The Labor of Literature

Democracy and Literary Culture in Modern Chile
Examines the aesthetics and politics of alternative literary models

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By producing literature in nontraditional forms—books made of cardboard trash, posters in subway stations, miniature shopping bags, digital publications, and even children’s toys—Chileans have made and circulated literary objects in defiance of state censorship and independent of capitalist definitions of value. In The Labor of Literature Jane D. Griffin studies amateur and noncommercial forms of literary production in Chile that originated in response to authoritarian state politics and have gained momentum throughout the postdictatorship period. She argues that such forms advance a model of cultural democracy that differs from and sometimes contradicts the model endorsed by the state and the market.

By examining alternative literary publications, Griffin recasts the seventeen-year Pinochet dictatorship as a time of editorial experimentation despite widespread cultural oppression and shows how grassroots cultural activism has challenged government-approved corporate publishing models throughout the postdictatorship period. Griffin’s work also points to the growing importance of autogestión, or do-it-yourself cultural production, where individuals combine artisanal forms with new technologies to make and share creative work on a global scale.

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