Mexican Literature in Translation

Professor Roberto Sifuentes

Diego Rivera

Nude with Calla Lilies, 1944
Oil on masonite
of Emilia Guzzy de Gálvez

ChS 201 / Mexican Literature in Translation

Chicano Studies 201, Mexican Literature in Translation, is a Survey Course designed to review the major literary trends in Mexico: The period of Conquest and Exploration, Colonial Times involving the Baroque and the Neoclassic, the XIX Century involving Romanticism, Realism, Symbolism and Naturalism and the XX Century Contemporary movements. Special emphasis will be placed on the Mexican novel of XX Century Mexico with intensive readings and discussion and text analysis.


Students will be able to apply methods used for text analysis. They will be acquainted with a survey of the literature of Mexico. Relate it to specific literary movements and periods. And will be able to do public presentations of their work in a round table approach.

Required Reading and Study Materials

Calavera de Jose Guadalupe Posada

Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs

Gregorio López y Fuentes, El Indio

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo

Carlos Fuentes, Aura and The Good Conscience

Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

J.E.Cirlot, Dictionary of Symbols or the Penguin Dicionary of Symbols

Octavio Paz, "Piedra de sol" (Sunstone)

Any Class Handouts, Class Notes and Audio-Visual Materials Presented.


Chicano Studies 201, Mexican Literature in Translation, is a Survey Course designed to review the major literary trends in Mexico: The period of Conquest and Exploration, Colonial Times involving the Baroque and the Neoclassic, the XIX Century involving Romanticism, Realism, Symbolism and Naturalism and the XX Century Contemporary movements. Special emphasis will be placed on the Mexican novel of XX Century Mexico with intensive readings and discussion and text analysis.

Students Responsibilities:

1. Attend every class meeting at the specified time. Each absence will affect final grade with the exception of authorized emergencies properly documented.

2. Do reading assignments, and be ready to participate and contribute to class discussions. Be timely in any research or library project assigned.

3. Participate in one of five round table discussion panels.

4. Submit five original papers, one every two weeks or as indicated by the instructor, following the format and style of the Modern Language Association (MLA). The papers will have a title page and a minimum of five typed pages using font size 12, double spaced with margins not wider than one inch and properly footnoted. The paper should be turned by the deadline or sooner. The papers will be graded considering method application, analytical approach, grammar, organization and neatness.

5. Students are required to take two exams: a Midterm and a Final and short quizzes whenever required.

6. The following is an important list of the literary figures to be studied. Consult the internet or history of Spanish American Literature and Mexican Literature manuals to obtain information on the following: Hernán Cortés, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Bartolomé de las Casas, Bernardino de Sahagún, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi, Manuel Acuña, Manuel M. Flores, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Rubén Darío, Ramón López Velarde, Juan José Tablada, José Vasconcelos, Alfonso Reyes, Samuel Ramos, Octavio Paz, Rosario Castellanos, Elena Paniatowska, José Agustín and writers North from Mexico. Bibliographical and biographical information on these figures should be found in anthologies, dictionaries and manuals of Mexican Literature and Spanish American Literature.

Reference Materials:

Rene Wellek & Austin Warren, Theory of literature.
Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism.
Latin American Writers.
Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude.
Miguel León Portilla, Aztec Thought and Culture.
Fernando Alegría, Historia de la novela hispanoamericana.
Elena Paniatowska, Noche de Tlaltelolco (Massacre in Tlaltelolco).
William Rose Benet (Editor), The Readers Encyclopedia; a Dictionary of Literature.
Joseph Summers, After the Storm.
Nochi-Lifo - Creative Series Journal.

Literary manuals, anthologies, bibliographies and other materials dealing with Mexican literature.

ChS 201 Schedule -- Prof. Roberto Sifuentes

This is a weekly guide for this course of studies. Although this schedule may differ from time to time, please make sure you do your readings in time for the discussion of any particular author or period.

Classes begin.

Week 1, Orientation and Introduction - Lecture and Discussion. Mexico, the land and its people, an overview. Literary influences. The encounter of two cultures.Conquest and Exploration (1492-1600)
Library assignment: 1. Authors: know your writers and write a short biographical essay (one page each) of the assigned novelists.2. Investigate the following periods in relation to literature and write one page report on each item: Classic, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassic, Enlightment, Romantic, Realism, Symbolism, Naturalism, The Tlaltelolco Generation.

Week 2. Literature in Mexico, Lecture and Discussion - Brief discussion of the literary areas and time-line related to: Discovery, Conquest and Exploration - 1st. half of the 16th. Century.-- Colonial Letters, Baroque and The Enlightment - 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries -- Romanticism. Reading Assignment: Dictionary of Symbols, "Introduction." and Mariano Azuela, The Underdogs.

Week 3. Literary Concepts and terminology: Lecture and Discussion. Human values reflected in literature. Readings on turn of the century (19th Century), Realism, Positivism, Existentialism, Naturalism. The Novel: Structural Concepts. The intellectual movement and its relationship to the Mexican Revolution. Discussion of The Underdogs relation to the Novel of the Mexican Revolution. Reading and Written Assignment: Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes, El Indio.

