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Reading: Caribbean Cosmopolitanism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and René Pérez ...

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Scholarly Article

Caribbean Cosmopolitanism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and René Pérez Joglar’s Residente

Author:

Kathleen Cunniffe Pena

Wilson College , US
About Kathleen
Kathleen Cunniffe Peña is a full-time lecturer in Spanish at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She specializes in contemporary Latin American narrative, with a focus in trans-Atlantic literary connections between Ireland and Latin America. Her broader research interests include diaspora, translation, and transnational identity. She holds a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in Spanish from Temple University.
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Abstract

In recent political discourse, “cosmopolitanism” has become synonymous with elitism and disloyalty to national values. However, this discourse ignores the varied history of cosmopolitanism, both as an aesthetic and a worldview. Not all cosmopolitanism is rootless, as demonstrated by Appiah’s Ethics of Identity (2005), which proposes a new kind of identity based on “rooted cosmopolitanism.” And as James Clifford points out, travel—and cosmopolitanism, along with it—is no longer (or perhaps never has been) reserved for wealthy elites. Clifford emphasizes that travel does not only include “Westerners” traveling to developing countries, but also the reverse; this second kind of traveler follows the trajectory of a different cosmopolitanism. This article examines cosmopolitanism in the work of two contemporary Caribbean artists—Dominican-American author Junot Díaz, and Puerto Rican musician René Juan Pérez Joglar. The protagonist of Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao lives the tensions inherent in nationalist and cosmopolitan impulses—like the author, the novel moves between the Dominican Republic and the United States. The title alludes to Irish writer and famed cosmopolitan, Oscar Wilde. Although criticism of the novel has not drawn any connection to Wilde beyond the title itself, this paper suggests that Díaz’s work relates to Wilde on deeper levels related to cosmopolitanism, particularly as Wilde tied this notion to the struggle for individualism. Similar notions surface in Pérez Joglar’s music and recent documentary film, Residente, presenting a rooted cosmopolitanism that, while acknowledging national history and culture, pushes the boundaries of identity across the globe.
How to Cite: Cunniffe Pena, K., 2018. Caribbean Cosmopolitanism: Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and René Pérez Joglar’s Residente . Middle Atlantic Review of Latin American Studies, 2(2), pp.66–80. DOI: http://doi.org/10.23870/marlas.173
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Published on 27 Dec 2018.
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