Documents in Crisis

Nonfiction Literatures in Twentieth-Century Mexico

By Beth E. Jörgensen

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, Latin American Studies
Series: SUNY series in Latin American and Iberian Thought and Culture
Paperback : 9781438439389, 232 pages, July 2012
Hardcover : 9781438439396, 232 pages, December 2011

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Table of contents

1. The Distinction of Nonfiction: Toward a Theoretical Framework
2. Writing the Mexican Revolution of 1910
3. Living Stories, Telling Lives: Autobiographical Writings of José Vasconcelos and María Luisa Puga
4. Life Writing from a Popular Perspective
5. Chronicling Crisis: Late Twentieth-Century Manifestations of the Literature of Encounter
6. Making History: Subcomandante Marcos in the Mexican Chronicle
Conclusions: Thinking Back, Looking Ahead
Works Cited

Examines the theory and practice of nonfiction narrative literature in twentieth-century Mexico.


Winner of the 2012 Best Book in the Humanities presented by the Mexico Section of the Latin American Studies Association

In the turbulent twentieth century, large numbers of Mexicans of all social classes faced crisis and catastrophe on a seemingly continuous basis. Revolution, earthquakes, industrial disasters, political and labor unrest, as well as indigenous insurgency placed extraordinary pressures on collective and individual identity. In contemporary literary studies, nonfiction literatures have received scant attention compared to the more supposedly "creative" practices of fictional narrative, poetry, and drama. In Documents in Crisis, Beth E. Jörgensen examines a selection of both canonical and lesser-known examples of narrative nonfiction that were written in response to these crises, including the autobiography, memoir, historical essay, testimony, chronicle, and ethnographic life narrative. She addresses the relative neglect of Mexican nonfiction in criticism and theory and demonstrates its continuing relevance for writers and readers who, in spite of the contemporary blurring of boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, remain fascinated by literatures of fact.

Beth E. Jörgensen is Professor of Spanish at the University of Rochester. Her books include (with coeditor Ignacio Corona) The Contemporary Mexican Chronicle: Theoretical Perspectives on the Liminal Genre, also published by SUNY Press; The Writing of Elena Poniatowska: Engaging Dialogues; and a new rendition, with notes, of Mariano Azuela's The Underdogs: A Novel of the Mexican Revolution.


"Jörgensen's text is a succinct, clear and insightful introduction to the nebulous category that is non-fiction writing in Mexico. Her synthesis of key debates and concepts is invaluable to an understanding of the field … This is a field which is, as yet, greatly understudied given the level of production of such texts in Mexico. Therefore, Jörgensen's book is welcome not only for the high standard of research and insight she provides, but also because of the relative scarcity of research in this field. " — Bulletin of Spanish Studies

"…[a] solidly informative book. " — Revista de Estudios Hispánicos

"This book examines traditional 'fact-based genres'—autobiography, chronicle essay, ethnography, memoir, testimony, and travel writing—as undertaken by some of Mexico's best-known writers. Within a broad conceptual framework, Jörgensen engages with the work … [and] does an excellent job … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE

"I can always count on Beth Jörgensen's work for clearly written, smart analysis of the Mexican cultural scene. She is, of course, the author of an important study on Elena Poniatowska, and is known for her deep knowledge of Mexican nonfiction writers/cronistas. She brings this strength to her new book as well, where her deep familiarity and long interest in Mexican cultural forms lends her book an assured and confident grounding. " — Debra A. Castillo, author of Redreaming America: Toward a Bilingual American Culture