Week 4. Discussion on methodology for text analysis. Paper Assignment: GLF, El Indio. Writers of The Mexican Revolution, Discussion, (Realism and Naturalism) Discussion of Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes, El Indio. The salient theme to observe in these novels relates to Disillusion due to the violation of the principles of the Mexican Revolution. Reading Assignment: Octavio Paz, "Sun stone."

Week 5. Gregorio López y Fuentes, El Indio: Lecture and Discussion. Discussion on Indigenism, Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes Approach to Indigenism -- Readings on Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes. Begin reading O.P. "Sun Stone." Round table discussion on Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes. Reading and Writing Assignment: Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo; José Rubén Romero, La vida inútil de Pito Perez.

Week 6. Readings on Symbolism, - Discussion on Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo and José Rubén Romero, La Vida inutil de Pito Perez. Lecture on the Corrido, from Guadalupe Posada to the Mexican Revolution and beyond -- . Lecture on the Ateneo de la Juventud. José Vasconcelos, Antonio Caso, Samuel Ramos. Lecture and discussion on Magical Realism. Class discussion: Symbolism. Assignment: Oral Presentations and Discussion, Symbolism and Magical Reality.
Readings on Carlos Fuentes, Aura.

Week 7. Carlos Fuentes: Lecture and Discussion. Symbolism, Displacement of time -- Round table discussion on Juan Rulfo's Pedro Paramo. Round Table Discussion.

Week 8. MIDTERM EXAM. Audio Visual Presentations -- Lecture and Discussions -- Oral Presentations and Round table discussions on Carlos Fuentes' Aura. Reading and Writing Assignment: Carlos Fuentes, The Good Conscience.

Week 9. Carlos Fuentes, The Good Conscience. Lecture and Discussion. A study on hypocrisy and its impact on provincial society as reflected on Carlos Fuentes, The Good Conscience.

Week 10. Audio Visual Presentations. Lecture and discussion, Oral Presentations and Round table discussions on Carlos Fuentes' The Good Conscience. Reading assignments: Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate.

Week 11. Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate - Lecture and Discussion. Preparation and Discussion for Paper Assignment. Rosario Castellanos, Elena Garro, Elena Paniatowska, and Laura Esquivel, the contemporary Novel. Readings on Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

Week 12. Film presentations and discussion related to contemporary movements in literature. Oral Presentations and Round Table Discussions. The 2nd Part of the 20th Century in Mexican Literature. Chicano Literature and the 1968 Generation.

Week 13. Oral presentations and class discussion on Contemporary Movements in Literature. The 2nd Part of the 20th Century in Mexican Literature. Mexican Literature and the U.S., The Chicanos in literature.

Week 14. -- Lecture and discussion on contemporary writers: Elena Paniatowska, Elena Garro, Jose Agustín. La Nueva Onda. The Tlaltelolco. Writers North from Mexico. The U.S. young writers.

LAST DAY OF FORMAL INSTRUCTION. Review days. Check Schedule of Classes for this date.

Final exams. Check the date assigned in the Spring 2001 Schedule of Classes for the final exam date.




As noted by Arturo Torres-Rioseco, the conqueror, whether soldier, priest, or navigator was the representative of a culture he had brought with him to the Américas, The Western European Culture. His role demanded that he subdue and civilize-and interpret in words. Columbus was the first to describe this contact with a new world. While Hernán Cortés (1485-1547), in his famous Five Letters (1519-1526), was the first to send his monarch detailed historical accounts of his work, later conquerors and historians continued the record, and their writings form the first great type of colonial literature: The crónica, whose subject matter is American. Perhaps the greatest chronicler of them all (from a literary standpoint) was Bernal Díaz del Castillo who gave us his celebrated book True History of the Conquest of New Spain.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492-1584)

The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (1552) By Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492-1584) as a work of literature is one of the most important legacies left by the Spanish conquest. Bernal Díaz came to the Americas as a soldier, seeking his fortune. He in turn wrote one of the most realistic episodes relating the tragedy that begun the destruction of the culture of the Indies. His book surpasses any fiction.

His description have the credence of the witness sworn to tell the truth, after all, he was there, he was there as a veteran soldier, as a Spaniard who had traveled to the large cities in Europe. From the first two attempts to make an expedition into the unknown land; to the armada of Cortés and the burning of the ships; the march inland and the massacre of Cholula; the entry into the great inland city of Mexico across the lake-causeway; with cities and towns rising from the land and the water to either side; the capitulation of Moctezuma; the sham battle with other Spaniards who had been sent to punish the rebellion of Cortés; the final bloody march back to Mexico, slaying and branding the inhabitants; and the ultimate surrender of the capital after 85 days of siege. It is hard to imagine a more remarkable story and no one has ever related it better than Bernal Diaz.

Bernal Díaz merely relates events that he saw and in which he himself took part. He tells them with a freedom from literary formulas, acquiring an unusual freshness of style. His descriptions are minute, vivid, concrete; everything comes to life in his pages-an Indian market, for example, the names and colors of every horse in the expedition.  Its pages are crammed with unforgettably lifelike episodes. But it is also in his strong, personalized point of view that he stands out.

He writes with and undisguised vanity about himself, almost a hatred for the overpraised Cortes, and a passionate conviction that the conquest was achieved not by the commander, but by the four hundred soldiers of the expedition. His battle scenes, in addition to their color and detail, are alive with the doings of the common soldier, like the scene of the storming of and Indian hill fortress by the infantry, while Cortés and the horsemen kept watch in the plain. Arturo Torres Rioseco observes that The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz may be considered the most Spanish and at the same time the most American of all the New world Chronicles.

Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Spain (1474?-1566)

Called "the defender of the Indians," Bartolomé de las Casas was born in Seville, Spain. Although he was a graduate from the University of Salamanca, his humanist training was completed during his studies for the clergy. Impressed by the news of the New World he traveled to the Americas and became an encomendero in Cuba, though he always distinguished himself for his good treatment of the Indians. Later he joined the order of the Dominicans but always concerned about the bad treatment of the Indians at the hands of the encomenderos in Mexico and other areas. He took responsibility and fought against the
despotism and treatment of the Indians seeking justice by traveling several times to Spain in order to have these iniquities stop. In las Casas, the moral and ethical concepts are more important than the writer. But his writings did have great influence in the philosophic and juridical specially in defining the status of the indegenes. He later became Bishop of Chiapas a southern area of Mexico by the Pacific Ocean.

The works of Bartolomé de las Casas are very important for the study of the Conquest, the early colonization, the psychological and ideological development of the human condition. The first and most important of his works is the History of the Indies, (from the discovery until 1520) was finished in 1527. This is a very detailed history where you find transcriptions of  documents, letters, reconstruction of dialogs and conversations among the conquistadors to give it more credibility. He has many digressions in the areas of philosophy, history and theology, citing the Bible, religious writings, and important writers of  antiquity. He writes a very detailed conversational history. His writings always are in defense of the indigenes from the abuse and exploitation of the whites. He brings out the best human qualities of the indigenes with excellent descriptions of their customs, their psychology and their art. His history has a religious tone and always ties historical developments of the Americas with the history and politics of Spain. The picture is always physical, moral and psychological with passages full of movement and interest.

His writings include Apologética historia, a complement to his History of the Indies. but by far a work which had a major impact in Europe was his Brevísima historia de la destrucción de las Indias (1542). In this work las Casas was calling attention to the abuses and injustices suffered by the indigenous people. His book contributed to the development by England and France of the "Black Legend" which emphasized the atrocities against the indigenes during the conquest and colonization period.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

Octavio Paz on Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1651-1695)

Sor Juan Inés de la Cruz- or, by her real name Juana de Asbaje-is the noblest figure in the colonial poetry of Spanish America and one of the richest and most profound of our literature. She was beset by critics, biographers and apologists, but nothing which has been said about her since the seventeenth century is more apt and penetrating than what she herself tells us in her "Respuesta a sor Filotea de la Cruz."In this letter is to be found the tale of her intellectual vocation; a defense sometimes ironical, of her thirst for knowledge; the story of her struggle and triumphs; and a criticism of her poetry and also of her critics.

These pages reveal Sor Juana as an intellectual, that is to say, a creature for whom life is an exercise of the mind. She wanted to understand everything. Where a religious soul would find proof of the presence of God, she saw an occasion for hypothesis and questioning. For her the world was more an enigma than a place for salvation. Symbol of maturity though she is, the Mexican nun is also the image of society on the verge of schism. A nun by intellectual vocation, she preferred the tyranny of the cloister than that of the world, and for years maintained a precarious balance in a daily conflict between her religious duty and her intellectual curiosity. Defeated, she lapsed into silence, but her silence was that of the intellectual, not that of the mystic.

The poetical works of Sor Juana are numerous, varied, and unequal. The innumerable poems she wrote bear witness to her graceful ease and also to her carelessness. But most of her work is saved from this defect, both by its admirable rhetorical construction and by the truths it expresses. Although she said that the only thing she enjoyed writing was "a trifle called The dream'" her sonnets, liras, and endechas are the works of a great poet of earthly love. For this witty, passionate and ironical woman, the sonnet became a natural form of expression. In its luminous dialect of metaphor-she is consumed and delivered,
escapes and surrenders. Less ardent than Louise Labbe, and also less direct, the Mexican poetess goes deeper and is freer and more daring in her reticence, as well as more mistress for herself in her transports. She uses her intellect not to restrain her passion but to intensify it, and to make it more freely and intentionally inevitable. In its best moments, the poetry of Sor Juana is something more than a sentimental confession or a happy exercise in baroque rhetoric. And even when she is obviously jesting, as in the disquieting portrait of the Countess of Paredes, her sensuality and love of the body give life to the erudite allusions and conceits, which are transformed into a labyrinth of crystal and fire.

"Primero Sueño" (First Dream) is Sor Juana's most ambitious poem. Although it was a confessed imitation of "Soledades" of  Góngora, The profound difference between the two works is grater than their external similarity. Sor Juana tries to pierce reality, not to make it a gleaming surface.

The vision which we are shown in "Primero Sueño" is a dream of universal night where men and the universe dream and are themselves fragments of a dream: a dream of knowledge, a dream of being. Nothing could be further removed form the amorous night of the mystic than his intellectual night, a night of sleepless eyes and sleepless clocks. In the "Soledades," says Alfonso Reyes, Góngora sees a man "as an inert mass in the nocturnal landscape. Sor Juana "approaches the sleeper like a vampire enters into him and his nightmare, looking for a synthesis of wakefulness, drowsing and dream." The substance of the poem is unprecedented in Spanish poetry and had no influence until recent times. "Primero Sueño" is a poem of the intelligence, its ambitions and defeats. It is intellectual poetry, poetry of disenchantment. Sor Juana brings to an end the viceregal period.

