This article studies the relationship between media experiments and embodied politics in the work of the Venezuelan pedagogue and savant Simón Rodríguez, a key figure in the transition from late colonial times to the early republican experience in Spanish America. The essay connects Rodríguez’s corporeal take on typographic innovations (which he termed “the art of painting words”) with his postcolonial rendition of Western republicanism (which he called the “the art of painting republics”). It argues that Rodríguez’s use of the term “gesture” served to create an experimental and performatic space for printing innovations and republican reforms, so as to imagine the post-Independence period as a new political beginning for Spanish American societies. The article reads Rodríguez’s texts and a rich collection of 19th-century pieces about writing reforms, typographic aesthetics, and republicanism through the lens of Giorgio Agamben’s theorization of the “gesture” as an open-ended mediality. “Gesture,” as conceptualized by Rodríguez and elucidated by Agamben, functions as a critical tool for proposing new connections between typography, education, and politics, and for highlighting the embodied dimension of Rodríguez’s work.


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pp. 133-158
Launched on MUSE
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