Overcoming the Populist Discourse: A Literary Analysis of the Methodology in Patria o muerte

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  • The centrality of Simón Bolívar in the Venezuelan imaginarium has contemporarily been replaced by Hugo Chávez Frías (1999 - 2013). To the point that Chávez has centralized not just the government, but also the lives of Venezuelans around his own. Even after his death, the effects of his charisma, his connection with the group that he had identified as “the people”, still affect Venezuelans. Although Maduro, another protagonist in the Chavista era, is in power, the analysis of the cultural legacy left by Chávez is of great importance, not just historically but socially, for Venezuelans. The interpretation of the Bolivarian legacy is a still developing field, however, the need to interpret and understand this phenomenon has created a new effort in various academic fields. Examples could be: How sociology has focused on studying the aesthetic and stylistic choices in Chávez’s discourse (Frajman 2014; Castro 2013); how the political sciences has made an effort to understand the political theory behind Chavismo (Ramos Jiménez 2011; Martínez Meucci 2014); Meanwhile historians have been focusing on the changes that the regime has tried to bring about in the Venezuelan imaginarium (Kozak Rovero 2013, 2015; Langue 2013; Quintero 2018). The literary field has also produced various interesting interpretations, such as the novel analysed by this thesis, Patria o muerte by Venezuelan author Alberto Barrera Tyszka, which, although award-winning, has not been the subject of rigorous analysis. The objective of this thesis is to fill that emptiness, in a concrete manner. Firstly, it will bring out the formal aspects of the piece that have not been detailed in the few studies and commentaries given to the piece. More specifically, it will demonstrate that the narrative in Patria o muerte responds to a very effective strategic plan that confers to the novel a complexity not yet appreciated. Secondly, it will demonstrate that this narrative plan reveals a fundamental connection with some of the key concepts developed in the social sciences, in particular the concept of ‘charisma’ according to Lindholm (2013), ‘neopopulism’ according to Ramos Jiménez (2011), and the ‘guerra de memorias’ (‘memory wars’) according to Langue (2013). Furthermore, it will argue that the hybridity of genres in the novel and its intricate playfulness with perspectives are able to counter the binary divisions promoted by the neopopulist chavista discourse and its opposition; through the demystification of Chávez figure and the emphasis given to the voices of the minority outside of the binary system of pro-Chávez and anti-Chávez, the novel then projects a dynamic and complex image of the chavista legacy.

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    Research Material
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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International