This essay argues that Américo Paredes's George Washington Gómez is structured by a dynamic tension between the forms of the corrido and the bildungsroman. Drawing on recent studies of the Chicano/a literary-historical recovery and accounts of late modernism, this essay calls attention to the elements of the novel that made it unpublishable for almost fifty years. Attending closely to this tension brings forward the novel's insistent depiction of the historical impossibility of both subjectivity and literary production in the 1930s. The novel critiques and ironizes both of these totalizing narratives of subject formation, leaving the protagonist in a condition of fragmentation. In Paredes's late and peripheral version of modernism, such fragmentation is always rooted firmly in social and political contexts, suggesting that in the borderlands, totalizing scripts of identity collide and fail. The novel addresses this scandal of subject formation by dramatizing the process through which the protagonist develops a private fantasy identity informed by the corrido alongside a public “Americanized” identity by following the script of the assimilationist bildungsroman. The conclusion of Paredes's narrative satisfies the conventions of both forms even as it critiques these narratives and the subjectivities that they produce.

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