Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 801

Manuel Puig has been most prominently noted for his novels, which make use of experimental narrative techniques and include extensive references to popular cultural genres such as classic Hollywood movies and various forms of popular fiction (including the serial, romance, and detective novel). Puig's success as a novelist is indicated, according to Jonathan Tittler, by "the broad dissemination of his works" which resulted in "considerable financial success and artistic independence."

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"The name of Manuel Puig has for almost 25 years brought with it associations with popular and mass culture," Tittler claims, noting that while "widely recognized as an innovator of narrative technique," Puig was early on criticized for his blatant use of mass-cultural genres and references: "He was for many years mistakenly viewed as either a parodist of vulgar, mass-produced cultural products or a victim and purveyor of bad taste." Pamela Barcarisse also makes note of a general dismissal of Puig on the part of critics, stating that "the fact is that none of Puig's novels has been immune to adverse criticism; this has ranged from a total lack of understanding in the late sixties to expressions of disappointment, condemnation, even antagonism, in more recent years." Tittler points out that later critics began to interpret Puig's pop-cultural references in greater depth: "Only recently has literary criticism come to … appreciate the depth of his ambivalence about melodrama and the extent of his commitment to subverting structures of authority, in whatever guise they might appear." Barcarisse also makes note of the generally celebratory tone of more recent criticism of Puig's work, stating that "it is gratifying to note that at the present time some journalists and many academic commentators are beginning to take the entire corpus of his writings very seriously indeed, the latter classifying him as one of Latin America's first postmodern authors and by far the most impressive representative of the Latin American Post-Boom. Indeed, there is little to complain about in current Puig criticism." Tittler contends that "Puig's writing as a whole fleshes out surprising depth from a world of pure surface" and goes on to note the importance of Puig's influence on the Latin American novel, particularly in terms of his references to mass-cultural forms of media: "In breaking through to a postmodern, culturally unpretentious space … Puig made an impact that was so immense that soon such leaders as Cortazar, Vargas Llosa, and Donoso were producing fictions based on movie stars … melodramatic soap operas … detective novels … and erotic mysteries." Lucille Kerr notes the impact of Latin American fiction, as influenced by Puig, on international literature, stating, "Puig's work exemplifies modern Latin-American writing's most adventurous contribution to contemporary literary trends, which include a return to popular culture." Kerr describes the combined influence of Puig's experimental narrative style and his references to popular culture, asserting that "Puig's writing challenges conventional notions of literature and art as it draws on literary, subliterary, and nonliterary forms and languages to fashion new narrative models and radical ways of thinking about fiction." Kerr also makes note of Puig's concern with political...

(The entire section contains 801 words.)

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