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Mexico's Ruins

Juan Garcia Ponce and the Writing of Modernity

Raul Rodriguez-Hernandez

Publication Year: 2007

At face value, the concept of modernity seems to reference a stream of social and historical traffic headed down a utopian one-way street named “progress.” Mexico’s Ruins examines modernity in twentieth-century Mexican culture as a much more ambiguous concept, arguing that such a single-minded notion is inadequate to comprehend the complexity of modern Mexico’s national projects and their reception by the nation’s citizenry. Instead, through the trope of modernity as ruin, author Raúl Rodríguez-Hernández explores the dilemma presented by the etymology of “ruins”: a simultaneous falling down and rising up, a confluence of opposing forces at work on the skyline of the metropolis since 1968. He focuses on artists and writers of the generación de medio siglo, like Juan García Ponce, and envisions both the tales of modernity and their storytellers in a new light. The arts, literature, and architecture of twentieth-century Mexico are all examined in this cross-cultural and interdisciplinary book.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. iii


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

In the following text, I shall examine a trilogy of García Ponce’s novels, several collections of essays on art and literature, and a number of short stories, in the context of a modernizing Mexican State and questions of citizenry. I shall focus on cultural issues related to modernity, relations between the Americas and Europe, aesthetics and narrative structures, the role of the...

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pp. ix-x

I am very grateful to a number of individuals and institutions who have contributed to the writing of this book. I would especially like to thank Debra Castillo, Walter Cohen, Jonathan Culler, Peter Hohendahl, and Geoffrey Waite, all from Cornell University, for their encouragement, support, and patience from the outset. They were the first readers of the very first drafts...

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1. Traces of Theory, Tropes of Modernity

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pp. 1-26

Perhaps it goes without saying that in order for ruins to exist, something whole must have preceded them. Nations and communities are built; they neither appear out of thin air nor disappear without a trace. They rest on principles as much as they do on the columns of their architectural creations; they are constructed on and through foundational documents; they are framed in legal and moral terms; they arise bit by bit as their founding generations erect the walls and portals that enclose or...

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2. The Storyteller’s Ruins

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pp. 27-51

In David Scott’s examination of “political presents and . . . reconstructed pasts and anticipated futures” (1) in the nations of the Caribbean basin, he points out the urgent need to avoid viewing modernity as a single point or goal in the future, as “the larger developmentalist narrative of modernity” (113). In contrast, he underlines the fact that a more culturalist reading of modernity is a “kind of acculturation story, the story of innovation within adaptation” (113), leading to multiple visions of the modern and...

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3. Monuments and Relics, I

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pp. 52-74

The collection of drafts, notes, and sketches Benjamin worked on at the same time he was planning his monumental work on the Arcades Project carries the title of “Convolutes” or sheaves of writings dedicated to a wide variety of topics. Composed of short essays and prose fragments oriented around multiple motifs and themes, and presented from various and distinct...

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4. Monuments and Relics, II

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pp. 75-104

In his essay “Otras voces, otros ámbitos” [Other Voices, Other Places],García Ponce revisits the terrain of his youth, on the level of both physical uprooting and psychic disturbance, in an effort to narrate the periods and breaks in his own life which have left remnants of images in his memories. He begins with the early days of provincial life, those of his grandparents...

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5. De

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pp. 105-142

In his study of Austrian writer Robert Musil, Stefan Jonsson explores an essay in which the central focus is the image of the door. Seen as a portal that faces both past and present, this vestige of the house assumes great importance for the writer. As Jonsson sees it, the door “loses its function in modernity. It belongs to an earlier stage of social development . . .The door is here described as an instrument of knowledge” (Subject 60).Swinging in two directions, as it were, the motif of the entrance to and exit...

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6. Modernity, Contingency, Compensation

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pp. 143-177

In Consequences of Enlightenment Anthony Cascardi reexamines the relationship of the work of art to the society that produces it under the aegis of contemporary theory’s indebtedness to notions inherited from the Enlightenment. In particular, he addresses the difficulties and challenges of modernity understood “in the manner of Baudelaire, as having a fundamentally aesthetic and non-transcendent basis. Modernity names the epoch of the ‘transitory’ and the ‘fugitive’ (Baudelaire), of ‘revolutions,...

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7. A Brief Return to the Ruin

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pp. 179-183

In his recent work on traumatic experiences of three world-class cities(as they are called nowadays by promoters) Andreas Huyssen opens the discussion with an essay on “the crisis of history.” His comments are pertinent to the texts and contexts we have been examining over the past six chapters. As he notes changes in the discourse of history after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the dictatorships in Argentina, and after 9-11 in New York, Huyssen concludes that “[h]istorical memory is not what it used to be....


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pp. 185-192


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pp. 193-198


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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791469439
Print-ISBN-10: 0791469433

Page Count: 227
Illustrations: 2 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2007