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Doom Patterns: The Aesthetics of Violence in Contemporary Latinx Literature Open Access

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Contemporary Latinx speculative fiction—stories of monsters, time travel, and the otherworldly, among other things—conquered the academy, the literary market, and popular culture beginning in the 1990s. Scholarly criticism typically argues that reimaginations of conquest, colonialism, and racial discrimination promote social justice and cultural transformation. By contrast, “Doom Patterns: The Aesthetics of Violence in Contemporary Latinx Literature” troubles political remedy as the approach to such works since the 1960s era of Latinx and other social movements. Instead, I argue that representations of destruction and pain foreground the effects of pleasure in reading and rereading representations of the end of the world. Indeed, I demonstrate that contemporary Latinx and multiethnic speculative fiction exhumes destruction through what I term narrative “doom patterns,” devices such as thematic repetition, non-linear narration, character fragmentation, and unresolved plots that consistently return the reader to instances of apocalyptic destruction. The powerful appeal of such doom patterns and the unregenerative destruction they describe establish in stories of colonization, slavery, and the trauma of migration alternative worlds: “elsewheres” where imperial, racial, and ethno-national violence upends stereotypical accounts of minority literature that emphasize upward mobility and the celebration of hybridity. “Doom Patterns” moves beyond the critical consensus on Latinx narrative by revealing how texts typically read as “realist” harbor the speculative. Examining works by established Latinx authors such as Junot Díaz and implementing the tools of Latinx literary and cultural studies to analyze novels by multiethnic writers such as Colson Whitehead, my dissertation also reinterprets what is understood as Latinx literature and latinidad.

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