This article examines a series of chronicles on contemporary world crises commissioned by Médecins sans Frontiers to eight well-known Hispanic writers and a photojournalist published by El País and followed by an exhibition at multiple Instituto Cervantes sites. Seeking to assist vulnerable populations across the globe, the series turned to the authors' prestige as public intellectuals and creativity to appeal to the international community for support. Literature's potential to generate empathy and express solidarity is viewed with some healthy skepticism, arguing that despite their urgent and evident need, a critical view of top-down humanitarian campaigns is necessary. In regards to literature in particular, this article suggests that solidarity projects must address the contradictory elements of humanitarian narratives and their mise en scène of suffering to be effective. Focusing on the chronicle as a genre, this article examines the aura of the author as a public intellectual, the aesthetic mediation of suffering, and the appeal to a metropolitan readership. As a mass media project and exhibition, Witness of Horror also sheds light into the institutional frameworks and practices that mediate literature's efforts to intervene in and remedy world crises today.
Celebrity Authors, Humanitarian Narratives, and the Role of Literature in World Crises Today: The Medecins Sans Frontiers' Newspaper Chronicles Testigos Del Horror (Witness of Horror)
luis fernando restrepo is a Professor of Spanish and the Director of the Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies Program at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. His areas of specialization are colonial Latin America and Literature and Human Rights. He has published Un nuevo reino imaginado, antología crítica de Juan de Castellanos, and El Estado impostor (awarded the Premio Roggiano in Latin American Literary criticism) as well as nearly fifty publications including editions, articles, chapters, and reviews. He has been a visiting scholar at the Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, with a Fulbright scholarship, and he has also taught at the Universidad de Antioquia, Universidad EAFIT, and the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He serves in the editorial boards of Confluencia (Colorado), Revista Estudios de Literatura Colombiana (Universidad de Antioquia), and Perifrasis (Universidad de los Andes), Cuadernos de Literatura (Javeriana) and Co-herencia (EAFIT). Prof. Restrepo is a current member of the MLA forum on Renaissance and Early Modern Comparative Literature and Cultural studies. His current research project focuses on early modern humanitarianism.
Luis Fernando Restrepo; Celebrity Authors, Humanitarian Narratives, and the Role of Literature in World Crises Today: The Medecins Sans Frontiers' Newspaper Chronicles Testigos Del Horror (Witness of Horror). Comparative Literature Studies 15 May 2018; 55 (2): 345–360. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.55.2.0345
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