José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (1776-1827)

Truly the creator of the Latin American novel is J.Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi the most influential narrative writer in Mexico during the XIX Century. He studied Latin and Philosophy at the Colegio de San Idelfonso in Mexico City.

In 1812, when the Cortes de Cadíz declared freedom of the press, he started the newspaper "El Pensador Mexicano" where he published aricles related to the most important events of the viceroyalty and became an efective spokesman for the liberal ideas. It was during this period when he was sent to jail by the Viceroy Venegas because of some political commentary. He founded seven newspapers and dedicated himself to writting journalistic articles, pamphlets, articles on customs, novels, fabulas, poetry and drama. Salient in his novels are his moralizing and pedagogical orientations. There are four important novels El Periquillo Sarniento (1816), La Quijotita y su prima (1818), Noches tristes y dia alegre (1818), Don Catrin de la Fachenda (1819). All but Noches Tristes...are written in the picaresque mode.

 In philosophy, is one of two rival doctrines in the disputes of the medieval School men (Realism Scholasticism). Derived from the theories of Plato, it held that only universal concepts such as roundness, beauty, and the like, have reality, since they exist before any particular circle or beautiful object.




The term Realism is also used to describe literature that attempts to depict life in an entirely, objective manner, without idealization or glamour, and without didactic or moral ends.  Realism may be said to begun with such early English novelists as Defoe, Fielding, and Smollett, and to have become a literary trend in the 19th Century.  In America, Realism, became an important movement in the 1880’s with William Dean Howells as its leading theorizer, and Henry James as one of its main practitioners.  It contributed to the growth of NATURALISM with which it is sometimes identified, at the turn of the century. At present it is such a pervasive element in literature that it scarcely retains any distinct import.




Naturalism is a movement begun in France in the later part of the 19th century.  Revolting against subjectivism and imaginative scapism which seem to characterize the Romantic school, the naturalistic writers were influenced by the biological theories of Darwin and the social determinism of Taine. The new movement sought to depict human society and the lives of the men and woman who composed it as objectively and truthfully as the subject matter of science is studied and presented. Stendhal, Balzac and Flaubert were forerunners of the movement; the Goncourt brothers, Maupassant, Daudet, and above all Zola formulated the principles and engaged in the practice of naturalism. In technique their work was by an objective, detached method of narration, meticulous accuracy of detail and scholarly care in the documentation of historical background. Its subjects were drawn from the lower strata of society and no detail in their sordid unhappy lives was spared. Emphasis was place on the social environment of their characters and on the totally subordinate relation of the human being to it. In the naturalistic novel there is a pervading sense of  the control exerted over the actions and destinies of the characters by impersonal social, economic and biological sources. Human free will is shown as weak and almost completely ineffectual. Despite similarity of method, however, there was a difference in the aim of naturalistic writers. The Goncourt brothers engaged in a total analysis of human misery, whi8le Flaubert justified his minutely descriptive method on aesthetic grounds. Zola employed both his technique and his subject matter in the service of his passionate zeal for social reform. In England the novels of George Gissing, Thomas Hardy, and Samuel Butlers how affinities with naturalistic writings, Somerset Maugham Liza of Lambeth is on the tradition of Zola.

Naturalism in America appeared just before the turn of the 20th century, it was to some extent an outgrowth of realism and was largely influenced by the spread  of the theories of evolution, historical determinism, and mechanistic philosophy. The earliest naturalistic novel was Stephen Crane’s Maggei; a Girl of the Streets, but Crane did not continue to work on this vein. Frank Norris and Jack London whose earlier naturalistic novels were to follow Crane’s became perhaps the more famous as exponents of naturalism than as artists in their own right.





Source: Laurence Perrine, Literature-Structure, Sound and Sense, HBJ, New York, 1983.

The depiction of imaginary experiences can provide authentic insights. Diderot saw history as full of falsehoods, and the romance as full of truths.

Fiction may be classified on two broad categories: Literature of Scape and Literature of Interpretation.

Scape Literature si written purely for entertainment, it takes us away the real world , it enables us temporarily to forget our troubles, pleasure is the only objective of escape literature.

Interpretive literature is written to broaden, deepen and sharpen our awareness of life. Interpretive literature takes us though the imagination, deeper into the real world: It enables us to understand our troubles.

A story becomes interpretive as it illuminates some aspect of human life or behavior, an interpretive story presents us with an insight into the nature and conditions of our existence. It gives us a keener awareness of what is to be a human being in a universe sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile. It help us to understand our neighbors and ourselves.


Plot is the sequence of incidents or events of which the story is composed. When recounted by itself it bears about the same relationship that a map does to a journey. Just as a map may be drawn in a finer or grosser scale, so a plot may be recounted with lesser or grater detail, it may include what a character says or thinks as well as what he does. But it leaves out description and analysis and concentrates ordinarily on major happenings.

Ordinarily, both the excitement created by the beginning reader and the meaningfulness demanded by the mature reader arises out of some sort of CONFLICT - a clash of actions, ideas, desires or wills. The main character may be pitted against some other person or group of persons (man against man); he may be in conflict with some external force - physical nature, society or fate (man against environment) or he may be in conflict with some element of his own nature (man against himself).

