Beyond Tordesillas: New Approaches to Comparative Luso-Hispanic Studies ed. by Robert Patrick Newcomb and Richard A. Gordon
Robert Newcomb and Richard Gordon provide a fundamental anthology of essays in Beyond Tordesillas: New Approaches to Comparative Luso-Hispanic Studies. The title references the 1494 treaty, brokered by the Pope, that divided the known world between Spain and Portugal—a failed pursuit that precluded potential colonizing projects of other European powers and completely disregarded the autonomy of non-European cultures. The title also references a 1993 essay, “Abaixo Tordesilhas!” (“Down with Tordesillas”) by Jorge Schwartz, an Argentine-born scholar who spent his career at the University of São Paulo. In this essay, Schwartz argues for a Luso-Hispanic comparative model, one that specifically includes greater integration of Brazil. (It would have been apropos to have included a translation or bilingual version of this essay, since it seems to be a touchstone of so many other essays included in the volume.)
Building upon and moving beyond related fields—such as Iberian, Inter-American, and Transoceanic or Transatlantic studies—Beyond Tordesillas presents a series of provocative essays that seek to establish theoretical and practical models for comparative Luso-Hispanic studies. Due to the shared linguistic, geographic, and historical similarities between Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking regions of the world, the justification of such an academic project may seem self-evident. Nevertheless, Newcomb and Gordon point out in the introduction that “the academic fields of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian studies . . . developed independently and generally remain isolated from one another, even in close institutional quarters” (2). The authors of [End Page 128] sixteen essays, organized into four sections, seek to address and rectify the historical, ideological, and disciplinary factors that created this disjunction.
In Part One, “Luso-Hispanic Studies and Related Lines of Inquiry: A Series of Proposals,” Pedro Schacht Pereira, Héctor Hoyos, David William Foster, Tracy Devine Guzmán, and Pedro Meira Monteiro examine points of contact among Luso-Hispanic traditions, be they epistemological, linguistic, political, cultural, or historical. Each essay provides both a theoretical and practical model for Luso-Hispanic studies. Pereira and Hoyos both examine the institutional and disciplinary separation of Spanish and Portuguese while arguing for greater flexibility in considering more comparative approaches. Foster, a long-term adherent of more comparative models, argues that a fully contextualized study of queer Luso-Hispanic literature must take into consideration both “complex issues of sociocultural context and linguistic creation” and “the presence of hegemonic and heteronormative priorities and the degree to which a writer may develop a transgressive voice relative to them” (61). Devine Guzmán adopts a hemispheric approach in analyzing issues of Indianness and indigeneity in the work of three authors—D’Arcy McNickle (United States), José María Arguedas (Peru), and Darcy Ribeiro (Brazil). Finally, Pedro Meira Monteiro connects Brazilian essayist and historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda with Uruguayan writer-critic José Enrique Rodó and US Latin Americanist scholar Richard Morse. He argues that an effective way to “jump” Tordesillas is to examine the formulation of the North American “Other” by Brazilian and Spanish American writers as an antagonist force that is either attacked or imitated.
In Part Two, “Written Fictional Narrative: Brazil and Spanish-Speaking Latin America,” Robert Moser, Earl E. Fitz, and Leila Lehnen present comparative Luso-Hispanic approaches to written fictional narrative. Moser analyses the revenant as a literary topos of ambiguity as well as the “converging and diverging means” in which Latin America “[relates] to its past” (95). Fitz, an early proponent of Luso-Hispanic and Inter-American studies, treads familiar territory in examining Machado de Assis, Jorge Luis Borges, and Clarice Lispector as innovators of Latin American new narratives. Finally, Leila Lehnen “examines the conjunction between urban space and the constitution/erosion of citizenship” in the fragmented narratives of Luiz Ruffato’s Inferno provisorio and Guillermo Saccomanno’s El pibe (120).
Part Three, “Luso-Hispanic Poetry, Music, and Expressive Culture,” contains essays by Alfredo Bosi, Sarah Moody, Charles A. Perrone, and Frederick Moehn. Building on his now classic study, Dialética da colonialização, Bosi argues that the study of avant-garde literature, such as Brazilian modernismo and Spanish American vanguardismos, must consider the “colonial condition,” which avoids the paradoxes raised in synchronic studies that seek synthesis. Moody examines the parallel innovations of Brazilian Symbolists and Spanish-American modernistas through their shared reading of the French Symbolists. Perrone analyzes contemporary transnational poetic movements within and beyond Latin America’s Luso-Hispanic divide. In the final essay of the section, Moehn presents an ethnographic study of a music festival held in a Galicia, serving as both an artistic and political bridge due to its historical and linguistic proximity to Spain and Portugal.
In Part Four, “Luso-Hispanic Cinema, Performance, and Visual Culture,” Tina Escaja, Leslie L. Marsh, Patrícia Vieira, and Michael J. Lazarra provide additional models of comparative Luso-Hispanic studies of the visual arts. Escaja investigates two examples of performance related to gender violence, “highlighting their Luso-Hispanic correlations in terms of parallel contexts of protest and resistance through art and collective interaction” (191). Marsh examines several cinematic representations of Latin American dictatorship, emphasizing the points of convergence—“common experiences with violence, authoritarianism, trauma, and social fragmentation”—while also highlighting “pivotal divergences” (204). Vieira analyzes cinema as a “privileged medium in the propaganda machine of totalitarian Iberia” (220), focusing on “films that received direct and intentional, or indirect and/or coerced, support from these [End Page 129] regimes” (17). Lazarra contends that a “personal” documentary style “problematize[s] the reliability of cinematic truth construction” (17). He evaluates and challenges the homogenizing effects of globalization through the juxtaposition of “microhistories” and “macrohistories” in documentaries from Brazil, Mexico, and Spain
Overall, Beyond Tordesillas provides a balanced survey of theoretical, philosophical, critical, and practical comparative models, presenting the work of up-and-coming scholars and those who have been champions of Luso-Hispanic studies for decades. The editors admit that these contributions “only [scratch] the surface” and they “hope that this volume will act as a catalyst for the reconsideration of hybrid categories, institutional configurations, and the relationships between the countries of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds” (13–14). The greatest contribution of this volume is to generate additional critical work within a Luso-Hispanic framework.