Free-dom: Braschi's United States of Banana and the Limits of Sovereignty

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 - 6:00pm
Modern Languages Building 410

Presented by Dr. Ronald Mendoza de Jesus, University of Southern California

Conceived in the wake of 9-11, and published in the midst of a decade (2006-2016) that is now commonly known in Puerto Rico as ¨la década perdida¨ (¨the lost decade¨), Giannina Braschi's United States of Banana resists aesthetic and political definition. Composed of a series of fragments written in a prose poetry that demands to be read out loud and an eponymous ¨performance novel¨ that would be almost impossible to stage, Braschi's most recent publication continues the poetics of experimentation that already earned her a prominent place in the avant-garde of Latin@ literature with the publication of Yo-Yo Boing!, regarded by many as the first novel written in Spanish. Perhaps even more radical than the formal or aesthetic aspects of United States of Banana is what happens to the concept of freedom in Braschi's text. Dr. Ronald Mendoza de Jesus will focus on this aspect of Braschi's novel, paying attention to the recurrent appearance in the lips of many of the novel's characters of the phrase: "Free from freedom. Free." Reading this phrase alongside Derrida's almost imperceptible, and yet persistent and engagement with the concept of freedom throughout his corpus, he will show that Braschi's text exceeds the limits of its own mise en scène as a political allegorization of the becoming independent Puerto Rico by inviting us to rethink a freedom that would be free from freedom and, above all, from then very ¨-dom¨ of ¨free-dom,¨ the political domain in which the free are congealed, domesticated, dominated. In light of this notion of a free free-dom, he will conclude by asking what kind of in-dependence political? ethical?--Braschi's novel imagines or even desires for the insular body politic of her natal Puerto Rico, caught up now more than ever between abject dependency and the dreams of proper sovereignty​.

For more information, please contact the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at 520-621-3123.