The power of character expression through the use of popular culture in the novels of Manuel Puig
Owens, Milner Benedict
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Manuel Puig’s writing has remained a much debated and much studied topic, especially in relation to his own personal political and social views. What is most intriguing about Puig though is his use of foreign popular art and culture to develop ideas and plots that take place in Argentina. Puig’s use of literary techniques in addition to his unusual use of popular art and culture as a tool in the elucidation of his characters and plot events is particularly fascinating. This thesis is an exploration of Puig’s use of foreign, particularly American, mass culture art and media, referred to as popular art from here on out, in the development of characters and mindsets in Manuel Puig’s first four novels: La Traición de Rita Hayworth, Boquitas Pintadas, The Buenos Aires Affair and El Beso de la Mujer Araña. In these novels, the presence of foreign popular art is very noticeable and plays a key role in the ultimate structure and meaning of the novel, particularly with respect to the presence of a character’s “imaginary,” what can be deemed as his or her alternate realities, versus the presence of his or her “real” life. The use of the foreign popular art is different in each novel and is highlighted through various literary techniques employed by Puig, particularly in the use of local popular art expressions which he juxtaposes with that of foreign popular art creating a type of cross cultural enigmatic, both physically and mentally, setting and character development. Puig focuses on embracing popular culture with a marked lack of artistic snobbery or distance so often associated with other literary minds, which serves as another point of investigation for his utilization of popular culture, especially foreign culture, and his novel use of its artistic impression as a reflective influence on character, plot and form.