JACKSON, Tenn. – July 19, 2010 – Karen Martin, associate professor of Spanish at Union University, merged her interests in literature and Hispanic culture in writing her first book, “Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits Trilogy: Narrative Geographies.”
Martin’s book studies the works of Isabel Allende, a famous author of Hispanic literature. The three novels by Allende addressed in Martin’s book follow a Chilean family through three generations and many social changes.
“(Allende’s) works are really relevant to a lot of issues I’m interested in,” Martin said, noting that while each book deals with one or many social issues, often those of a voiceless minority, a continuous theme of reconciliation is present. “It is an optimistic view of life.”
Martin’s book is the first that analyzes Allende’s novels in the framework of cultural geography, a method she describes as “looking at how the space (that) is shaped in a novel shapes the action of the novel.” Martin gave an example from a scene in one of Allende’s books, where, during a coup, government officials cannot shut out the noise from revolting citizens on the Chilean streets. The idea that the government can no longer ignore the voiceless citizens is conveyed in the scene, Martin said, through the representation of physical space.
Martin began writing the book in 2007, after she received a Pew Summer Research Grant from Union, which “allowed me the time and the funding to do research,” she said. Although delayed by the tornado that hit Jackson, Tenn., in 2008, she finished writing in October 2009.
Before writing the book, Martin had already published several articles on contemporary Latin American literature. One paper, of which Martin included a portion in the book, won the Outstanding Critical Paper at the International Hispanic Women’s Literature Conference in 2006.
The book was published in England by the academic publisher Tamesis Books, the largest publisher outside of Spain of monographs on Hispanic culture, Martin said. It was released in June.
Martin described her book as an academic monograph intended for academic researchers. “The primary target would really be university libraries, other professors, graduate students and advanced undergraduate students,” she said.
Allende’s works are read around the world, but Martin said her book will primarily be studied in Europe and the United States. Although she began writing the book in Spanish, Martin later decided to write it in English because Allende’s works are widely translated.
“She’s actually translated into 35 languages,” Martin said. “English functions as the ‘lingua franca’ — the common language — for Allende’s studies.”
Martin’s book is available for purchase at Amazon.com.
By Samantha Adams (’13)