Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

This book was written while shuttling back and forth among many cities, institutions, and homes. It was made possible by the people who helped transform these often transitory places into sites of connection.

I first became interested in late modernism as a graduate student in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. I would like to thank Francine Masiello, Tony Cascardi, Miryam Sas, Carolyn Porter, and José Luiz Passos for their advice and influence, and for teaching me about...

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Preface: Alternative Circuits

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pp. xi-xviii

“Starstruck” (El enamorado de una estrella, 1933), a short story by the Argentine author Nicolás Olivari, tells of an idiosyncratic home movie forged from stolen scraps. The unnamed protagonist finds a discarded filmstrip from a Joan Crawford picture on the streets of Buenos Aires. Bringing it back to his grim tenement, he repeatedly projects it, using a “modest apparatus,” onto a sheet in his room. Animating the still frame as though he were a cinematographer or projectionist—“in moving the handle of my machine, the image acquires...

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Introduction. Media Laboratories

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pp. 3-22

In the first decades of the twentieth century, cinema, radio, and the typewriter held out the promise of radically new experiences for South American writers, as they would for their contemporaries in and beyond the continent.1 Scholarship has tended to consecrate these media in similar terms: cinema epitomized modern life; radio was a fantastic, nearly otherworldly apparatus; the typewriter revolutionized writing. Beginning in the 1930s, however, a shift in perception occurred. Artists and intellectuals began to perceive these same...

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1. Conscripting Global Cinema

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pp. 23-52

In contrast to the first wave of the avant-gardes, the problem of the masses takes hold with surprising force under late modernism, especially through the collective, sensorial experiences of cinema. The earlier avant-gardes had implicitly posited themselves a temporal and spatial elite, in opposition to a broader collective.1 When the Argentine writer Leopoldo Hurtado writes in 1931 that “today the historic accent, the decisive factor in historical occurrence, is the masses,” he expresses a preoccupation absent from the avant-garde...

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2. Tuning in: The Late Modernist Acousmêtre

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pp. 53-82

In this passage from Felisberto Hernández’s “The Daisy Dolls,” the protagonist attempts to tune into indistinguishable voices. Sound moves from the illegible to the communicative and back to the incomprehensible. It eludes his capture, “scatter[ing] like frightened mice,” even when directed toward him, a receiver apparently uniquely poised (“as if singled out”) to capture it. It is as though he were unsuccessfully seeking out a radio frequency for noises positioned at once outside of and within him. Hernández’s furtive description...

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3. Pounding Away at the Typewriter: Authorship and Proprioception

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pp. 83-111

In 1920, author and feminist Alfonsina Storni published a journalistic sketch titled “The Perfect Typist” in Argentina’s most prominent newspaper, La Nación, under the pseudonym Tao Lao. Storni begins by describing a typical scene encountered when boarding the streetcar between seven and eight in the morning in the city of Buenos Aires: a sea of working-class women on their way to work, reading. The columnist then proceeds with a taxonomy of these women vis-à-vis their reading material: “If she carries a crime rag, she is a factory...

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4. The Residual Haptic: Feelership in Felisberto Hernández

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pp. 112-135

This chapter opens with a return to an earlier text. In Chapter 2, Felisberto Hernández’s microfiction “Lovebird Furniture” (1947) functioned as a parable of the mass media’s continual encroachment onto interiority. Injected with a radio station’s shifting formats, the unnamed narrator finds tangos, serialized novels, and sonnets for a furniture store alternating nightmarishly in his head. But when we follow the story to its unexpected ending, something in the parable shifts. The man supplying the injections lets the narrator ...

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5. Imaginary Media: Usership and the World’s Networks

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pp. 136-158

Imaginary media—sketches, drafts, or conjectures of media that might be or might-have-been—appear with surprising frequency in modernist texts from South America. In one well-known example, Horacio Quiroga’s short story “The Vampire” (Argentina, 1927), a device transforms the two-dimensional image of a Hollywood starlet into a presence who haunts her inventor in Buenos Aires. Similarly, in Clemente Palma’s science fiction novel XYZ (Peru, 1934), a scientist converts a desert island into a testing ground for transforming...

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Epilogue

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pp. 159-160

Fragment of a Diary in the Alps (2002), an essay/novella by Argentine author César Aira, features a series of appendices that reflect upon art and media change.1 As he stages these reflections, the narrator holds in his hands a thaumatrope, an early nineteenth-century optical toy and precursor to the cinema. When he tilts the object, the image at its center, a bird, changes to another, a cage; sometimes the bird appears inside of the cage. The thaumatrope, or “wonder-turner,” depends upon the afterimage imprinted on the retina, which creates...

Notes

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pp. 161-204

Bibliography

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pp. 205-228

Index

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pp. 229-235