Fatal Hieroglyph: Mexico for Writers of Exile Malcolm Lowry and William Burroughs


This essay explores the representation of Mexico in the work of British modernist writer of exile Malcolm Lowry and of U.S. Anglo-American post-war, postmodern writer of exile William Burroughs. Lowry’s Under the Volcano (1947) and Burroughs’s trilogy The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket that Exploded (1962), and The Nova Express (1964) represent Mexico as a land of fatal hieroglyphs, as itself a fatal hieroglyph. Theoretically, a hieroglyph, as a condensation of space and time, is always already fatal — “an anticipation of the end in the beginning” [Jean Baudrillard]. The fatal sign constitutes an attempted exorcism of conventional reality governed by the status quo. For Lowry and Burroughs, Mexico as place and text is the locus of the exorcism of demons, personal and cultural. In turning Mexico into a fatal hieroglyph of doom, both modernist and postmodernist writers draw on a long tradition of stereotyping primitivizations of Mexico. However, in the cases of Lowry and Burroughs, these stereotypical primitivizations also function as alternative modes of knowledge, symbol-making, and anti-narration, deliberate plumbings of the non-linear, irrational, and trans-temporal to deliver a backhanded blow against the European and Gringo colonizer / conqueror in Lowry’s case and the malaise of Anglo-American military-industrial capitalism in Burroughs’s. 


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Biografia do Autor

María DeGuzmán, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
María DeGuzmán is Professor of English & Comparative Literature and founding Director of Latina/o Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of two books: Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire (University of Minnesota Press, 2005) and Buenas Noches, American Culture: Latina/o Aesthetics of Night (Indiana University Press, 2012). She has a third book, on Chicano writer John Rechy, under contract with the University of South Carolina Press. She has published many essays and articles on Latina/o cultural production including an essay titled “Four Contemporary Latina/o Writers Ghost the U.S. South” in The Oxford Handbook of the Literature of the U.S. South (Oxford University Press, January 2016). She is also a conceptual photographer who has shown in exhibitions locally, nationally, and internationally as well as a music composer and sound designer. See https://soundcloud.com/mariadeguzman.


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Como Citar
DeGuzmán, M. (2017). Fatal Hieroglyph: Mexico for Writers of Exile Malcolm Lowry and William Burroughs. Scripta, 21(42), 217-235. https://doi.org/10.5752/P.2358-3428.2017v21n42p217
VOLUME 21 / NUMERO 42 - 2017 - Exílios e diásporas na literatura