Borges - Criticism: General Criticism 1990-Present

contaminated by unreality....

General Criticism 1990-Present

A Dictionary of Borges

Evelyn Fishburn & Psiche Hughes

Duckworth, 1990, Paperback, ISBN 0715621548, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy] [Download as PDF]

A Dictionary of Borges serves as a comprehensive set of annotations to his work – containing short notes on all the “names of, or allusions to, personal or fictional characters, places, titles, quotations, and philosophical and religious movements.” Arranged alphabetically, the annotations are brief and relevant to Borgesian context, and are indexed as to where they appear in his oeuvre. Prefaced by a straightforward introduction and containing dual forewords by Mario Vargas Llosa and Anthony Burgess, the Dictionary is a wonderful and useful work, and makes for educational browsing whether or not one is chasing a Borges reference!
Although A Dictionary of Borges is out of print, the Borges Centre in Aarhus has made it available as a downloadable PDF.

A Concordance to the Works of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)

Rob Isbister & Peter Standish

Edwin Mellen Press, 1991, ISBN 0773496289; Hardcover, $129.95 [Browse/Search for a copy]

A vast – and expensive – concordance, Isbister & Standish’s remarkably complete work is divided alphabetically across seven volumes. The ISBN number and price listed above are for Volume 1, A-C.

Borges and the Esoteric

Robert Lima, editor

Pittsburgh: Duquesne University, 1993.

“Borges and the Esoteric” is the name of a special Borges-dedicated issue of Crítica Hispánica. The contents are:

“Borges the Hierophant,” Portrait in Oils by Keith Lima
Introduction: “Borges and the Esoteric,” by Robert Lima
“Feminism and Kabbalism: Borges’s ‘Emma Zunz,’’ by Edna Aizenberg
“El componente sufí de ‘El acercamiento a Almotásim’,” by Jaime Alazraki
“Borges and the Vedic Tradition: Consciousness as the Source of the World,” by Timothy Ambrose
“Memoir about a Metaphysical and Mystical Poet,” by Willis Barnstone
“About Face in Borges,” by Carlos Cortínez
“El círculo del cuadrado en el cuadrado del círculo: ‘La muerte y la brújula’ de Borges,” by Julia Cuervo Hewitt
“Double You, Double V: Borges and Poe in the Labyrinth,” by John T. Irwin
“Borges, The Man with the Occult Eye,” by Robert Lima
“Borges and Jewish Mysticism: Paradoxical Interrelations,” by Naomi Lindstrom
“A Borgesian Beast,” by Paul West

Out of Context: Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges

Daniel Balderston

Duke University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-8223-1316-2; Paperback, $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From the publisher:

In Jorge Luis Borges’s finely wrought, fantastic stories, so filigreed with strange allusions, critics have consistently found little to relate to the external world, to history – in short, to reality. Out of Context corrects this shortsighted view and reveals the very real basis of the Argentine master’s purported “irreality.” By providing the historical context for some of the writer’s best-loved and least understood works, this study also gives us a new sense of Borges’s place within the context of contemporary literature.

Through a detailed examination of seven stories, Daniel Balderston shows how Borges’s historical and political references, so often misread as part of a literary game, actually open up a much more complex reality than the one made explicit to the reader. Working in tension with the fantastic aspects of Borges’s work, these precise references to realities outside the text illuminate relations between literature and history as well as the author’s particular understanding of both. In Borges’s perspective as it is revealed here, history emerges as an “other” only partially recoverable in narrative form. From what can be recovered, Balderston is able to clarify Borges’s position on historical episodes and trends such as colonialism, the Peronist movement, “Western culture,” militarism, and the Spanish invasion of the Americas.

Informed by a wide reading of history, a sympathetic use of critical theory, and a deep understanding of Borges’s work, this iconoclastic study provides a radical new approach to one of the most celebrated and – until now – hermetic authors of our time.

The contents are as follows:

1. Introduction: History, Politics, and Literature in Borges
2. Menard and His Contemporaries: The Arms and Letters Debate
3. The “Labyrinth of Trenches without Any Plan” in “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”
4. Prague, March 1939: Recovering the Historicity of “El milagro secreto”
5. Cryptogram and Scripture: Losing Count In “La Escritura Del Dios”
6. Going Native: Beyond Civilization and Savagery in “Historia del guerrero y de la cautiva”
7. On the Threshold of Otherness: British India in “El hombre en el umbral”
8. Behind Closed Doors: The Guayaquil Meeting and the Silences of History
9. Conclusion

A Spanish version of this text is available as Fuera de contexto?, Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo Editora, 1997.

