Which Sense Perceives Death? Semiotic Reconfiguration of Death in a Mexican Novel

Jose Revueltas is a remarkable Mexican author, however his work is not very well known internationally. His role during the outlaw days of the Communist Party in Mexico has hindered canonic studies of his oeuvre him from canonic studies, although his support for the youth movement of 1968 during Tlatelolco’s student massacre has foregrounded him as a solidary writer. This paper explores how, in his censored 1949 novel, Earthly days (Los días terrenales), discursive figures of death in put forward a reconfiguration of meaning. How do the senses play a role in necrogenous experience? The narration in the novel is the movement of the perception of death between the bodies of the characters; from the decease of a young baby girl of a diligent communist couple to the death of the protagonist in a demonstration against Calles’ government back in the 30’s. It is proposed that Fontanille’s concept of an ensemble of communicating bodies –his categories of source body, target body and control body– can explicate such semiosis. Kinesis is a primordial sense that gathers up the poly-sensoriality of the characters in this historical narrative. From represented gestures to acts of enunciation, the senses shape the experience of death in order to create a communist parody of clandestine years in Mexico. It is natural that a complex narration builds up configurations of meanings, but what it is necessary for a reconfiguration to take place? And how does the proper body of the protagonist become a collectivity? These are the questions guiding our literary analysis of Revueltas’ mortuary vision. 

Cesar Antonio Camacho Gamez

InterAmerikanishe Studien – Universität Bielefeld / Literaturas InterAmericanas – Universidad de Guadalajara

I live in Mexico and I am about to defend my master’s thesis in a double degree international program. I work as a teacher and collaborate with one of the oldest puppet companies in Mexico in art and social projects. I dedicate my studies to literature and language and I have done some work in research, teaching and literature proper.

Jose Revueltas
literary semiosis