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Travel Literature and Modernity in the 19th Century

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SPA 154

Travel Literature and Modernity in the 19th Century

Spring 2007

Th 3-5, Boylston 103

Prof. Mariano Siskind (siskind@fas.harvard.edu)

Office: 427 Boylston – Office hours: W 1-2.30 and by appt.


During the second half of the 19th century Latin American intellectuals had to think of ways in which the culture of the region could participate of the processes of globalization of modernity, and the experience of travel lend itself as one of the most appealing sources for these imaginations. We will read narratives of travel in the Americas, and to Europe, the countryside and the Far East by Sarmiento, la Condesa de Merlín, Flora Tristán, Lucio V. Mansilla, José Martí, Rubén Darío, Amado Nervo, Paul Groussac, Manuel Ugarte, José Juan Tablada and Enrique Gómez Carrillo.

Required Reading

Reading materials will be provided in photocopies. Some reading packs will be sold at Gnomon Copies, some will be available in the course’s webpage: http://my.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k22301)


Class participation (20%), one oral report in class responding to the readings of a given week (20%); two written assignments (4-5 pages each, 30%), and a final take-home exam (8-10 pages, 30%). More than three unjustified absences will affect the class participation grade. Oral report: Students will choose when to present on the assigned readings. They will write three informed questions addressed to the rest of the class, and will conduct a discussion for about 15 minutes. They will circulate the questions and discussion topics on Wednesday before midnight and, when necessary, will provide handouts in Spanish. Written Assignments: students will choose a paragraph from the indicated readings, contextualize it (historically, socially, culturally) and analyze it without repeating the ideas seen in class.


This course will be taught in Spanish but it is open to students in concentrations other than Spanish and Latin American Studies who are welcome to intervene in class in English. Students may take it for citation credits in Spanish, provided they write the assignments in Spanish. Obviously, reading knowledge in Spanish is required.


Week 1 (January 31): Introduction: Why travel? Why writing while traveling?

No readings for this class. A summary of this class will be posted in the course’s webpage for students that may have missed the class during shopping week.

Week 2 (February 7): Imaginaries of Travel, or The other Foundational Fictions of Latin American culture.

Readings: Domingo F. Sarmiento, Facundo (selections). Doris Sommer, Foundational Fictions (selections). Adolfo Prieto. Los viajeros ingleses y la emergencia de la literatura argentina (selections).

Week 3 (February 14): Sarmiento’s horseback ride to the heart of the modern

Readings: Domingo F. Sarmiento, Viajes por Europa, Africa y, América (1845-1847) (selections).

Week 4 (February 21): Mansilla, beyond the frontier: becoming a barbarian

Readings: Lucio V. Mansilla. Una excursión a los indios ranqueles (selections)

Week 5 (February 28): No Class
Week 6 (March 6): Genderizing travel: how different a gaze? The Countess’s Homecoming

Readings: María de las Mercedes Beltrán Santa Cruz y Cárdenas Montalvo y O´Farrill (Condesa de Merlín), Viaje a La Habana (selections).

Week 7 (March 13): Genderizing travel: how different a gaze? 2: Feminism and Politics on the Move

Readings: Flora Tristán, Peregrinaciones de una paria (selections).

Deadline for first written assignment (4-5 pages): Thursday March 20

Week 8 (March 20): José Martí: Postcards from New York City

Readings: José Martí, Crónicas: “Carta a Bartolomé Mitre y Vedia”, “El puente de Brooklyn”, “Coney Island”, “El poeta Walt Whitman”, “El proceso de los siete anarquistas de Chicago” and “Un drama terrible”.

Week 9 (March 27): Spring Break
Week 10 (April 3): The Traveling Dandy

Readings: Paul Groussac. Del Plata al Niágara (selections) and other crónicas.

Week 11 (April 10): Paris, Paris: Latin American Flânneurs in the capital of the nineteenth century

Readings: Rubén Darío, En París (selections). Amado Nervo. “¿Por qué va uno a París?”. Enrique Gómez Carrillo. El alma encantadora de París (selections), “La Psicología del viaje”, “La amargura del regreso”. Miguel Cané. En viaje (selections).

Week 12 (April 17): Travels to the East and the Question of Latin American Orientliasm.

Readings: José Juan Tablada. En el país del sol.

Deadline for second written assignment (4-5 pages): Thursday April 24

Week 13 (April 24): Travel and Cosmopolitanism: modernity as global wandering

Readings: Enrique Gómez Carrillo. De Marsella a Tokyo.

Week 14 (May 1): Review for the final exam, Closing Remarks and Farewells.

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