Panel Discusses Early Latin American Novel on Lesbianism

David Foster Wallace, Daniel Balderston, Ariana Vigil, and María de Guzmán
David William Foster, Regents Professor, Arizona State University; Daniel Balderston, Mellon Professor, University of Pittsburgh; Ariana Vigil, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill; and María DeGuzmán, Director of Latina/o Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

On November 18, Wilson Library and the Rare Book Collection hosted a panel discussion sponsored by the Department of Romance Studies. The topic was the recently published novel En los jardines de Lesbos, written by José María Vargas Vila in the late 1920s. In 2010, the RBC acquired the original manuscript of the heretofore unpublished work about a lesbian artist, along with other papers of the controversial Colombian-born writer.

Vargas_Vila
Manuscript of En los jardines de Lesbos from the José María Vargas Vila Papers, Collection 12019, Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers

UNC-Chapel Hill’s own Juan Carlos González Espitia, associate professor of Romance Studies, edited La cosecha del sembrador, which includes En los jardines de Lesbos. The volume from the Colombian publisher Panamericana also contains Vargas Vila’s little-known work Ítalo Fontana, a novel about incest.

Vargas Vila died before he was able to publish En los jardines de Lesbos. The evening’s panelists debated the work’s relationship to earlier, contemporaneous, and later Latin American writing and conjectured on what its publication would have meant in its own era. Professor DeGuzmán drew comparisons with English literature, including Radcliffe Hall’s Well of Loneliness (1928) and the earlier poetry of Swinburne.

About seventy members of the University community listened to the panel discussion. The Vargas Vila papers, part of Rare Book Literary and Historical Papers, are available to researchers in Wilson’s 4th floor manuscript reading room. The Rare Book Collection’s extensive holdings of his published works are accessible in the originals at Wilson’s 2nd floor reading room and online at the José María Vargas Vila Digital Library.

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