Cirilo Villaverde Criticism - Essay

Marshall E. Nunn (essay date 1947)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nunn, Marshall E. “Some Notes on the Cuban Novel, Cecilia Valdés.Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 24, no. 95 (July 1947): 184-86.

[In the following essay, Nunn discusses Villaverde's graphic representations of the lives and deaths of Cuban slaves between 1830 and 1840.]

Although Villaverde wrote the first part of Cecilia Valdés in 1838, it was not published until the following year. He immediately began his second part but did very little on it, for a variety of reasons. One was that he left Havana and went to Matanzas as a teacher. There he also wrote another novel, publishing it in 1841. After returning to the capital in the following year, he became one of the editors of El Faro Industrial until 1848, in which year he was arrested by the Spanish authorities. In 1858, on his return to the island after nine years in the United States, a publisher suggested his finishing and revising Cecilia Valdés.1 He planned the chapters in detail, and even wrote an introduction, but unfortunately had to leave Cuba again this same year, taking sanctuary once more in the United States. Occupied with revolutionary work and with earning a precarious livelihood, he had little time to devote to his novel. In his own words, “the most I could do was to write a chapter every fortnight and at times only every month, working some hours during the week and all Sundays.”2 The complete and revised novel was finished in 1878 and published one year later.

In his prologue he prides himself on being a realistic writer, but at the same time disclaims any influence from the realistic writers then in vogue. He states that he has read no novels for the past thirty years, save some by Scott and Manzoni. His novel, he maintains, is realistic in that he presents facts, scenes and characters just as they were. In his own words: “Far from inventing or making up characters and fantastic and unlikely scenes, I have carried realism, as I understand it, to the point of presenting the principal characters of the novel with all their minute details, as is commonly said, dressed with the clothes they wore in life, the greater part under their real names, speaking the same language that they used in the historical scenes in which they figured, copying as far as possible their moral and physical features.3

One critic has called Cecilia Valdés the Gone with the Wind of Spanish-American literature.4 Another has compared it to Uncle Tom's Cabin.5 The reason for its comparison with the former is that it pictures very vividly, and with great...

(The entire section is 1107 words.)

William Luis (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Luis, William. “Textual Multiplications: Juan Francisco Manzano's Autobiografía and Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés.” In Literary Bondage: Slavery in Cuban Narrative, pp. 82-119. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.

[In the following excerpt, Luis discusses the three different versions of Cecilia Valdés: the two-part story published in La Siempreviva, the 1839 novel published in Cuba, and the 1882 version published in New York.]

Cecilia Valdés is the most important novel written in nineteenth-century Cuba and perhaps one of the most significant works published in Latin America during the same period. Elías...

(The entire section is 10418 words.)

Lorna V. Williams (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Williams, Lorna V. “The Representation of the Female Slave in Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés.Hispanic Journal 14, no. 1 (spring 1993): 73-89.

[In the following essay, Williams discusses the models of motherhood and nurturing imposed on female slaves by their white masters in Cecilia Valdés.]

In the antislavery narratives written by Anselmo Suárez y Romero, Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda, and Antonio Zambrana, the plot centers on the male protagonist's relocation to the countryside, which is motivated by the unequal struggle for sexual mastery between men from two radically different social spheres. In Cecilia Valdés, Cirilo Villaverde...

(The entire section is 7008 words.)

Doris Sommer (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sommer, Doris. “Who Can Tell? Filling in Blanks for Villaverde.” American Literary History 6, no. 2 (summer 1994): 213-33.

[In the following essay, Sommer examines Villaverde's narrative strategy whereby he deliberately limits readers' knowledge of the title character's racial background in Cecilia Valdés.]

Very early in Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés (1882), the truth of the title character's racially obscure background becomes clear to the reader. Yet the narrator, for some reason, blocks and delays an explicit revelation. That reason is, in my reading, to dramatize a certain resistance or inability to assimilate the enlightening information...

(The entire section is 8226 words.)

Antonio Benítez-Rojo (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Benítez-Rojo, Antonio. “Cirilo Villaverde, the Seeker of Origins.” In Coded Encounters: Writing, Gender, and Ethnicity in Colonial Latin America, edited by Francisco Javier Cevallos-Candau, Jeffrey A. Cole, Nina M. Scott, and Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz, pp. 255-62. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Benítez-Rojo discusses Villaverde's travel narrative Excursión a Vueltabajo within the context of an emerging Cuban national literature.]

Except for his novel Cecilia Valdés, the work of Cirilo Villaverde that interests me most is Excursión a Vueltabajo (Excursion to Vueltabajo). I present my...

(The entire section is 3871 words.)

Benigno Sánchez-Eppler (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sánchez-Eppler, Benigno. “‘Por causa mecánica’: The Coupling of Bodies and Machines and the Production and Reproduction of Whiteness in Cecilia Valdés and Nineteenth-Century Cuba.” In Thinking Bodies, edited by Juliet Flower MacCannell and Laura Zakarin, pp. 78-86. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Sánchez-Eppler explores the relationship of slavery and mechanization on the sugar plantations of Cuba as they are represented in Cecilia Valdés.]

How to turn slaves into citizens? How to proceed from the ideological attribution of social death in the captured and sold African body to the incorporation of the...

(The entire section is 4251 words.)