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Keywords

Katherine Anne Porter, Mexico, Primitivism

Disciplines

American Literature | Literature in English, North America

Document Type

Critical Essay (Special Topic)

Abstract

Katherine Anne Porter’s short story collection Flowering Judas and Other Stories from 1935 features most of the author’s engagement with Mexico as a setting and its social realities after the revolution. While most scholars agree that Porter’s experiences during her stays in-Katherine Anne Porter’s short story collection Flowering Judas and Other Stories from 1935 features most of the author’s engagement with Mexico as a setting and its social realities after the revolution. While most scholars agree that Porter’s experiences during her stays in Mexico crucially shaped her artistic vision, there is less agreement on the specificities of her image of Mexico. While the short stories have been read as either a gradual disillusionment with Mexico or a generally colonialist take on the country and its political struggles, these readings, however, miss some of the most remarkable features of these stories. In contrast, this essay argues that taken together the Mexican stories can be understood as an early critical engagement with the political consequences of primitivism. By highlighting the problematic elements of primitivist discourse in both the work of expatriates in Mexico and what Porter perceives as the shifting away from socialist realism in muralism, these stories dramatize in how far primitivism not only skews the artists’ perception of the native population but, in fact, helps to cement exploitative social realities by romanticizing poverty, naïveté, and struggle. Mexico crucially shaped her artistic vision, there is less agreement on the specificities of her image of Mexico. While the short stories have been read as either a gradual- disillusionment with Mexico or a generally colonialist take on the country and its political struggles, these readings, however, miss some of the most remarkable features of these stories. In contrast, this essay argues that taken together the Mexican stories can be understood as an early critical engagement with the political consequences of primitivism. By highlighting the problematic elements of primitivist discourse in both the work of expatriates in Mexico and what Porter perceives as the shifting away from socialist realism in muralism, these stories dramatize in how far primitivism not only skews the artists’ perception of the native population but, in fact, helps to cement exploitative social realities by romanticizing poverty, naïveté, and struggle.

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