading of some of the cultural forces at work in postrevolutionary Portugal.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-349-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction What’s in a Smile? (pp. 1-10)

    This is an unconventional little book—deceptively so, I think. At its core it is the record of my working through a problem, though in these pages that record appears reworked to produce a linear presentation for the purposes that I shall here introduce. In what follows I express that problem in the form of a question: “Why my smile?” Because, in point of fact, that is how the problem first presented itself to me: I found myself smiling and wondered exactly why I was doing so. Expressed in longer form, the problem has a number of facets to it:...

  5. Chapter One Portuguese Fascism and Literary Institutionality (pp. 11-38)

    As a step preliminary to beginning my smile pursuit, I shall need to present and discuss several interrelated matters of historical import, as well as some of their implications for the study of contemporary Portuguese literature. The need comes on several fronts, principally, under present circumstances, to provide a sense of the historical and hermeneutical conditions under which my initial reading of the Saramago novels took place. My plan is to address those matters in a series of separable but interconnected fragments. I would not like to have them seen as conceptually complete presentations of the subjects that they involve...

  6. Chapter Two Baltasar and Blimunda: The Readership Pact and the Release of Pleasure (pp. 39-78)

    Given that I have identified this project on the ground of personal anecdote about reading (though, as I have indicated, other readers’ reactions echo my own), it seems fitting that I launch my exploration at that point. In this chapter I shall therefore be using my own readerly experience withBaltasar and Blimundaas the starting point for the development of a phenomenology of reading for the novel. Please recall that as the basis for that development I shall be inventorying, in phenomenological reduction, features of my own reception, a process that fits roughly within the parameters that Iser (The)...

  7. Chapter Three Reading the Labyrinth: Text as Obstacle in The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis (pp. 79-122)

    The implied author–reader pact inaugurated inBaltasar and Blimundais, as we have seen, a particular and complex one. In the light of the preceding chapter and in consonance with Bürger’s postulation of the radical historicity of the institution of art, we can say that such textual manifestations of the literary institution as Saramago’s novels are the products of a specific moment in the history of Portuguese literary institutionality, a moment when the institution still retained considerable investment in some of the elements of fascism—even if only the social-psychological residue—and also would seem both to be incorporating...

  8. Chapter Four Mastering the Culture’s Tool Kit, or “Is the City Still Taken?”: The History of the Siege of Lisbon’s Self-Invited Reader (pp. 123-170)

    As though it were intercepting the course of this book at the present juncture, the third novel,The History of the Siege of Lisbon, seems to acknowledge openly many of the issues heretofore developed on the basis of my reading of my reception of the first two novels. First and foremost, it acknowledges the centrality of reading in Saramago’s work, as well as the highly transactional nature of the role that work assigns to me, the reader. It does so in the first instance by textualizing a reader figure—and what is more, one who reads the Portuguese past in...

  9. Conclusion What Has the Smile Brought with It? (pp. 171-180)

    The most direct manner of bringing this exploration to a conclusion is to return to the smile question and to declare that the foregoing shows the complex etiology of my smile—and, presumably, the smiles of others like me. My smile, it turns out, derives from the very expectations, hermeneutic in the narrow sense and also emotional-psychological bound up with the hermeneutic, that I was accustomed to bring to the reading of a contemporary Portuguese novel. In attempting to read the three novels in question, I encountered a task set out for me in which some of the core expectations...

  10. Notes (pp. 181-184)
  11. Works Cited and Consulted (pp. 185-192)
  12. Index (pp. 193-196)
  13. Back Matter (pp. 197-199)