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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Master narratives: The Course

This is what I have so far. It still needs a lot of work, but I haven't even looked yet to see when I am giving a seminar next:

The aim of this graduate seminar is to undertake a critical examination of the master narratives of the field of Hispanism itself through a reading of significant primary and secondary sources. Master narratives, in this context, involve overarching historical assumptions about the history, culture, and literature of the Hispanic world, assumptions that shape our research projects. A critical examination entails some degree of skepticism and distance, even when the temptation might be to simply choose the best of these narratives. The point is neither to dismiss these narratives out of hand nor to become blind adherents of any given paradigm, but to examine the ways in which they have given our field its current identity, in ways we should be more aware of than we are. Some of these narratives are cast negatively, taking the form of "Spain never had a genuine X." Many emphasize historical fissures, discontinuities, and the uneven development of modernity. In some cases, a master narrative might be more optimistic, imposing a spurious ideological unity on a more heterogeneous reality. One example is the influential Américo Castro version of Spanish history, "la morada vital," that Carlos Fuentes re-articulates in his popular book El espejo enterrado. The hypothesis of the course is that the master narrative of master narratives can be defined as the "struggle for modernity," in both Spain and Latin America.


Because the topic of the course is the metadiscourse of Hispanism itself, the line between primary and secondary sources will be borrosa. Many of the texts read in class will belong to the genre of the essay, like the "artículos" of Larra, Lorca's lectures, or the prose writings of José Lezama Lima. We will also look at the academic articles included in Mabel Moraña's Ideologies of Hispanism and Epps and Cifuentes' Spain Beyond Spain, and similar reflections by leading scholars in the field. Novels, plays, and books of poetry are also relevant to narratives of Hispanism.

The readings, roughly, will fall into three equally weighted categories: (1) those concerned primarily with peninsular Spain, from Larra to Subirats, passing through Menéndez Pelayo, Menéndez Pidal, the generation of 1898, Américo Castro, Lorca, Valente, Goytisolo, and Eduardo Subirats. (2) Narratives of the Americanness of Latin American Literature and the formation of national identity. José Martí, Borges, Lezama Lima, Doris Sommer.(3) Narratives that attempt to bridge the gap between the two continents, creating transatlantic accounts of Hispanic culture.


Leslie B. said...

Latest insight on exceptionalism: it *has authoritarian features* by definition. It seems somewhat fascist because fascism is a form of it. This is of course elementary.

Leslie B. said...

...ah: I mean, it is part of authoritarian discourse. Do the exceptionalist arguments have the discursive features outlined in Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism?

Jonathan said...

Well exceptionalism is always in conjunction with nationalism. Nationalism are authoritarian in trying to impose a particular shape on the nation. Some of those authoritarianisms are Fascist ones. A nation must have a story of why it is itself and not other nations. Right wing exceptionlisms of Spain as Christian nation are Fascist. Are left wing versions of it also ideologically suspect? I suspect so.

Leslie B. said...

Yes, but I mean in addition to the nationalist reason. Nationalism is more or less authoritarian in both its repressive and its utopian dimensions but my thought is authoritarian discourse tout court. Where the point is power, whether or not it is about a nation.

Jonathan said...

I understand what you're saying, I think. It is hard for me to conceive of Fascism without a nation to hang it on. Exceptionalism, though, is a form of identitarian politics that can function authoritatively in other ideological contexts. So you could have authoritarian Lesbian exceptionalism, for example, that's not nationalist. Any kind of separatism or identity politics has to rely on an exceptionalist view of difference. The other side of that is the imposition of a norm.

This makes me think that I need to revisit the idea of Lorca as "multi-cultural" icon from the new perspective I've gained since November.

Leslie B. said...

Identity politics, yes.

There were these people in 80s trying to figure out how to establish authority in discourse, or working on authoritarian discourse, I have not read them.

Should, though. My intuition was that the exceptionalism defenders use defective logic in the same way as other verbal manipulators do. Now I am noticing that a lot of
verbal manipulation is justified in identitarian terms ("because I am an X").