Literary Bondage: Slavery in Cuban Narrative

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In the nineteenth century, the Cuban economy rested on the twin pillars of sugar and slaves. Slavery was abolished in 1886, but, one hundred years later, Cuban authors were still writing antislavery narratives. William Luis explores this seeming paradox in his groundbreaking study Literary Bondage, asking why this literary genre has remained a viable means of expression. Applying Foucault's theory of counter-discourse to a vast body of antislavery literature, Luis shows how these narratives have always served to undermine the foundations of slavery, to protest the marginalized status of blacks in Cuban society, and to rewrite the canon of acceptable history and literature. He finds that emancipation did not end the need for such counter-discourse and reveals how the antislavery narrative continues to provide a forum for voices that have been silenced by the dominant culture. In addition to such well-known works as Cecilia Valdes, The Kingdom of This World, and The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, Luis draws on many literary works outside the familiar canon, including Romualdo, uno de tantos, Aponte, Sofia La familia Unzuazu, El negrero, and Los guerrilleros negros. This comprehensive coverage raises important questions about the process of canon-formation and brings to light Cuba's rich heritage of Afro-Latin literature and culture.