Spanish 280: Nation Building and its Discontents: 19th Century Latin American Literature

Th 3-6 P, Dwinelle 210 | Instructor: Dominguez | CCN: 19402

Units: 4

In this seminar, we will discuss a series of texts selected from what has become the 19th century Latin American literary canon as well as the most important critical works surrounding it. We will focus on the multiple conceptualizations of literature that emerged throughout the 19th century as a way of considering the role of writing in the process of consolidating the Nation-State.  While critics such as Benedict Anderson and Doris Sommer have studied the importance of literature in the creation of a national community, we will attempt to go beyond their thinking and explore the fissures, silences, and blind spots that create tensions within, and sometimes undermine, the national project. The course will be based on reading 19 th century canonical texts against the grain. We will begin by reconsidering the texts that emerged from the revolutionary movements of Independence in Spanish America, which were not programmatic statements regarding the necessary formation of the Nation but rather experimental documents filled with anxiety over the unpredictability of the future. We will then consider how texts like Sarmiento’s Facundo and Andrés Bello’s “Silva a la Agricultura de la Zona Tórrida” depicted national landscapes by producing literary collages that re-used orientalist tropes present in European texts. We will proceed by considering the slippages and short circuits that interrupt the statist attempts of 19th century novels like Sab and María to racialize the bodies of their female characters. The course will end reflecting on representations of popular subjects like bandits, gauchos, and Indians, as well as the figure of the masses, to reveal the fragility of the Nation and its “lettered city.”