Cecilia Valdés y las ideas fuera de lugar

This is my idea for the IILI conference at the Colegio de México. It would build on a piece I am giving here. It would revisit Schwarz’ concept of “misplaced ideas” — which may be somewhat outdated or limited or something, such that it is worth discussing and revising.

The concept really does apply to Cecilia Valdés, in two ways: one, modernization, the bourgeois family, and so on do not fit the reality of slavery. This is what makes the secrecy about adultery necessary, which in turn causes all the trouble in the novel. So it is, in that way, a novel on idéias fora de lugar.

More importantly, the novel itself is a misplaced idea, since it is secretly set in Louisiana (as it were) and based on the plaçage myth. My paper here will not go into the Schwarzian ideas, but my paper in Mexico could. That would help to draw out the implications of these newly discovered facts, that plaçage is a myth and that the myth is an expression of Anglo-American anxieties about miscegenation.

Does this mean that Cuba, like Bahia, sees itself through foreign eyes?


One thought on “Cecilia Valdés y las ideas fuera de lugar

  1. All right: for that congreso at the Colegio de México.

    Cecilia Valdés has a rich critical tradition and I am not the first to say the novel is about protecting the white Creole élite in Independence. Vanessa Nelsen in addition points out that the realismo-costumbrismo in it cites not reality but a series of literary tropes and stock characters to create the reality effect. There is one more of these, though: the placage myth. Which Clark and to some extent Aslakson point out, arises and functions to allay fear of the power of rebellious Black men — by displacing this fear onto fear of miscegenation / the vengativa y maliciosa mulata. Thus coinciding with Nelsen’s reading. So we super-confirm Nelsen and ask the question of ideas fuera de lugar (and, are they really fuera de lugar, or is this just a characteristic of modernity and modernization, wanting to catch up, knowing one is out of place??? or is there a special Latin American twist to this???)

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