Part I: Reading History Through Textuality
“Writing Orality: Turning Quechua into a Language of Religious Conversion”
The extensive debates regarding linguistic barriers and the most appropriate manner to achieve an effective Christianization in the Andean region are reflected in the appearance of instructional materials such as cartillas, silabarios and other devotional texts translated into Quechua by the same evangelizers or other lettered men who learned Quechua and other native languages after they had arrived in Peru in the sixteenth-century. In this article I discuss the importance of the Quechua language to the success of the evangelization project in the Andean region. At the same time, in their efforts to create rules for the Quechua language the authors used European conceptions of alphabetic letters as well as classical grammatical and rhetorical theory. This study focuses on two cases, those of Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás’ Gramática, o arte de la lengua general de los Indios de los reynos del Peru (1560) and Diego González Holguín’s Gramática y arte nueva de la lengua general de todo el Perú, llamada quichua (1607). I show that both grammar books go beyond a mere exegesis of the language. In fact, the authors provide another way to approach Andean culture by demonstrating the sophistication of Quechua and in so doing demonstrate the refinement of its native speakers. By accounting for the methods by which these authors understand, classify, and conceptualize the linguistic and cultural conventions of Quechua and also considering the limitations they encounter in translating Catholicism to Andean inhabitants, I propose that these texts can be regarded as artifacts that not only helped to diminish the linguistic barrier between European and native cultures but also served as instruments of colonization and meaningful indicators of Andean political and social change.
“A Witch in the City: History and Textuality in 19th century Andes”
Benigna Huamán, a woman living in the Andean Peruvian town of Bambamarca, was accused of being a witch and then burned alive in March of 1888. This event motivated people from locations all across Peru, ranging from small towns to major cities, to produce a massive body of texts, which this chapter analyzes. These texts—written in diverse genres including journalism, academia, law and fiction—were an opportunity to make claims about modernity, science and civilization. This chapter argues that reactions to this event are key to understanding the production and circulation of texts in late nineteenth-century Peru in two ways. The first is related to their geopolitical distribution and flow and allows us to rethink the role of the capital city, the provincias and the rural (‘el campo’/’la sierra’) in the diffusion and legitimization of ideas and information. The second scrutinizes nineteenth-century Andean literacy as a social practice strongly influenced by indigenous languages, orality, and the so-called Andean Spanish, among others. The chapter emphasizes the role and importance of non-urban elements in shaping twentieth-century literacy, commonly accepted as an utterly urban and exclusive practice.
Part II: Textual Artifacts and Materialities
“Guaman Poma’s Library: Costume Books and the Illustration of an Indigenous Manuscript”
George Antony Thomas
One subject within Latin American book history that merits further exploration is the study of the types of books that were readily available to indigenous readers during the colonial period. Guaman Poma’s Nueva corónica provides ample evidence of the interactions between an indigenous author and European print culture. This chapter explores how the European costume book in particular influenced the illustrations in the Nueva corónica. Italian costume books, which often focused on descriptions of ancient rulers from imperial Rome, inspired his illustrated account of Inca rulers and their accomplishments. German and French costume books containing anti-Catholic descriptions of members of the clergy appear to be a model for the indigenous author’s critical renditions of colonial Peruvian clergymen. Finally, the Low Countries’ anti-colonial costume books clearly convey the genre’s importance in contesting the dichotomy of civilization/barbarity in early modern print.
These confluences not only suggest that Guaman Poma had access to books not usually on lists of titles in circulation in the colonies, they also demonstrate his modifications of European print culture conventions to create a uniquely indigenous chronicle. Furthermore, although anthropologists have argued that Guaman Poma’s drawings of Inca tunics are “authentic” representations, they are at least partly derived from European printed illustrations. The Andean author’s adoption of such a wide variety of commonplace illustrative practices suggests that illustrated genres were readily available to indigenous readers or, at the very least, that European books were not the exclusive property of elite members of the lettered city.
