At the initial stage of nationalism literature can assist a people in constituting an autonomous state free of external domination. But since literature, like modern art in general, aspires to a negative function as well--to criticize all totalities, including the national one--it occupies a paradoxical postion in simultaneously mediating identity and reflecting on it from a distance.Once again, insightful as far as it goes but not exactly how I think of it. The national literature is always created and defined by an elite social group. This elite group is modernist (in modern times) almost by definition. It is engaged in the project of mediating between national identity and modernity itself. The elite group creates its own definitions of identity that seem inherently self-critical, but that ultimately build rather than destroy national identity: Whitman, Williams, Pessoa, Unamuno, Ortega, Zambrano, Paz, Lezama Lima, and Lorca are examples of this dual imperative.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
From Belated Modernity: