The Post-Dictatorial Thriller Form
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This dissertation proposes a theoretical examination of the Latin American thriller through the framework of post-dictatorial Chile, with a concluding look at the post civil war Central American context. I define the thriller as a loose narrative structure reminiscent of the basic detective story, but that fuses the conventional investigation formula with more sensational elements such as political violence, institutional corruption and State terrorism. Unlike the classic form, in which crime traditionally occurs in the past, the thriller form engages violence as an event ongoing in the present or always lurking on the narrative horizon. The Chilean post-dictatorial and Central American postwar histories contain these precise thriller elements. Throughout the Chilean military dictatorship (1973-1990), the Central American civil wars (1960s-1990s) and the triumph of global capitalism, political violence emerges in diversified and oftentimes subtle ways, demanding new interpretational paradigms for explaining its manifestation in contemporary society. In Chile, however, despite a history ripe with the narrative elements of the thriller, a consistent thriller novelistic tradition remains underdeveloped. My research reveals that contemporary Chilean ? and by extension, Latin American ? fiction continues to be analyzed under the aegis of melancholy and the tragic legacy of dictatorship or revolutionary insurgency. Therefore, a theoretical examination of the post-dictatorial/postwar thriller answers the need to not only move beyond previously established literary and political paradigms toward a more nuanced engagement with the present, but to envision a form of thinking beyond national tragedy and trauma. This dissertation analyzes samples of the post-dictatorial detective narrative and testimonial account, which constitute the mirroring narrative components of the thriller. The detective texts and testimonial writings analyzed in this project demonstrate how the particular use of the detective story and testimonial account mirror one another at every fundamental level, articulating what I am theorizing as the thriller structure. Using the theoretical approximations of John Beverley, Brett Levinson, Alberto Moreiras, Jon Beasley-Murray, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, Carl Schmitt and Carlo Galli, this project makes an original inquiry into why the thriller emerges as the most apt narrative framework for exploring the forms of violence in present-day Latin America.
SubjectLatin American Detective Fiction
Powell, Audrey Bryant (2012). The Post-Dictatorial Thriller Form. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from