Jorge Luis Borges: the Writer on the Edge

Beatriz Sarlo

Verso, 1993, ISBN 0860916359; Paperback, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy] [Web version]

From Library Journal:

The present work is an outgrowth of lectures presented at Cambridge (1992) by the author (Argentine literature, Univ. of Buenos Aires). Drawing both from textual analysis and Borges’s Buenos Aires literary circles, Sarlo challenges – and deftly refutes – the conventionally held proposition that “Borges’s reputation in the world has cleansed him of nationality.” She then successfully demonstrates that Borges lived and wrote in a richly diverse, cosmopolitan milieu with dual Argentine-European roots. Even in his most fantastic, problematic fiction (best exemplified in the three stories “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Library of Babel,” and “The Lottery in Babylon”), Borges is shown to address real social and philosophical questions of the day.

The contents are:

Chapter 1: A Landscape for Borges
Chapter 2: Borges and Argentine Literature  
Chapter 3: Tradition and Conflicts
Chapter 4: Tropes of Fantastic Literature
Chapter 5: Imaginary Constructions
Chapter 6: A Question of Order
Chapter 7: The Adventure of Martín Fierro: The Avant-Garde & Criollismo
Chapter 8: Utopia & the Avant-Garde
Appendix: Borges and the Little Magazines in the 1920s.

Although Writer on the Edge is out of print, the text of this work is online at the Borges Centre in Aarhus.

Signs of Borges

Sylvia Molloy

Translated by Oscar Montero

Duke University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8223-1420-7; Paperback, $18.95. [Browse/Purchase]

From Bonnie Leon:
This is a wonderfully keen analysis by Sylvia Molloy, Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina, 1994. It’s a translation by Oscar Montero, Associate Professor of Romance Languages at City University of New York, of the original in Spanish, Letras de Borges, for which I have no publication information. I agree wholeheartedly with a blurb on the back cover that reads, in part, “Sylvia a brilliant reader and elegant writer, the one scholar who makes Borges accessible without making him simple.”

From the publisher:

Available for the first time in English, Signs of Borges is widely regarded as the best single book on the work of Jorge Luis Borges. With a critical sensibility informed by Barthes, Lacan, Foucault, Blanchot, and the entire body of Borges scholarship, Sylvia Molloy explores the problem of meaning in Borges’s work by remaining true to the uncanniness that is its foundation.

Borges’s sustained practice of the uncanny gives rise in his texts to endless tensions between illusion and meaning, and to the competing desires for fragmentation, dispersal, and stability. Molloy traces the movement of Borges’s own writing by repeatedly spanning the boundaries of genre and cutting across the conventional separations of narrative, lyric and essay, fact and fiction. Rather than seeking to resolve the tensions and conflicts, she preserves and develops them, thereby maintaining the potential of these texts to disturb. At the site of these tensions, Molloy locates the play between meaning and meaninglessness that occurs in Borges’s texts. From this vantage point his strategies of deception, recourse to simulacra, inquisitorial urge to unsettle binarism, and distrust of the permanent – all that makes Borges Borges – are examined with unmatched skill and acuity.

Elegantly written and translated, Signs of Borges presents a remarkable and dynamic view of one of the most international and compelling writers of this century. It will be of great interest to all students of twentieth-century literature, particularly to students of Latin American literature.

Jorge Luis Borges

Harold Bloom, ed.

Chelsea House, 2002, ISBN 0-7910-6823-4; Hardcover, $22.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Part of Bloom’s “Major Short Story Writers” series, this volume looks at five of Borges’ most well-known stories: “Death and the Compass,” “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Immortal,” “The Aleph,” and “The South.” Intended as an educational resource for high schools, each chapter includes a synopsis, a list of characters, and excerpts from various critical essays.

Jorge Luis Borges

Harold Bloom, ed.

Chelsea House, 2004, ISBN 0-7910-7872-8; Hardcover, $25.95. [Browse/Pre-Order]

Part of Bloom’s “BioCritiques” series, this is a collection of essays and papers on Borges with an introduction by Harold Bloom.
From the publisher:

In addition to a lengthy biography, each book includes an extensive critical analysis of the writer’s work, as well as critical views by important literary critics throughout history. These volumes are the perfect introduction to critical study of the important authors currently read and discussed in high schools, colleges, and graduate schools. Struggling with poor eyesight and eventual blindness for most of his life, Borges went on to become of one of the greatest short-story writers of 20th century. His fiction, often metaphysical and fantastic has been said to influence the great magical realists.

Go To:

Criticism Main Page – Returns you to the Main Criticism page and the Quick Reference Card of titles.

Biography –Borges biography, conversations and anecdotes.

General Criticism 1 – General literary criticism or commentary on Borges and his writing up until 1989.

Contextual Criticism – Borges criticism with a specific angle: existential, psychological, Latin American, religious, mathematical, etc.

Comparative Criticism – Studies of Borges in relation to other authors or artists.

Bibliography – An alphabetized bibliography of Borges criticism.

Variaciones Borges – Takes you offsite to the homepage of Variaciones Borges, the biannual international journal of Borges studies.

–Allen B. Ruch
7 July 2004

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