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Tuesday, February 19, 2013


A colleague retiring soon left some books out on the table for people who wanted them. I picked up España invertebrada yesterday afternoon as I left work because I need to refresh my memory about discourses of Hispanic exceptionalism. So far, Ortega y Gasset has defended imperialism, militarism, and Castilian separatism. He condemns the Spanish military, but only because they have no wars to fight. He is scornful of Catalans, Basques, and Galicians. And Andalusians. Looking ahead to the second part, which I haven't read yet, it looks like he is going to develop the elitism that would later lead to La rebelión de las masas. Why is Ortega considered a liberal? I hate not only his ideas, but his entire rhetorical style. He is pompous and overbearing, even in moments of seeming humility.


Leslie B. said...

Apparently he is a source for Gilberto Freyre which explains a lot. I thought it was Castro but it is also O&G and Unamuno. I know we are supposed to appreciate Unamuno but I cannot stand him, either.

Jonathan said...

I don't know Freyre much, but trying to construct identities in Brazil, right? It wouldn't be surprising that he would turn toward Spanish-is-different theorists like Ortega and Unamuno. Even though Ortega supposedly looks to Europe in a way Unamuno doesn't, they really share that damned exceptionalism.

Ortega just sounds like a Fascist to me a lot of the time. All this talk about how he masses have to be more docile, and the lack of manly men to lead them around. How a great nation needs a great military project. The warrior spirit of Castile. It is really quite extraordinary. How Spaniards won't recognize the presence of a truly superior soul when they see it.

Leslie B. said...

Maybe I should make my fall seminar on this. People in culture class were driving me nuts today making exceptionalist arguments they picked up in school and from popular consciousness, it is pernicious.

Freyre's argument parallels Castro's although supposedly he found Castro and liked him after developing his main ideas; I am now told he read Ortega and Unamuno first. He is totally whacked.
Brazil started on the sugar plantations with "love" between masters and slaves, creating the Luso-Tropical Man who is the exponent of a superior type of modernity, comprised of the best elements of tradition and modern innovation too. It all happened because Portuguese men are "racially flexible" (i.e. are slightly mixed already, and glad to deal with brown-skinned women) and also ultra-sensual. All those hot afternoons in the hammock were not slothful but productive of the new and unique cultural paradigm.

I could go on, it is hilarious, but some things to look at are how sincere his rejection of Brazilian fascism was in light of his connection or at least use by the Estado Novo (G. Vargas) which had its own fascist threads (these things are known, I don't know them well enough off hand but the research is done and can be looked up).

I did not know about his reading of Ortega until this week, though, and then of course there is all this Portuguese exceptionalism as well which is another of Freyre's sources. Much in Portugal is alleged to be sui generis, from what I can tell.

What drives me around the bend about it all is that anything I can say, a Brazilian can say I am wrong about, because Brazil is so unique and incomprehensible that only Brazilians can understand it, and they all do so naturally.