115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Homage, Adaptation, and Bildung: The Road from Beat to Dramedy 

Yolanda Doub, California State University, Fresno

This paper explores the trajectory of Ciudades desiertas (1982), a Mexican novel from the Onda generation’s José Augustín, first as an homage to Jack Keroac’s 1957 Beat classic On the Road, and subsequently as the source material for the 2016 film adaptation, You’re Killing Me, Susana.

Proposal: 

Since Homer’s Odyssey, travel has been a recurring motif in the works of countless authors, from the most celebrated to the most esoteric. While travel literature is a formidable genre in its own right, the intersection of travel and fiction yields a plethora of narrative subgenres. A given character may be a tourist, exile, nomad, or epic hero, and some of the more common modalities of travel in literature include journeys that are sentimental, spiritual, artistic, or initiations, to name just a few.

 

In this paper I explore the trajectory of Ciudades desiertas (1982), a Mexican novel from the Onda generation’s José Augustín, first as an homage to Jack Keroac’s 1957 Beat classic On the Road, and subsequently as the source material for the 2016 film adaptation, You’re Killing Me, Susana. After analyzing the interplay of homage, adaptation, and Bildung in these works, I argue that the modalities of travel reimagine the formation process in each one, even as the adaptations themselves evoke parallel, cyclical voyages from the U.S. to Mexico, and back.

 

My analysis begins by examining in detail the function of the travel motif in José Agustín’s Ciudades desiertas (1982). Part Bildungsroman and part travel diary, this novel from the Mexican Onda generation revolves around a series of interconnected journeys. As with many novels of formation, or Bildungsromane, the form of the novel reveals itself through the travels of the protagonists. I explore why the principal characters travel as well as what their journeys contribute to their formation. Furthermore, by analyzing the trajectories of the protagonists, I investigate what sort of travelers they are and what that tells us about their development. My reading engages the theories of Paul Morand, José Enrique Rodó, Aldous Huxley, and Mikhail Bakhtin, among others, in order to better define the travelers in Agustín’s novel.

 

Read as an homage to Keroac’s On the Road, Ciudades desiertas engages aspects of the Beat aesthetic while also transforming it into a representation of the Mexican Onda generation’s take on culture and counterculture. The film adaptation, You’re Killing Me, Susana, continues this process by transforming Augustín’s novel into a 21st century romantic dramedy. Maureen Quinn’s approach to adaptation, which focuses on “the dynamics of exchange” between an adapted film and the source novel, informs my analysis. Taken together, the three works that I analyze serve to illustrate Quinn’s argument that adaptations of literature and film function as “interdependent partial texts that become a new whole.”

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