The protagonist, the central character in the conflict, may be a sympathetic or an unsympathetic person. The antagonist, the force arrayed against him, whether persons, things, or traits of his own character.

Suspense is the quality of the story that makes the reader ask “What is going to happen next?” or “how will this turn out?” and impels him to read on to find answers to these questions. Suspense is grater when a reader’s curiosity is combined with anxiety about the fate of some sympathetic character.

Artistic unity is essential to a good plot. There must be nothing in the story which is irrelevant, that does not contribute to the total meaning, nothing that is there for its own sake or its own excitement. The writer exercises a rigorous selection; he includes nothing that does not advance the central intention of the story. But he not only selects, he must also arrange. The incidents and episodes should be placed in the most effective order, which is not necessarily chronological order, and when arranged in a chronological order, should; make a logical progression. In a highly unified story each event grows out of the preceding one in time and leads logically to the next. The various stages of the story are linked together in a chain of cause and effect.


Plot and character are but one substance, they are linked together. The author may present his characters directly or indirectly. In a direct presentation he tells us straight out, by exposition or analysis, what a character is like, or has someone else in the story tell us what he is like. In the indirect presentation, the author shows us the characters in action; we infer what he is like from what he thinks, or says, or does.

The method of direct presentation has the advantages of being clear and economical but it can never be used alone. The characters must act as if there is to be a story; when they do not act, the story approaches the condition of an essay.

The characters are dramatized when shown speaking or acting as if in a drama.

To be convincing, the characters must be consistent in their behavior.

They must be clearly motivated in what they do specially when there is any change in their behavior. We must be able to understand the reason for what they do.

They must be plausible or life like. They must neither be paragons of virtue or monsters of evil nor an impossible combination of contradictory traits.

Flat character may be characterized by one o r two traits; he can be summed up in a sentence.

Round character is complex and many sided; this type may require a full essay for analysis.

Stock character, his nature is immediately known, he is the stereotyped figure who has occurred often in fiction.

Static character is the same person at the end of the story as he was at the beginning.

Developing character (or dynamic), he undergoes a permanent change in some aspect of his character, personality or outlook.

The change may be large or small, it may be for better or for worse; but it is something important and basic; it is more than a
change in condition or a minor change in opinion.


The theme of a piece of fiction is its controlling idea or its central insight. It is the unifying generalization about life stated or implied by the story. To derive the theme of a story, we must ask what is its central purpose; what view of life it supports or what insight into life it reveals.

Not all stories have a theme. The theme exists only. 1. When an author has seriously attempted to record life accurately or to reveal some truth about it or, 2. When he has mechanically introduced some concept or theory of life into it that he uses as a unifying element that his story is meant to illustrate. Theme exists in all interpretive fiction but only in some scape fiction. In interpretive fiction it is the purpose of the story; in scape fiction it is merely an excuse, a peg to hang the story from.

The theme of a story, like its plot, may be stated briefly or at greater length. With a simple or very brief story we may be satisfied to sum up the theme in a simple sentence. With a more complex story, if it is successfully unified, we can still state the theme in a simple sentence, but a paragraph -or occasionally even an essay- may be needed in order to state it adequately.

There is no prescribed method for discovering the theme. Sometimes we can best get it by asking in what way the main character has changed in the course of the story and what, if anything, he has learned from its end. Sometimes the best approach is to explore the nature of the central conflict and its outcome. Sometimes the title will provide an important clue. At times we should keep in mind these principles:

1. The theme must be expressible in the form of a statement with a subject and a predicate. It is insufficient to say that the theme of a story is “motherhood or loyalty to country.”

2. The theme must be expressed as a generalization about life. In stating theme we do not use the names of the characters in the story, for to do so is to make a specific rather that a general statement.

3. We must be careful not to make the generalization larger than is justified by the terms of the story. Terms like “every,” “all,” and “always” should be used cautiously. Terms like “some,” “sometimes,” and “may” are often more accurate.

4. The theme is the central and unifying concept of the story. a) It must account for all the major details of the story. b) The theme must not be contradicted by any detail of the story. c) The theme must not rely upon supposed facts, i.e., facts not actually stated or clearly implied by the story. The theme must exist INSIDE not OUTSIDE the story.

5. There is no one way of stating the theme of a story. The story is not a guessing game or an acrostic that is supposed to yield some magic verbal formula that won’t work if a syllable is changed. It merely presents a view of life, and as long as the above conditions are fulfilled, that view may surely be stated in more than one way.

6. We should avoid any statement that reduces the theme to some familiar saying that we have heard all of our lives, such as, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” or “a stitch in time saves nine.” Although such a statement may express the theme accurately, too often it is simply the lazy man’s shortcut which impoverishes the essential meaning of the story in order to save mental effort.


The modern story teller is artistically self-conscious. He realizes that there are many ways of telling a story. He decides on a method before he begins and may set up rules for himself. He may let one of his characters tell it for him; he may tell it by means of letters or diaries. He may confine himself to recording the thoughts of one of his characters. With the growth of artistic consciousness, the question of POINT OF VIEW, of who tells the story and of how it gets told, has assumed special importance.

