Tropes of Enlightenment in the Age of Bolívar
Simón Rodríguez and the American Essay at Revolution
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
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Table of Contents
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This project began at New York University, and I am grateful to the following for their help: Eduardo Subirats, Gerard Aching, Any critical recovery of Simón Rodríguez would be impossible without the pioneering work of Susana Rotker, who died in an accident in 2000. Rotker’s articles on Rodríguez placed his writing in a critical spotlight they had never enjoyed in the U.S. academy and established the first set ...
Introduction: A Hemispheric Insider Takes the Essay
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It would be misleading to call Simón Rodríguez (1769–1854) a forgotten figure in the history of Venezuela, especially since the 2000 Constitución Bolivariana established the era of independence as an ideological and spiritual source of national identity. Forever remembered as “the Liberator’s teacher” (el Maestro del Libertador), Rodríguez is a recognizable face and a common source of pithy quotes on murals from Caracas to the shores of the Orinoco...
1. American Asylum and the Rhetoric of Escape
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When he referred to “America” as “an asylum for mankind” in his 1776 pamphlet Common Sense, Thomas Paine gave an old political concept new life in the particular context of the struggle for independence (Thomas Paine 30). Characterizing the entire Western Hemisphere as an antechamber to European history, an escape valve whose discovery on the heels of the Protestant Reformation seemed...
2. Harmony in New World Nature and Old World Eyes
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The political promises embedded in European conceptions of New World space, that is, the American dream of exploration and rebirth, come inextricably tied to what we might call the American nightmare— the fear of becoming lost in the chaos of that space. Even an early pro-independence newspaper, Bolívar’s own Correo del Orinoco, launches its defiant inaugural issue with an attempt...
3. Education, Republican Values, and Intellectual Independence
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While any examination of Rodríguez’s ecological thought presupposes a critical recovery of his most neglected texts, a reference to the Caraqueño’s thoughts on education demands a shift in the direction of the Rodríguez remembered popularly in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and recently recovered by the government itself. Bequeathed the honorary title Maestro del Libertador (the Liberator’s teacher), Simón Rodríguez haunts...
4. The Quest for a New World Language
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Max Weinreich’s famous dismissal of the distinction between a dialect and a language—“A language is a dialect with an army and a navy”—draws its comic tension from the geopolitical pressures any discussion of language presupposes. An essential definition of language, it suggests, is nothing more than an ex post facto attempt to justify crass political realities in something other than crass political terms. In Spain’s case the military realities of conquest and discovery...
5. The Political and Artistic Avant-Garde
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In his Recuerdos literarios, Chilean intellectual Jos� Victorino Lastarria recounts meeting the elderly Sim�n Rodr�guez in the company of his own elderly mentor, Andr�s Bello.1 The elders were both from Caracas, and each had weathered the Wars of Independence in exile abroad, but on this occasion their discussion of politics was more local than global, as Rodr�guez told how he once served a formal banquet to Mariscal Sucre (then president of Bolivia)...
Conclusion: A Hemisphere Created for the Page
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If, as Jorge Luis Borges asserts, every new writer “creates his precursors” (crea a sus precursores) (109), forcing a reimagination of the literary past on the part of readers and critics, then the recovery of Simón Rodríguez cannot help but produce repercussions. In the case of a writer so long forgotten, the re-creation of the canon necessary to accommodate his work invites another imaginary history, one in which Sociedades Americanas became a widely cited touchstone...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010