The Poetics of Plants in Spanish American Literature examines the defining role of plants in cultural expression across Latin America, particularly in literature. From the colonial georgic to Pablo Neruda’s Canto general, Lesley Wylie’s close study of botanical imagery demonstrates the fundamental role of the natural world and the relationship between people and plants in the region. Plants are also central to literary forms originating in the Americas, such as the New World Baroque, described by Alejo Carpentier as “nacido de árboles.” The book establishes how vegetal imaginaries are key to Spanish American attempts to renovate European forms and traditions as well as to the reconfiguration of the relationship between humans and nonhumans. Such a reconfiguration, which persistently draws on indigenous animist ontologies to blur the boundaries between people and plants, anticipates much contemporary ecological thinking about our responsibility towards nonhuman nature and shows how environmental thinking by way of plants has a long history in Latin American literature.
Lesley Wylie’s analytical project in The Poetics of Plants in Spanish American Literature is as ambitious as inspiring. Wylie examines the presence of plants in Spanish American literature from the late eighteenth century to the twenty-first century through ‘plant-centered readings’ of various texts from a wide range of geographies, cultural traditions, and movements. The Poetics of Plants can be positioned at the intersection of critical plant studies, Latin American ecocriticism, and posthuman approaches to literary studies.
Inviting and erudite, Lesley Wylie’s new book demonstrates that posthumanism, while relatively new as a theoretical concern, has been there all along as a tendency within Latin American literature. The Poetics of Plants in Spanish American Literature is elegantly written, nuanced, and thought provoking. It is full of surprising new readings of canonical texts, and sensitive to the tensions between human struggles for emancipation and justice and what the author calls ‘the deep time of nature.’
Lesley Wylie is associate professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Leicester. She is the author of Colonial Tropes and Postcolonial Tricks: Rewriting the Tropics in the Novela de la Selva and Colombia’s Forgotten Frontier: A Literary Geography of the Putumayo. She is assistant editor of the Bulletin of Spanish Studies.