Thursday, August 5, 2010

Illuminating Cuban Literature

By Judy H. Watts
When Sklodowska began her study of Cuban literature at Washington University in the early 1980s, her research focus was unusual: the nonfictional testimonio—an authentic first-person narrative by a witness to events that typically are traumatic, such as war or imprisonment. Traditionally, a professional writer transcribes and edits the accounts to achieve literary depth and aesthetic originality—capturing the complex historical, physical, and emotional nuances of lives that will inform, comfort, and inspire. An example is The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, by the Cuban poet and anthropologist Miguel Barnet, the first writer to define testimonial narrative in Latin America. Cuba and the testimonio were the subjects of Sklodowska's dissertation, written under the direction of John Garganigo, professor of Spanish. Says Garganigo, who enjoys pointing out that his student has become his boss: "Elzbieta's dissertation was the finest of all my students. She is an extraordinary scholar—and has received numerous awards for her work."...

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