Carlos Fuentes’s Terra Nostra and the Kabbalah: The Recreation of the Hispanic World

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This study offers a new reading of Fuentes’s major novel by focusing on the function of Jewish mysticism in the text. Organized around the linguistic and textual philosophy/theosophy of the Kabbalah, it argues that the fundamental project of Terra nostra is a literary re-construction of the cultural development of Hispanic America. The monograph breaks new ground through the thorough analysis of the novel’s strategy of textual re-creation. In the Kabbalah, due to the supposed intimate connection between divine language and the physical reality of every aspect of the universe, the re-reading and re-writing of biblical texts is carried out in order to reshape and ultimately redeem the world. Fuentes adopts this notion of creative textuality as the driving force behind his own novelistic re-creation of Hispanic America. The monograph systematically considers the role of the Kabbalah in relation to language, visual art, time and textuality. The study also considers the connections between Fuentes’s novel and the work of immediate precursors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Alejo Carpentier, and Franz Kafka. It also advances the understanding of the novel’s engagement with the great works of early Spanish literature such as Rojas’s La Celestina and Cervantes’s Don Quijote.


“The book displays a learned embrace of twentieth-century academic work on the kabbalah as well as showing a nuanced understanding of contemporary literary and critical theory….also makes a point of keeping faithfully to Fuentes’s own readings while referring amply and intelligently to secondary criticism on Fuentes. It offers telling insights into Fuentes’s other fictional work and, especially, to Fuentes’s essayistic production in order to support and expand its case. In sum, Penn’s contribution to scholarship on Fuentes is a generous, open-minded, not to say passionate one.” – Dr. Adam Sharman, University of Nottingham

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. Defining the Territory
2. Between Sound and Silence: The Kabbalistic Concept of Language and its Operation in Terra nostra
3. Terra nostra and the Visual Image: Celestina as Metaphysical Woman
4. A Kabbalistic Time for Terra nostra
5. A Novelistic Historiography
Bibliography; Filmography; Index

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