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Reviewed by:
  • Spectacle and Topophilia. Reading Early Modern and Postmodern Hispanic Cultures ed. by David R. Castillo, Bradley J. Nelson
  • María M. Carrión
Castillo, David R., and Bradley J. Nelson, eds. Spectacle and Topophilia. Reading Early Modern and Postmodern Hispanic Cultures. Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt UP, 2011. xxiv + 276 pp.

The editors of Spectacle and Topophilia continue the work of a previous volume also edited by David R. Castillo, in which he and another editor assembled a series of supple, provocative, and erudite essays. As happened with its precursor, Reason and Its Others, the present twelve-piece ensemble traces correspondences between place and spectacle in order to tell a cogent story of the role played by such correspondence in the development of modern secularization and the triumph of individualism—sine qua non tools for anyone attempting to understand modernity or subjectivity. Where others in the field of Hispanic studies have seen the dismemberment of nature, the objectification of the world or the rise of a visual episteme as signs of modern times, the essays in this collection argue that topophilia (or significant sense of place as a determining factor in cultural identity) and a spectaclist structuring of space, “going back to the theatrical productions of the Spanish Golden Age” are indispensable heuristic tools in the (once impossible) contiguous reading of early-modern-and-postmodern Hispanic cultures (xii). The contribution of this volume to debates about environmentalism, reification, and perspectivism or, as Castillo and Nelson state in the “Introduction,” “to a better understanding of the cultural and sociopolitical configurations that continue to structure our perception of the world in an age of global communications and virtual selves,” is bound to be significant (xii). [End Page 182]

The essays are divided in three different sections grouped under the corresponding rubrics of “Foundational Landscapes,” “Modern(ist) Sceneries,” and “National Panoramas,” where their authors call into question three capital ideas of Hispanic Studies: origins, modernity, and nationalism. The importance of producing a critical texture that weaves these three traditional signs of Hispanism with highly provocative readings about how these ideas relate to place and theater in rewriting such traditions (and, as a result, this field of inquiry) cannot be underestimated. If there is a significant blind spot in the organization of the volume, it can be found in the confusion and unequal distribution (posed clearly in the disconnect between the economy of the title and the layout of the essays) of past and present times; it is not always clear that authors and/or editors are considering early modern and postmodern times in equal terms.

In a volume calling for a revision of periodization and its discontents in the cultural histories of Hispanism, this could not be a bad thing. After all, for over a century the discipline now known as Spanish, Hispanic Studies or Hispanism was considered tantamount to the study of the literary history from Medieval Iberia and “Golden Age” (sixteenth- and seventeenth-century) Spain. The expansion of inquiries related to the Hispanic world ventured across other disciplinary lines, from History to Art History, to Linguistics to Latin American Studies, to Public Health to Environmental Studies. As a result, the cultural production of Iberia/Spain between the tenth and the seventeenth centuries (the “Early Modern” in the title of Spectacle and Topophilia) has been relegated to dwindling areas of departments, masters’ and doctoral exams more often than not colonized by non-experts.

The delicate balance between a sense of place and theater’s flight of fancy is tilted here by the unequal methodological distribution of the early modern and postmodern in the three sections of the volume. Thus the essays in the section about foundations, forebodingly grounded by the mooring title of “landscape,” speak about proportion with Lacan, Tuan, and Žižek (D. Castillo); blood purity with Girard, Tuan, and Fredrickson (Childers), heterotopias with Foucault and Lefebvre (M. Castillo), emblems with Deleuze, Said, and Žižek (Nelson), and cartographies with Cosgrove, Crone, and Deleuze/Guattari (Culleton). On the other hand, those exploring modernism and modernity, curiously set as “sceneries,” engage urbanity and journalism (Read), urbanity and photography (Foster), world exhibits (Vallejo), and cosmopolitanism (Davisdon); finally, the chapters about nationalism, agilely mobilized...


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