Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Spanish & Portuguese, University of Wisconsin / Madison

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, University of California / Berkeley
The Experience of the New: Argentine, Chile, and Cuba in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century

The myriad of economic, political, and cultural transformations that took place in Latin American during the first decades of the nineteenth century have a trait in common that has not been studied in a systematic way: the fact that they were perceived as new. In other words, what kind of experience developed in tandem with these transformations? What were the conditions under which something could be perceived and represented as new? My project aims at an exploration of this experience of the new in two different contexts: the Southern Cone and Cuba. On the one hand, I will focus on texts produced by the “New Generation” (or “Generation of 1837”) in the River Plate and Chile. On the other hand, I will tackle the writings of those Cuban authors who gathered around the figure of Domingo del Monte in the decades of 1820 and 1830. I argue that their writings contain the clearest local precedents of a kind of modern experience that would gain weight and extension throughout the nineteenth century. In quantitatively and qualitatively different ways, these elites of the ’20s,’30s, and ’40s began to look away from the colonial, Christian, and Hispanic tradition in order to embrace patterns of thought and behavior that were characteristic of the ascending European bourgeoisies and their discourse of “progress”. Comparing these two regions, I will address, among others, the following problem: How are we to explain the fact that the liberal elite articulated a moderate discourse in relation to novelty in the more economically “modernized” territory of Cuba, whereas the young liberals of the Southern Cone –a comparatively “underdeveloped” region– produced texts characterized by a strong and open celebration of the new?