This course aims to decipher, question, and reconsider an international network of early Spanish American feminists who saw the cause of female emancipation as inextricably linked to educational reform and the aesthetics of the novel. Most of the participants in the network worked professionally as editors, novelists, essayists, and teachers, and their works therefore cross a variety of genres and bring together issues from their separate camps to ask basic, unsettling questions: To what degree are citizen and reader completely overlapping categories? How should books and the role of author be defined in region that seeks to separate itself from monarchical and imperial Europe? How do the roles of reader and writer connect and what formal changes can be made to strengthen their connection?
In methodological terms, we will face the challenge of working in a variety of print media and across national and sometimes linguistic boundaries. This seminar is built on the thesis that the specific discussion of the novel and the role of the female writer and reader take on universal importance when we consider the links between writing, reading, and authority in the ethos of a republic. We will thus be rethinking the context in which the nations and national literatures of Spanish America were imagined and built from the perspective of an intellectual community that sought to connect those national literatures with a broader regional and hemispheric narrative of empathy and emancipation.
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