In order to determine the point of view of a story, we ask, “who tells the story?” and “How much is he allowed to know?” and especially, “to what extent does the author look inside the characters and report their thoughts and feelings?”

Basic Points of View:

1. Omniscient
2. Limited omniscient a) Major character. b) Minor character
3. First Person. a) Major character b) Minor character

In the OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW, the story is told by the author using the third person, and his knowledge and prerogatives are unlimited. He is free to go wherever he wishes, to peer inside the minds and hearts of his characters at will and tell us what they are thinking or feeling. He can interpret their behavior, and he can comment, if he wishes, on the significance of the story he is telling. He knows all. He can tell as much or as little as he pleases.

In the LIMITED OMNISCIENT POINT OF VIEW, the author tells the story in the third person, but he tells it from the viewpoint of one character in the story. The author places himself at the elbow of his character, so to speak, and looks at the events of the story through his eyes and through his mind. He moves both inside and outside of this character but never leaves his side. He tells us whatever the character sees and hears and what he thinks and feels. He possibly interprets the character’s thoughts and behavior. He knows everything about this character, more than the character knows about himself, but he shows no knowledge of what other characters are thinking, or felling, or doing, except for what his chosen character knows or can infer. The chosen character may be either a major or a minor character, a participant or an observer, and this choice also will be very important for the story..

In the FIRST PERSON POINT OF VIEW, the author disappears into one of the characters, who tells the story in the first person. This character may be either a major or minor character, protagonist or observer, and it will make considerable difference whether the protagonist tells the story or someone else tells it.

In the OBJECTIVE POINT OF VIEW, the author disappears into a kind of robing sound camera. This camera can go anywhere but can record only what is seen and heard. It can not comment , interpret or enter a character's mind. With this point of view (sometimes called also the DRAMATIC POINT OF VIEW) the reader is placed in the position of spectator at a movie or a play. He sees what the characters do and hears what they say but can only infer what they think or feel and what they are like. The author is not there to explain. The purest example of a story told from the objective point of view would be one written entirely in dialogue, for as soon as the author adds words of his own, he begins to interpret through his very choice of words.

Allegory: A form of narrative in which exact symbolic equations exist between characters, places or action and the meanings for which they stand. Since abstract moral qualities and emotions are frequently given human form (personification), the characters in an allegory are often flat and unreal, types rather than individuals.

Allusion: A reference real or fictional, to someone, some event or something in literature, history or any aspect of culture. The reference naturally preserves its original meaning but must be put in the context of the work being analyzed. Only by this procedure can you determine if the author is incorporating the allusion directly, altering or reverting it ironically.

Ambiguity: A term describing those words, figures of speech, and also actions in literary works for which more than one meaning is possible. Ambiguity may result from the subtlety of an author's art or it may be from his confusion. Ambiguity is the source for multiple interpretation: that is, different people may interpret the same words and events in opposite ways because of the suggestive power of the poem or the story. Ambiguity involves many important aspects of literary analysis: an author’s style, his choice of words and the use of figures of speech, specially symbols; the motivations of characters; the implication of settings , situations and endings.

Atmosphere: The mood or moods of a literary work created by the description of settings, by the action of words or characters, by the tone of an author. One function of atmosphere can be the creation of suspense - tenseness and expectations within the reader.

Caricature: An unsubtle, oversimplified, and exagerated presentation of a character general stressing one aspect , so that the reader understands what the character represents. Since a caricature is sometimes designed to make a person or a type of person seems ridiculous, it is a kind of satire.

Characterization: The means whereby an author establishes the illusion that the persons created by his words are indeed people or like people, with traits and personalities which a reader can recognize and analyze.

Climax: The higher and most important point towards which the chain of events has been moving. It can be the point at which issues and conflicts in the plot are fully and clearly resolved, or it can establish the circumstances which allow the author to explain and unravel the events.

Complication or rasing action: The development of actions and conflicts in regular plot structures. In a traditional plot, the complication falls between the exposition and the climax and is closely related to both.

Conflict: The collision of opposing forces in prose or fiction. Conflicts can take many forms: 1) Between people. 2) between man and his enviroment (family, occupational circumstances, social and economic forces beyond one's control or natural forces). 3) Between ideologies and concepts. 4) Internal conflicts.

Dialogue: The conversation between two people. Since dialogue is a vital form of action related to plot, it is also a basic form of study of characters and of an author's style. In works which attempt to construct the psychological make-up of a character, interior dialogue (monologue) occurs: a character speaks to himself or imagines that he speaks to someone else.

Didacticism: The emphasis of a literary work on a thesis, or an overt attempt to instruct or persuade the reader. At its worst, Didacticism becomes propaganda.

Exposition: That posrtion of the narrative which provides the necessary background material for a reader. Exposition establishes setting (time and place); It can create the basic atmosphere; rmation about the past of the characters; it provides vital contexts for the events and action which are to unfold.

Flashback: In a narrative an interruption of normal chronology and a reversion to events in the past which usually relate to the present.

Foreshadowing: a technique whereby an author uses details which suggest the ultimate outcome of a plot or which meaningfully predict the appearence of other details in a literary work.

Form: The shape any literary work assumes as a result of all technical resourses employed by the author. Content is the material ideas, emotions, events, people which the author is shaping. Since it is easier to talk about the author's ideas, the emphasis in literary analysis is too often placed upon content; but it is unwise to think of form and content as separate entities.

