Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Helen Scott

Status

Graduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

English

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Presentation Title

Signs Preceding the End of the World as Underworld Mythology

Time

9:20 AM

Location

Mildred Livak Ballroom

Abstract

Yuri Herrera’s novella Signs Preceding the End of the World is first and foremost a work of border fiction. Signs Preceding’s central character, Makina, must cross the border that divides the U.S. and Mexico in order to get to her brother while encountering many of the obstacles that many contemporary undocumented migrants face such as rotten cops and xenophobia. This reading of Signs Preceding as just a work of border fiction is a limiting one, though, and it is a reading that is too dismissive of the mythic qualities of Herrera’s novella, mythic qualities that evoke similarities between Signs Preceding and underworld mythology.

Our proposed presentation seeks to use Mesoamerican underworld mythology and scenes from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to make sense of the mythic moments in Signs Preceding the End of the World. By comparing passages from Herrera’s novella with sections from underworld myths it is our hope that a rich new dimension can be added to readings of Signs Preceding, but, beyond that, it is our belief that using underworld mythology from different cultures and periods can shed light on the experience of fictional and actual migrants. Like the protagonists in underworld narratives, Makina and actual migrants must cross a border that divides what has become familiar to what is unknown.

The similarities between Signs Preceding and underworld mythology is startling, and it brings attention to the need to use mythic language to appropriately describe the lived experiences of contemporary migrants. The horrors that riddle underworld narratives like Dante’s Inferno are no longer fantastical but have, for many migrants, become actual. When read through the lense of underworld myth, Signs Preceding becomes fertile ground for a discussion of the migrant experience and the applicability of mythology to contemporary socio-political issues.

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Signs Preceding the End of the World as Underworld Mythology

Yuri Herrera’s novella Signs Preceding the End of the World is first and foremost a work of border fiction. Signs Preceding’s central character, Makina, must cross the border that divides the U.S. and Mexico in order to get to her brother while encountering many of the obstacles that many contemporary undocumented migrants face such as rotten cops and xenophobia. This reading of Signs Preceding as just a work of border fiction is a limiting one, though, and it is a reading that is too dismissive of the mythic qualities of Herrera’s novella, mythic qualities that evoke similarities between Signs Preceding and underworld mythology.

Our proposed presentation seeks to use Mesoamerican underworld mythology and scenes from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to make sense of the mythic moments in Signs Preceding the End of the World. By comparing passages from Herrera’s novella with sections from underworld myths it is our hope that a rich new dimension can be added to readings of Signs Preceding, but, beyond that, it is our belief that using underworld mythology from different cultures and periods can shed light on the experience of fictional and actual migrants. Like the protagonists in underworld narratives, Makina and actual migrants must cross a border that divides what has become familiar to what is unknown.

The similarities between Signs Preceding and underworld mythology is startling, and it brings attention to the need to use mythic language to appropriately describe the lived experiences of contemporary migrants. The horrors that riddle underworld narratives like Dante’s Inferno are no longer fantastical but have, for many migrants, become actual. When read through the lense of underworld myth, Signs Preceding becomes fertile ground for a discussion of the migrant experience and the applicability of mythology to contemporary socio-political issues.