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The Inverted Conquest

The Myth of Modernity and the Transatlantic Onset of Modernism

Alejandro Mejías-López

Publication Year: 2009

Modernismo (1880s–1920s) is considered one of the most groundbreaking literary movements in Hispanic history, as it transformed literature in Spanish to an extent not seen since the Renaissance. As Alejandro Mejías-López demonstrates, however, modernismo was also groundbreaking in another, more radical way: it was the first time a postcolonial literature took over the literary field of the former European metropolis. Expanding Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural field and symbolic capital beyond national boundaries, The Inverted Conquest shows how modernismo originated in Latin America and traveled to Spain, where it provoked a complete renovation of Spanish letters and contributed to a national identity crisis. In the process, described by Latin American writers as a reversal of colonial relations, modernismo wrested literary and cultural authority away from Spain, moving the cultural center of the Hispanic world to the Americas. Mejías-López further reveals how Spanish American modernistas confronted the racial supremacist claims and homogenizing force of an Anglo-American modernity that defined the Hispanic as un-modern. Constructing a new Hispanic genealogy, modernistas wrote Spain as the birthplace of modernity and themselves as the true bearers of the modern spirit, moved by the pursuit of knowledge, cosmopolitanism, and cultural miscegenation, rather than technology, consumption, and scientific theories of racial purity. Bound by the intrinsic limits of neocolonial and postcolonial theories, scholarship has been unwilling or unable to explore modernismo’s profound implications for our understanding of Western modernities.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. 4-7

Table of Contents

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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. 1-14

In 1965, an English speaker interested in learning about modernist poetry might have turned to the then recently published Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics and found, perhaps to her surprise, that the entry on “modernism” described a Hispanic literary movement spanning the last decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries....

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1. The Myths of European Modernity

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pp. 15-48

The late nineteenth century in Spanish America was saturated with writers who were coming to grips with the changes in the texture of life brought about by modernization, depicting an environment of transformations and uncertainty full of possibilities and paths of exploration. In 1882, Cuban Jos

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2. The Transatlantic Literary Field and the Rise of Modernismo

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pp. 49-84

As the twenty-first century began, Jes

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3. The Conquest of the Metropolitan Literary Field

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pp. 85-124

It is tempting to begin a discussion of the impact of Spanish American modernismo in Europe with the first transatlantic voyage made by Rubén Darío, since in 1892, four hundred years after Columbus’s ships sailed in the other direction, Darío first landed on the shores of Spain. Indeed, modernismo found in Darío’s trip both an impulse and a powerful symbol. As a fellow modernista...

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4. Rewriting Modernity, Authoring Spain

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pp. 125-180

By 1900, Spanish American modernismo had attained consecration in the transatlantic literary field and was reaching the height of its prestige. Indeed, not long before, Spanish American writers had sought legitimation and recognition from the Spanish establishment, leading Amado Nervo to complain that no American poet could be considered such until...


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pp. 181-216

Works Cited

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pp. 217-234


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pp. 235-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780826516794
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826516770
Print-ISBN-10: 0826516777

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 721957091
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Inverted Conquest

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Spanish American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Spanish American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Latin America.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Spain.
  • Spanish literature -- Latin American influences.
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