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This article offers a historical ontology of the modern manuscript taking Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer's Libro de los gorriones as its object of study. It analyzes the different representational and institutional processes by which a particular literary autograph becomes a cultural commodity as a text as much as an object. Drawing from Walter Benjamin's work, and making use in particular of his ideas about aura and trace, this article blends material studies and textual criticism to follow Bécquer's manuscript through markets, mythic and bibliographic accounts, national libraries and the academia. In the final analysis, this essay examines the relation between the materiality of texts and the formation of a national canon, and, more specifically, between the genealogy of the paradigmatic romantic manuscript and the coming into being of the very idea of its author.