Things with a History

Transcultural Materialism and the Literatures of Extraction in Contemporary Latin America

Héctor Hoyos

Columbia University Press

Things with a History

Pub Date: October 2019

ISBN: 9780231193054

312 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: October 2019

ISBN: 9780231193047

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£70.00

Pub Date: October 2019

ISBN: 9780231550123

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£24.00

Things with a History

Transcultural Materialism and the Literatures of Extraction in Contemporary Latin America

Héctor Hoyos

Columbia University Press

Can rubber trees, silicone dolls, corpses, soil, subatomic particles, designer shoes, and discarded computers become the protagonists of contemporary literature—and what does this tell us about the relationship between humans and objects? In Things with a History, Héctor Hoyos argues that the roles of objects in recent Latin American fiction offer a way to integrate materialisms old and new, transforming our understanding of how things shape social and political relations.

Discussing contemporary authors including Roberto Bolaño, Ariel Magnus, César Aira, and Blanca Wiethüchter as well as classic writers such as Fernando Ortiz and José Eustasio Rivera, Hoyos considers how Latin American literature has cast things as repositories of history, with an emphasis on the radically transformed circulation of artifacts under globalization. He traces a tradition of thought, transcultural materialism, that draws from the capacity of literary language to defamiliarize our place within the tangible world. Hoyos contrasts new materialisms with historical-materialist approaches, exposing how recent tendencies sometimes sidestep concepts such as primitive accumulation, commodity fetishism, and conspicuous consumption, which have been central to Latin American history and literature. He contends that an integrative approach informed by both historical and new materialisms can balance seeing things as a means to reveal the true nature of social relations with appraisals of things in their autonomy. Things with a History simultaneously offers a sweeping account of the material turn in recent Latin American culture and reinvigorates social theory and cultural critique.
Things With a History is a sensationally rich, deeply thought-out book about the dynamic relationship between words and things. In a fine-grained textual commentary, Hoyos follows the texts’ meanderings, noting their complexities, and avoiding unnecessary reductiveness. Combining critical imagination with theoretical rigor, Hoyos persuasively breathes new life and meaning into “new materialism” and its predecessors. Aníbal González-Pérez, Yale University
In this singular book, Hoyos unveils a world of unexplored relations between subjects, objects, materiality, and immateriality. He explores the social pact between words and things. Through the idea of transcultural materialism, Hoyos discusses how contemporary Latin American literature mobilizes cultural meanings to illuminate moments in exploitative global economy. The book deploys a sophisticated web of literary genealogies as well as theories of materialism, and engages us in new conversations on literature in the global context. Graciela Montaldo, Columbia University

About the Author

Héctor Hoyos is associate professor of Latin American literature and culture at Stanford University. He is the author of Beyond Bolaño: The Global Latin American Novel (Columbia, 2015).