Echoes of existentialism in the works of Carlos Fuentes

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Aylward, Patrick
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University College Cork
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In this thesis I have set out to trace the echoes of existentialism in the work of the Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes scrutinizing, in particular, La región más transparente, La muerte de Artemio Cruz and Cambio de piel. In the opening segment of the thesis I outline the essential tenets of existentialist thought and how it became the predominant philosophical and literary movement of the early part of the twentieth-century. Stemming from the work of Sören Kierkegaard in Denmark towards the end of the nineteenth-century, it challenged the arid philosophies of previous generations and provided a new way of looking at man and the human condition. In this opening chapter, I study the works of the more important philosophers in this regard such as Heidegger, Sartre, Jaspers, Marcel, Unamuno, and Ortega y Gasset and show how each in his own way contributed to the further development of the new philosophy. Chapter 2 is concerned with the spread of existentialism to the Latin American continent. In the early part of the twentieth-century, Mexico was emerging from a turbulent revolutionary period and seeking a solution to the fractured nature of its society. The Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset, and the many Spanish intellectuals who sought refuge from Franco’s dictatorship in Mexico, helped to popularise the new philosophy and these lively debates about existentialism served to underpin ideas around mexicanidad or Mexican national identity. Carlos Fuentes was deeply immersed in the debate of his time, positioned as he was as a prominent public intellectual. In La muerte de Artemio Cruz he shows us how great wealth and power are a poor recompense for the loss of love and compassion and lead only to alienation and selfishness. In his other best known novel, La región más transparente, he explores the rise of modern Mexico and its society – an inauthentic society that is corrupted by a scramble for wealth and self-aggrandizement. The final chapter is devoted to the study of Cambio de piel which is concerned with violence and alienation as central pillars of existence. The violence depicted here precipitates a crisis in the human condition and an accompanying sense of alienation. The thesis seeks to establish that existentialism is central not only to Fuentes’s literary concerns but also forms a part of his ethics as an artist.
Existentialism , Carlos Fuentes , Mexican revolution , Latin American philosophy
Aylward, P. 2015. Echoes of existentialism in the works of Carlos Fuentes. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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