- The Spanish American Crónica Modernista, Temporality and Material Culture: Modernismo’s Unstoppable Presses by Andrew Reynolds
The genre of the crónica began to claim critical attention in academic and literary circles in the 1980s and early 1990s, when three groundbreaking works that focused on the journalistic genre’s formative phase during Spanish American Modernismo were published: Aníbal González’s La crónica modernista hispanoamericana (1983); Julio Ramos’s Desencuentros de la modernidad en América Latina (1989); and Susana Rotker’s La invención de la crónica (1992). In the more than twenty years since these three indispensable works first appeared, the chronicle has become an important source of scholarship in Latin American literary and cultural studies, although more contemporary expressions of the genre have garnered the greatest attention.
New voices in the study of the chronicle during Spanish American Modernismo have long been overdue. Andrew Reynolds’s book represents a timely addition to the field, partly because it revisits some of the main questions that had guided previous studies of the chronicle during Modernismo, such as the genre’s constant negotiations between literature and journalism, as well as the temporal concerns that accompanied the long-lived ambitions of literature in tension with the perceived transience of journalism. But more importantly, this book engages with the materiality of the chronicle in novel and productive ways by drawing from archival material and detailing how the transatlantic collaborations of chroniclers went beyond writing, as did Enrique Gómez Carrillo’s work as editor for the Spanish daily El Liberal. [End Page 403]
The first chapter studies the relationship between the figure of the cronista as poet and that of the reporter in the light of Bourdieu’s idea of habitus. Reynolds focuses on the self-representation of cronistas by taking into account their conceptualization of literary aesthetics and their consciousness of a growing number of readers. Unlike previous scholars of the crónica Modernista who wrote before the widespread acceptance of cultural studies, Reynolds no longer needs to make the case for the literary value of the genre. This enables him to go further in exploring the intertwined relationship between literature and the industrial press. The author argues that the literary field during Modernismo was shaped from the sphere of journalism and by the mechanics that framed and constrained journalistic production. The journalistic experience is thus posited as the enabler, rather than the counterpart, of the literary aesthetics of Modernismo. This central argument is backed up by readings of four chronicles: “Los estudiantes” by Enrique Gómez Carrillo, “La última gigantomaquia” by José Juan Tablada, “Mis lunes” by Amado Nervo, and “Zig Zag Newyorkinos” by José Martí. As in the following chapters, Reynolds here works from little-known chronicles, a valuable choice given that the dispersed nature of the genre often limits scholars and students to refer to the same select texts again and again.
The second chapter focuses on temporality, both as a philosophical inquiry related to the processes of modernity and as a reflection of the time constraints of the journalistic practice. Taking cues from both Bourdieu’s concept of difference and Deleuze’s notion of repetition, the author contends that elements inherent to journalism, such as technology and travel, framed the temporal consciousness that came to define the Modernista movement. The most original facet of this argument lies in the focus on the constant stream of textual output brought forth by the crónica Modernista. This repetitive production placed the literary movement in a constant state of becoming, shaped by the high productivity of writers who used the press as a means to repeatedly assert their standing and reaffirm their status and visibility. In this chapter, Reynolds gives particular attention to two texts, Rubén Darío’s “El hipogrifo” and Julián del Casal’s “En el tranvía,” the latter offering one of the few instances in which questions of gender in relation to the chronicle are addressed.
The last two chapters of the book are the...