Maria A. P. Woolson

Ecocriticism and Literature

Sustainability as the Analytical Framework for Ecocritical Observations of Contemporary Literature: Un Viejo que leía novelas de amor by Luis Sepúlveda

Fiction has the ability to respond, define and inspire conceptions of the world around us. Whether in reference to natural or urban landscape, narratives open imaginary spaces that, like myths and philosophical constructions, can shape how we view the environment and what spiritual and ethical values we attribute to the natural world. This paper explores the power of fiction of a late 20th century Spanish American novel that interacts with Latin American contemporary realities and its power dynamics of the market and politics. The analytical framework is interdisciplinary and weaves together environmental epistemology and the study of representations, to place text as a site of convergence of various forms of signification. The interwoven relationships between rationally articulated representations and non-visible performative forces employed by the writer are evidence of the how stories act upon our collective imagination​.

Luis Sepúlveda's Un viejo que leía novelas de amor, is a multilayered novel that offers its readers a unique experience. In the story, Sepúlveda integrates the ethnically diverse and culturally plural nature of Latin America and a clear understanding of ecological sustainability as a normative criterion. Written in a direct prose, the story is rich in cultural and historic markings,  such as an accurate account of historic, social, political and ethno-environmental events of twentieth century Ecuador. However, its central contribution lies perhaps in a renewed view of man-environment interactions, beyond a recovery of commoditized nature. With no evident normative impetus, the author exposes the reader to a cosmology that is holistic, integrated, eco-centric and cyclical, central to the collective identity of the indigenous Shuar people of the Ecuadorian Amazon and hence, reveals many normalized constructions of natural environments we accept as universal.