Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, University of Wisconsin / Madison

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Literature, University of California / Berkeley
"Modernism and the Problem of History: Brazil, Argentina, and the US in the 1930s"

This comparative project explores how works by the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges (Evaristo Carriego, Historia universal de la infamia, Ficciones), the Brazilian essayist Gilberto Freyre (Sobrados e mucambos) and the Brazilian novelist Graciliano Ramos (São Bernardo, Angustia) position themselves with respect to contemporaneous debates on history and historiography during the 1930s in Argentina and Brazil. Reading these works as modernist historiographies, I argue that they reflect simultaneously on the content and the form of history writing, examining what happens when history becomes aesthetic. In the context of a volatile decade of political, social and economic crises, these works both share and depart from the reigning imperative to rethink the past, particularly the nineteenth century. At the same time, they warn us against the dangers of simplistic periodizations of the 1930s. Through the comparative study of archival material on historical discourse available in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Recife I will focus my research on the debates over historical interpretation taking place in essays, history books, and journals across the ideological and aesthetic spectrum, including Claridad, El hogar, and La nación (in Argentina); and Lanterna verde, Dom Casmurro, and the Revista Acadêmica (in Brazil). In order to compare these to the fictions and essays of my core group of writers, I will examine key terms on historiography and tropes of historical engagement. In particular, I am interested in how writers figured historical change, rupture, crisis, and tradition, in such a way that might challenge contemporary periodizations. I suggest, therefore, that the problems of historicity and context that preoccupied these writers are also problems the scholar must face when examining their works. My larger dissertation project will also include a third comparative angle, that of the US, and in particular the works of William Faulkner.