“Sound, Text, Transmission: Latin American Textuality in the Early Era of Sonic Reproduction”
How did the arrival of reproducible sound unsettle notions of textuality in Latin America? If Edison’s phonograph—which the inventor understood primarily in terms of speech and dictation and, notably, not with respect to music as later users would—offered the possibility to reproduce sound by retracing indexical grooves, the textual object’s status as a carrier of sonic significance was indelibly altered. While an object like the phonogram (a phonograph recording used in roughly the same way as a letter) never achieved any prominent position within the media landscape, it is still possible to detect how a variety of textual objects reacted to the arrival of reproducible sound. Focusing primarily on the Río de la Plata region—where we can find ample evidence of telephone, phonograph, and radio use and distribution—and drawing on both nineteenth- and twentieth-century examples, this chapter argues that textual objects adopted a different stance toward their depiction of sound. Descriptive and evaluative rather than imitative, the incorporation of sound in these texts aims not at phonography—i.e. at another version of writing sound—but rather at the preservation of subjective impressions of frequently ephemeral sonic events. By looking at prose and poetry pieces drawn from both stand-alone volumes and periodicals, it is therefore possible to see not only how texts worked to define the reception of sound reproduction technologies but also how the latter shaped the position the former would come to occupy.
“The Sudamericana Publishing House: An Analysis of Its 1969 General Catalogue”
José Enrique Navarro
Sudamericana was one of the pioneering Argentinean publishing enterprises, along with Emece and Losada, in the second third of the twentieth century, the country’s Golden Age of publishing. Sudamericana began operations near the end of the 1930s and was one of main publishers involved in the so-called Boom of Latin American narrative in the 1960s. Taking as a point of departure Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of the cultural field, this chapter examines the role played by Sudamericana as a cultural agent in the country’s cultural and literary development. For that purpose, the chapter analyzes its General Catalogue, published in 1969, after a period of thirty years of activity. Special attention is paid to the various book series that integrate this understudied document, and to the role of books published in translation, which sold worldwide. The chapter also assesses the impact of Sudamericana’s publishing policies on the production, circulation and consumption of certain books, and consequently the consolidation of certain reading trends as well as the canonization of some authors over others in Argentina and beyond.
“The Postcard Poetics of Nicanor Parra’s Artefactos”
This chapter considers Nicanor Parra’s 1972 collection of poetry, Artefactos, in light of its publication on and as 242 individual postcards in a box. These poems combine brief printed and handwritten phrases with illustrations by Guillermo Tejeda. Together, the text and images make use of popular, political, and borrowed speech and iconography to provoke readers and challenge the conventions of poetry and good taste. Combining the grotesque, the absurd, the profound, and the everyday, Parra has commented that the Artefactos “result from an explosion of the antipoem.” As a rejection of traditional poetic form and lyrical subjectivity, Parra’s famous antipoems favored an irreverent, aggressively down-to-earth approach to poetry, something that, in the Artefactos, is both concentrated and exploded into many postcard-sized fragments.
While scholars have commented on the relationship between the Artefactos and antipoetry, this chapter expands the critical reception of these poems to include a sustained focus on their materialization as postcards. In doing this, this study examines the interplay of text and image in the Artefactos and theorizes the poems’ status as material “artifacts” that poetically capture not just the sights and sounds of lived experience, but the material structures of its popular communication. This chapter claims that the productive engagement with, and poetic appropriation of, the conventions of the postcard form reconfigure the modes by which poetry communicates. As a result, the Artefactos help to reconstitute both lyrical and readerly subjectivity and materialize the relation between these poles.
“Reading Images: Art, Aesthetics, and the Imagery of the Future in Argentine Science Fiction”
Silvia Kurlat Ares
Since the Dada period, aesthetic lines have become increasingly blurred and the distinction between art forms and media, between high and low cultural production, and also between the perception of centers and peripheries seem to have splintered into almost non-existent concepts. In the case of science fiction, this porosity makes up the scaffolding of an aesthetic that operates from naturalism but with the instruments of pop surrealism, with the languages of pop and op arts and with the rigor of realism and cubism. Such complex operations can be traced both in book covers and magazine illustrations as well as in graphic novels, where the complexity of visual language disputes the space of political and ideological narratives. From the stunning images of the famed Péndulo magazine, to the visual universe of graphic novels by Ricardo Barreiro or Diego Agrimbau’s imagery, Argentine science fiction has reworked its relationship with art and literature as a way not simply to claim a space for itself in the cultural field, but to rework Argentina’s surrealist tradition. This chapter explores the construction of an aesthetic that draws on a variety of sources in order to think about relationships between different areas of cultural production, as well as aesthetic objects (and the media in which they are supported). It questions not only how science fiction has evolved and changed the relationships between different forms of art, but how far different media and vocabularies have been merged into a common redefined cultural agenda after modernity.
