Myth and Archive

A Theory of Latin American Narrative

Myth and Archive

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: Published: February 1998

History > Latin American History, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Myth and Archive presents a new theory of the origin and evolution of Latin American literature and the emergence of the modern novel. In this influential, award-winning exploration of Latin American writing from colonial times to the present, Roberto González Echevarría dispenses with traditional literary history to reveal the indebted relationship of the novel to legal, scientific, and anthropological discourses.
Providing ways to link literary and nonliterary narratives, González Echevarría examines a variety of archival writings—from the chronicles of the discovery and conquest of the New World to scientific travel narratives and records of criminal confessions—and explores the relationship of these writings to novels by authors such as García Márquez, Borges, Barnet, Sarmiento, Carpentier, and Garcilaso de la Vega. Moving beyond demonstrating that early forms of creative narrative had their geneses in the sixteenth-century authoritative discourse of the Spanish Empire, González Echevarría shows how this same originating process has been repeated in other key moments in the history of the Latin American narrative. He shows how the discourse of scientific discovery was the model for much nineteenth-century literature, as well as how anthropological writings on the nature of language and myth have come to shape the ideology and form of literature in the twentieth century. This most recent form of Latin American narrative creates its own mythic form through an atavistic return to its legal origins—the archive.
This acclaimed book—originally published in 1990—will be of continuing interest to historians, anthropologists, literary theorists, and students of Latin American culture.


Myth and Archive is still a landmark in Latin American literary criticism and deserves this revisiting.” — Philip Swanson , Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“An affordable paperback edition of this important analysis of the multifaceted relationship between Latin American literature and other discourses, such as scientific travelogues, historical chronicles, and legal tracts, is to be welcomed. . . .” — Forum for Modern Language Studies

“González Echevarría has taken a major step toward explaining why [Latin American] works belong not just in courses in Latin American literature but in those that focus on the novelistic tradition, and he has also given us good reason to reexamine the entire narrative history of the New World.” — Latin American Research Review

“An exceptionally influential book, Myth and Archive will continue to be cited and debated for many years to come.” — Rolena Adorno, Yale University

“Myth and Archive is a remarkable book: subtle, wide-ranging, and compellingly original.”
  — Gustavo Pérez Firmat


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Roberto González Echevarría is Sterling Professor of Hispanic and Comparative Literature at Yale University. Myth and Archive is the winner of the 1992 Latin American Studies Association’s Bryce Wood Book Award and the 1991 Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2194-1
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