Irony: Irony exists whenever we say one thing and mean the opposite. Irony exists whenever we feel disparity between what someone says or thinks and what we know to be the truth. It can be intentional or unintentional depending on whether the speaker means the statement to be ironic or not. Irony then is a technique that allows many variations of meaning, tone and effect.

Paradox: A statement that initially appears contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense. To solve the paradox, it is necessary to discover the sense that underlies the statement. Paradox is used in poetry because it arrests a reader's attention by its seemingly stubborn refusal to make sense.

Persona: Literally, a persona is a mask. In literature a persona is a speaker created by a writer to tell a story or to speak in a poem. a persona is not a character in a story of narrative, nor does a persona necessarily directly reflects the author's personal voice. A persona is a separate self, created by and distinct from the author thorugh which he or she speaks

Plot: An authors selection and arrangement of incidents in a story to shape the action and give the story a particular focus. Discussions of plots include not just what happens but also how and why things happen the way they do. Stories are written in a piramidal pattern divide the plot into three essential parts 1 Rising action, 2 Climax and 3 Falling action (or resolution).

Personification: A from of metaphor in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. Personification offers the writer a way to give the world life and motion by assigning familiar human behaviors and emotions to animals, inanimate objects, and abstract ideas.

Satire: The literary act of ridiculing a folly or vice in order to expose or correct it. The object of satire is usually some human frailty; people, institutions, ideas and things are all fair game for satirists. Satire evokes attitudes of amusement, contempt , scorn, or indignation toward its faulty subject in the hope of somehow improving it.

Setting: The physical and social context in which the action of a story occurs. The major elements of the setting are the time, the place and the social environment that frames the characters. Setting can be used to evoke a mood an atmosphere that will prepare the reader for what is to come. Some times writers choose a particular setting because of traditional associations with that setting that are closely related to the action of a story.

Stream of Consciousness: The most intensive use of a central consciousness in a narration. It takes a reader inside the character's mind to reveal perceptions, thoughts and feelings on a conscious or unconscious level this technique suggests the flow of thought as well as its content; hence complete sentences may give way to fragments as the character's mind makes rapid associations free of conventional logic or transitions.

Symbol: A person, object, image, word or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance. Symbols are educational devises for evoking complex ideas without having to resort to painstaking explanations that would make a story more like an essay than an experience.

Theme: The central meaning or the dominant idea in a literary work. A theme provides a unifying point around which a plot, Characters, setting, point of symbols and other elements of a work are organized. It is important not to mistake the theme for the actual subject of the work; the theme refers to the abstract concept that is made concrete through the images, characterization, and action of the text. In nonfiction , however, the theme generally refers to the main topic of the discourse.

Tone: The author's implicit attitude towards the reader or towards the people, places and or events in a work as revealed by the elements of the author's style. tone may be characterized as serios or ironic, sad or happy, private or public, angry or affectionate, bitter or nostalgic, or any other attitudes and feelings that human beings experience.


The assignment for your text analysis papers calls for an original paper with five pages of text. The paper should be typed, double spaced, using font Times Roman size 12. The margins should be no wider than one inch top and bottom, left and right.

Your papers should have an introduction (One page); a body (Three pages) and a conclusion (One page).

Your introduction should include:

1. Publication and organization of the book, theme of the novel being reviewed, point of view in relation tot he narrator, a brief explanation of the structure, principle characters, conflict, stylistic observations etc. (One page)
2. A topic for the analysis including your intention or goal of the paper and a division of the topic into three areas of analysis or three subtopics.
3. A brief explanation of the reason for each division addressing the area of human values.

Body the paper should address each of the areas chosen for analysis: (Three pages)

1. Discuss the importance of the first specific subtopic and proceed with your discussion always aware of the intention of the author, the thematic approach and the area of human values. Make sure that for each statement you make there is a text citation to support it.
2. For your second and third topic, apply the same method as the first topic you discussed.

For the Conclusion (One page) this paper should include:

1. A brief statement indication how each of the three elements of the body of the paper tie together reflecting the stated goal in the introduction
2. A series of observations reflecting your evaluation of the book considering the author’s intention and the area of human values.
3. A recommendation regarding the readership of the book (the age for which the book should be targeted).

Thing to remember: Do not re-tell the story. Always keep in mind what the author is doing. Always try to find the reason for elements include in the story, always look at the way the author develops his theme. And remember the three basic questions for analysis (What? Why? How?)

Consult the MLA Manual (Modern Language Association) or any other MLA guide such as the MLA Style Sheet for the guide related to foot notes, text citations, and general organization of your paper.