Part III: Digital Textualities, Media and Editing
“Discourse or Database? Theorizing the Electronic Edition of Antonio de León Pinelo’s Epítome de la biblioteca oriental y occidental, náutica y geográfica”
This study explores conceptual problems in the electronic edition of early modern print bibliographies. McCarl focuses on several questions that stem from one central concern: the dual nature of historical bibliographies as linear pieces of discourse and as non–linear repositories of information. In doing so, he considers the complex relationship between print bibliographies and the “real world” of actual books, and the threat that a desire to normalize and correct may pose to the integrity of the text. This article addresses these issues in the context of his ongoing work on a digital version of Antonio de León Pinelo’s Epitome de la biblioteca oriental i occidental, nautica i geografica (Summary bibliography of the East and West Indies and the nautical and geographical arts) from 1629. The thoughts outlined in this essay, however, may have ramifications for other projects involving print bibliographies, or indeed, other types of texts that share similar characteristics. This article limits itself primarily to theoretical considerations, leaving for another occasion a more thorough examination of how to approach these problems in terms of design and technology.
“Do Borges’ Librarians Have Bodies?”
In 1982, Bill Viola posed an enigmatic question: Will there be condominiums in Data Space? Borges’s “Library of Babel” perhaps provides an anachronistic answer to Viola’s still unresolved riddle, as the Argentine’s famous short story gives a detailed architectonic description of that prophetic infinite archive. And yet Borges’s story is equally concerned with the lives, trials, and vindications of the librarians who inhabit “the Universe, which others call the Library.”
Borges, as is well known, has been invented many times over as the precursor to cyberspace. Little has been made, however, of the librarians who inhabit Borges’s proto-data space. They very rarely appear, for instance, in the many and varied attempts to visualize the Library of Babel in digital media. From multimedia installations at Latin American book festivals to Jonathan Basile’s <libraryofbabel.info>, it would seem that Borges’s librarians themselves are absolutely incorporeal.
This chapter reads Viola’s essay with and against a history of attempts to represent Borges’s story as a digital project. By tracing the material and digital texualities of a particularly viral topic of visualization, the chapter follows Borges and Viola as guides to navigating the impulse to transmute the entire human experience into information.
“The Graphic Novel and Digital Media in Latin America”
The rise of the graphic novel to popular and critical prominence in Latin America has coincided with the increasing digitization of culture. The emphasis placed on materiality by the publication of increasingly elaborate long-form comic books in Brazil, Chile and Mexico goes against the tendency towards dematerialization in contemporary culture, governed as it is by the logic of digital networks. However, the relationship between the contemporary Latin American graphic novel and digital culture is not simply that of an assertion of materiality in the face of its apparent erosion. Rather, the graphic novel form explores the new hybrid textualities emerging in digital media. On the one hand, graphic novels have re-introduced a plurality of image-word relations reduced and standardized by printing conventions. As a result, they function as a print corollary of the complex image-word combinations that proliferate in online publications. On the other hand, the non-linear reading encouraged by graphic novels echoes the networked hypertextualities that prevail on the internet.
This chapter explores the complex connections between the graphic novel and digital media in Latin America. Whereas in Europe and the US the graphic novel is primarily for autobiographical narratives, in Latin America it explores themes of technology and urban modernities. Focusing on two publications—O beijo adolescente (Brazil, 2012-15) and Operación Bolívar (Mexico, 2000)—this chapter argues that the complex textuality of the Latin American graphic novel functions as a critical tool for exploring the changing modes of readership made possible by digital media.