Casilda’s Letters, Archive Fever, and the Juan Goytisolo Brand

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This article reconsiders the canonical figure of Juan Goytisolo through the lens of archive studies. Focusing on Goytisolo’s allusions to and fictionalized interpolations of letters written by Casilda, a Black woman who was enslaved in the nineteenth century in Cuba by Goytisolo’s great-grandfather, I contend that Goytisolo used Casilda’s letters as archival elements in his major works, in such a way that he came to control the discourse of Spanish self-critique. Goytisolo set the terms by which his relationship to his family’s coloniality would be understood, continually evoking the letters to renounce his colonial lineage. Following Jacques Derrida’s theory of archive fever, I interpret Goytisolo’s compulsive desire for Casilda’s letters as his own death drive, since Goytisolo reproduces the letters in an attempt to distance and destroy a part of himself, his whiteness. I read Goytisolo’s longing for Casilda as a real desire for a secret origin, as archive fever, and not as simply postmodernist intertextuality. Goytisolo reinscribed Casilda’s letters within an autofictional counter-archive, recontextualizing Casilda herself as the secret in the national/family archive, and as the source, or source material, of his own brand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-299
Number of pages23
JournalRevista de Estudios Hispanicos
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Casilda
  • Juan Goytisolo
  • archive fever
  • autofiction
  • brand
  • colonial archive
  • cooptation
  • death drive
  • literary canon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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