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Reading: Melodrama and the Production of Empathy in Manuel Puig’s El Beso de la mujer araña

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Research Article

Melodrama and the Production of Empathy in Manuel Puig’s El Beso de la mujer araña

Author:

Irina Popescu

Bowdoin College, US
About Irina
Irina Popescu is a Visiting Professor of Latin American Studies at Bowdoin College. Her research focuses on the intersections between cultural production and human rights in the Americas.
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Abstract

Manuel Puig’s 1974 novel, El Beso de la mujer araña, investigates how empathy can be incrementally learned through a melodramatic storytelling pratice and, eventually, mobilized to effect political and social change. As Molina and Valentín, the two protagonists, coinhabit the same jail cell in Buenos Aires, Puig uses the sentimental, aesthetic and formal qualities of nineteenth-century melodrama, seen primarily through the Hollywood B-film, Cat People, to structure the reader’s understanding of how political, sexual, and class-based empathy is constructed inside Argentina’s first “Dirty War novel.” Puig employs the structure of melodrama as a means of mobilizing empathy vis-à-vis the psychological and physical body of the other. What develops in El Beso is a model for narrative empathy centering on the body as a vehicle for empathetic connection. Empathy, therefore, becomes a space for political action. This empathy is constructed through reading and the excess of identification, which in turn diminishes the self/other divide, and enables the surrender to touch and desire which subsequently shapes a new identity.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.26824/lalr.153
How to Cite: Popescu, I., 2020. Melodrama and the Production of Empathy in Manuel Puig’s El Beso de la mujer araña. Latin American Literary Review, 47(94). DOI: http://doi.org/10.26824/lalr.153
Published on 06 Sep 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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