Rail Intertextuality: A Time-Travel Escapade upon the Iron Rails of the Americas

Paola Ravasio, Associated Research Fellow, CIAS Bielefeld, Germany

The representation of the railroad in literature is by no means new. The train-trope has been significantly re-presented through repetition and difference in cultural production across the Americas ever since the nineteenth century, consolidating an inter-American ‘rail intertextuality’. The ensuing pages track this intertextuality by carrying out a close reading of literary trainscapes in the past four decades. The discussion focuses on how trainscapes from Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men (1980), Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (2016), and Los cuatro espejos (1973) from Afro-Costa Rican Quince Duncan articulate a rail intertextuality along the categories of repetition and difference. The paper is grounded upon the premise that trainscapes create an intertextual narrativealong stories of im/mobility, of exclusion and erasure, and of the struggle for recognition.

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