On the suspension of academic skepticism

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The (misread) blending of genres in Como agua para chocolate has been presented as a reason for the poor critical reception it initially enjoyed. Kristine Ibsen explains that “to read Esquivel’s novel the critic must, to paraphrase Susan Leonardi, suspend his or her “academic skepticism” and admit the pleasure of the text.” (pp.133-134) [I really like this challenge]

According to Ibsen, “a careful examination of the text reveals that Esquivel has neither replicated the male canon nor popular “women’s” literature. In fact, underlying the appearance of conventionalism may be detected as playfully parodic appropriation that serves not only to undermine the canon but, more importantly, to redirect its focus to an aesthetic project in which such binary oppositions as “high art” and “popular” literature are overturned.” (p.134)

Ibsen also refuted a dismissive review of the book’s magic realism (George McMurray commented that the episodes of magic realism “never would have been written without the precedent of Cien años de soledad“, quoted p.133) with a really interesting comparison of the two texts. She wrote: “By appropriating the resources of magic realism, Esquivel has consciously selected a mode that has become so much a part of the canon that it would be easily recognized by anyone even remotely familiar with contemporary Spanish-American literature. Thus, although the hyperbolic episodes of magic realism that appear throughout Como agua para chocolate may indeed be indebted to Cien años de soledad, there is a marked difference in perspective between the two novels. While García Márquez’ narrative centers on a re-examination of broad historical trends, Esquivel’s work produces a meaning independent from the original text by concentrating on the individual experience in relation to history: rather than emphasizing issues of sexual domination and violence upon which the the Americas were founded, Esquivel “feminizes” her novel through the exaggeration of traits traditionally associated with women such as irrationality and sensitivity.” (pp.134-135)

Ref: (italics in  original; emphases in blue bold mine) Kristine Ibsen ‘On Recipes, Reading and Revolution: Postboom parody in Como agua para chocolate.’ Hispanic Review 63(2) (Spring, 1995), 133-146

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