Dissertation Information for Benjamin Keith Belton
MPACT Status: Incomplete - Inspected
Title: Orinoco flow: Culture, narrative, and the political economy of information
Abstract: Addresses the relationship between the production of a regional space in a world economy, the Orinoco River region of Venezuela, and the production of cultural knowledge about that space through narrative. Scientific, academic and novelistic narratives form an elite literary system that has evolved with global systemic capitalism to produce and distribute knowledge about that system's periphery. The production of this discourse over time has produced an historically layered and sometimes contradictory archive of information about specific places that forms the topos (imaginary cultural image) of a place. The historical layers and inconsistencies produce the cultural capability for acts of 'displacement'--ideologically distorted and mystifying descriptions of place. The archive is a source of information for cultural elites, while the topos is disseminated more widely. The formation and distribution of the Orinocan topos and archive is traced through narratives of discovery, mercantilism, romanticism, modernism, and globalism. Chapter One examines the influence of the narratives of early New World explorers, including Christopher Columbus and Sir Walter Ralegh, on the development of the image of the Orinoco region. Chapter Two looks at the interrelationships of Aphra Behn's novel, Oroonoko , or, The Royal Slave , and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe to mercantile activities in the region. Chapter Three is a close reading of the interactions of romanticism and scientific narrative via literary influences on Alexander von Humboldt's formation of tropical discourse. Chapter Four examines the planning and development of Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, and Alejo Carpentier's novel Los pasos perdidos as an example of how the how the self-reflection of modernism affects the production of regional space function. Chapter Five examines the relationship of the novel to current theories and processes of modernity and globalization, and through the Abel Posse's novelization of the life of Lope de Aguirre, Daimon , liberation theologist Enrique Dussel's re-visioning of the history of modernity, sociologist Niklas Luhmann, and world-systems theory.
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