A Dialogic Reading of Alejo Carpentier’s the Kingdom of This World




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This dissertation examines Alejo Carpentier’s novel, The Kingdom of This World, by using Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic theory. To do this, the first chapter of my dissertation focuses on Carpentier’s interaction with and participation in Afro-Cubanism and the Surrealist movement, as well as on how writing Music in Cuba prepared him to write The Kingdom of this World, particularly the famous prologue on “the marvelous real.” My second chapter details the theoretical implications of Bakhtin’s theories and maps how The Kingdom of This World pivots around a Hegelian notion of historical identity which Carpentier describes in spatial terms as "here" and "back there.” Since the Cuban author never offers a resolution to this cycle, I will argue that his novel is a negation of Hegel’s view of history. In my third chapter I analyze the musicality of the novel including elements borrowed from the symphony and first age rhythms. Basing my analysis on Aaron Copland’s description of both the symphony and of rhythm, I argue that Carpentier wrote The Kingdom of this World as a four-part symphony composed of first age rhythms. His novel is divided into four parts and within each there are examples of rhythms—such as the drums and chants—that relate to or represent people of the first ages of the world. From this explication, I seek to show that the novel’s music strengthens and reinforces Carpentier’s view of identity, one that is already present through the spatial concept, “here” and “back there.” Chapter Four examines how notions of “here” and “back there” and the musical elements are in dialogue with one another via the character of Ti Noël. On the basis of this discussion, I offer an answer as to how identity is portrayed in the novel, and what that portrayal means to the author. My conclusion draws from my findings to show how The Kingdom of This World provides a new and previously untried framework for understanding all of Alejo Carpentier’s major works. In fact, this novel should be considered the start of the Cuban author’s fascination with identity, music and history.



Alejo Carpentier, Alejo, 1904-1980. Reino de este mundo. English, Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831, Bakhtin, M. M. (Mikhail Mikhaĭlovich), 1895-1975, Marvelous, The, in literature, Dialogism (Literary analysis), Surrealism (Literature), Haiti



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