Document Type

Book Review


Literature (CMC), Modern Languages (CMC)

Publication Date



Recent years have seen the publication of several excellent collections of essays devoted to nineteenth-century Latin American cultural studies. Works such as Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, edited by Sara Castro-Klarén and John Charles Chasteen, and special numbers of journals such as Revista Iberoamericana’s issue on cultural change and periodical reading in nineteenth-century Latin America (January–March 2006), to adduce but two examples, have amplified our understanding of the complex ways in which hegemonic and nonhegemonic discourses functioned in the nineteenth century and how the divisions between elite and popular cultures were constructed and deconstructed. This collective scholarly labor has also done much to counteract and supplement the persuasive and powerful, but often totalizing, interpretations proposed by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities and Doris Sommer in Foundational Fictions. Acree and González Espitia’s anthology may now be added to the extant corpus of such volumes. Building Nineteenth-Century Latin America unites essays by historians and literary and cultural critics, all of whom examine different discursive phenomena from within rather than from without. The works have in common their desire to offer insight into movements, groups, and sociocultural manifestations that to date have not been studied from a cultural studies perspective. Thus Patricia Lapolla Swier’s essay on José Martí finds space next to González Espitia’s piece analyzing representations of syphilis in both “high” culture (poetry, fiction) and “low” culture (magazine advertisements). Indeed, the chapters here also share the refusal to privilege one form of discourse over another. It is welcome to find a collection offering essays that vary widely in terms of content, but that also maintain a similar theoretical approach.

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© 2012 Revista Hispánica Modernai. Posted with permission of the copyright holder..