Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Comparative Literature and Literary Theory

First Advisor

Román de la Campa

Abstract

Experiments of Politicization. The Avant-Garde and the Rise of Populism in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil explores the relationship between the Latin American avant-gardes and the rise of Latin American populism. In the beginning of the 20th century, elitist democracies gave way to mass democracies, creating new political subjectivities. I examine how these new subjectivities led to the rise of the first populisms in Argentina and Brazil as well as the absence of populism in Uruguay. First, I analyze how society was presented in official political discourse and, then, how avant-garde literature and theater intervened in this. I argue that official political discourse only gives us a partial understanding of the rise of populism and that the avant-gardes offer important counternarratives and new comprehensions. Moreover, I contend that the populist dynamics arose gradually in the cultural sphere and this long before full-blown populist governments, meaning they were the conditions of possibility for the governments rather than the result of them. I base this analysis primarily on studies of Roberto Arlt’s theater, Felisberto Hernández’s early short stories, and Patrícia Galvão’s first novel, read in dialogue with the period’s literature, theater, cinema, and visual art. By studying these three artists together, the dissertation intervenes in the study of the Latin American historical avant-gardes that, according to a traditionally reading, were characterized by an interest in their own global positioning, playing out as a tension between nationalist and cosmopolitan impulses. I argue that Arlt, Hernández, and Galvão, together with similar artists, constitute a margin of the experimental avant-garde that left the question of national/cosmopolitan identity aside. Instead, they intervened in the official political discourse that championed national unity by examining and exposing Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil’s sociopolitical conflicts.

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Available to all on Saturday, May 11, 2024

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