A Partial List of the Narrative in Mexico

1. Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492?-1584?), Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España.
2. Juan Suárez de Peralta (1535?- 1590?), Tratado del descubrimiento de las Indias y su conquista.
3. Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc (1520-1600), Crónica Mexicana (1598).
4. Fernando de Alva Ixtlixóchitl (1568-1648), Relaciones... (1608) Historia Chichimeca (1548).
5. Bernardo de Balbuena(1568-1627), La Grandeza Mexicana (1604).
6. Carlos de Singüenza y Góngora (1645-1700), Infortunios de Alonso Ramírez (1690).
7. José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (1776-1827), El Periquillo Sarniento, (1816), Don Catrín de la Fachenda (1832).
8. Justo Sierra O’reilly (1814-1861), La hija del Judío.(1848-1849).
9. Vicente Riva Palacio (1616-1861), Martín Garatuza (1868); Monja y Casada, Virgen y Mujer (1868).
10. Luis Gonzaga Inclán (1816-1675), Astucia del jefe de los hermanos de la hoja o los charros contrabandistas de la
11. Manuel Paynó (1810-1894), El fistol del diablo (1845-1846); Los bandidos de Rio Frío (1889-1890).
12. José Tomás de Cuéllar (1830-1894), La Linterna Magica (1874-1872), Bajo este título, el autor integra una serie de
novelas tales como; Ensalada de pollos, Historia de Chuche el Ninfo, Baile y cochine, las jamonas y los juereños,
13. Juan A. Mateos (1831-1913), El sol de mayo (1868); El cerro de las campanas (1868).
14. Pedro Castera (1838-1906), Carmen (1882); Los maduros (1882).
15. Emilio Rabasa (1836-1930), La bola (1887); La guerra de tres años (1891).
16. Rafael Delgado (1853-1914), La calandria (1891).
17. José López Portillo y Rojas (1850-1923), La parcela.
18. Angel del Campo (1868-1908), La rumba.
19. Federico Gamboa (1864-1939), Santa (1903).
20. Heriberto Frías (1879-1925), !Tomochi! (1892).
Justo Sierra (1848-1912), Cuentos Románticos (1896).
22. Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera (1859-95), Cuentos frágiles (1893); Cuentos color de humo (S.F.);
Crónicas y fantasías.

23. Mariano Azuela (1813-1952), Los de Abajo (1915); La luciérnaga (1932).
24. Martín Luis Guzmán (1837-?), La sombra del caudillo (1929); El águila y la serpiente (19??).
25. José Rubén Romero (1890-1956), Mi caballo, mi perro y mi rifle (1936); La vida inútil de Pito Pérez (1938).
26. Gregorio López Portillo y Rojas (1897-1966), Tierra (1932); El indio (1935).
27. Rafael F. Muñós (1899- ), Memorias de Pancho Villa (1923); Se llevaron el cañón para Bachimba (1941).
28. Xavier Icaza (1892- ), Panchito Chapopote (1928).
29. Nellie Camnobello (1909 - ), Cartucho (1931).
30. José Mancisidor (1895-1956), La asonada (1931); Frontera junto al mar (1953).
31. José Revueltas (1914- ), El luto humano (194 ), Obras Completas .
32. Agustín Yañes (1904- ), Al filo del agua (1947). La Tierra Pródiga
33. Juan Rulfo (1918- ), El llano en llamas (1953); Pedro Páramo (19 ).
34. Carlos Fuentes (1928- ), Las buenas conciencias (1959); Aura (19 ); La región más transparente (1958); La
muerte de Artemio Cruz
(1962); Terra Nostra, etc.
35. Alfonso Reyes (1889-1959), Simpatías y diferencias (1921).
36. Carlos Pelliecer (1899 - ), Material poético (1918-1961).
37. José Gorostiza (1901-1974), Muerte sin fín (1939).
38. Xavier Villaurrutia (1903-1950), Nostalgia de la muerte (1938).
39. Salvador Novo (1909-1974), XX poemas (1925); Toda la presa (1961).
40. Concha Urquisa (1910-1945), Obras (1946).
41. Guadalupe Amor (1920- ), Décimas a Dios (1953).
42. Luisa Josefina Hernández (1928- ), Los huéspedes reales (1958).
43. Rosario Castellanos (1925-1974), Balún-Canán (1958); Oficio de tinieblas (1964); Ciudad Real (1960); Los

de Agosto (1968); Album de familia (1975).

44. Elena Garro (1920-199?), Un hogar sólido (1958); Recuerdos del porvenir (19??).
45. Elena Poniatowska (1933- ), Hasta no verte, Jesús mío (1969); El masacre de tlaltelolco (1969).
46. Samuel Ramos (1897-1959), El perfil del hombre y la cultura en México (1934).
47. José Vasconcelos (1882-1959), La tormenta (1936); La raza cósmica (1925); El Ulises Criollo (1935).
48. Octavio Paz (1914-1996), Libertad bajo palabra (1950); El arco y la lira (1956); Las peras del olmo (1957); El
laberinto de la soledad
(1950); Posdata (1968).
49. José Agustín (Ramírez) (1944- ), Inventando que sueño (1968); La tumba (1964).
50. Parménidez García Saldaña (1944- ), Pasto verde (1968).
51. Gustavo Sama (1940- ), Gasape (1965).
52. Juan Tovar (1941- ), La muchacha en el balcón o la presencia del coronel retirado (1970).
53. Jorge Ibargüengoitia (1928- ), Los relámpagos de agosto (1964).
54. Fernando del Paso, José Trigo (1966)
55. Tomás Rivera ... y no se lo tragó la tierra, (1971), (first Arte Público edition 1984)
Luis Spota, La Plaza, (1972) Murieron a mitade del Río, Palabras Mayores,
57. Rene Avilés Fabila, ( ) El gran solitario de palacio, (1971).
58. Miguel Mendez, ( )Peregrinos de Aztlán, (1972)