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Constructing the Criollo Archive: Subjects of Knowledge in the Bibliotheca Mexicana and the Rusticatio Mexicana

Antony Higgins

In Constructing the "Criollo" Archive, Antony Higgins brings to light the dynamic of knowledge and power that unfolds in the writings of the criollos of eighteenth-century New Spain and Guatemala. Focusing on a period neglected by scholars, Higgins reconstructs how during the colonial period criollos--individuals identified as being of Spanish descent born in America--elaborated a body of knowledge, an "archive," in order to establish their intellectual autonomy within the Spanish colonial administrative structures.

Higgins considers a pair of Latin texts by two criollo intellectuals, cleric and scholar Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren (1696-1763) and Jesuit poet Rafael Landívar (1731-93). Examining first Eguiara's historiographic catalogue the Bibliotheca Mexicana (1755), Higgins shows that Eguiara was attempting to combine the intellectual achievements of both the pre-Hispanic and post-Conquest cultures of Mesoamerica into a single body of learning to be labeled criollo. Higgins then scrutinizes Landívar's descriptive poem the Rusticatio Mexicana (1781; 1782), demonstrating that Landívar tried to clarify the manner in which anomalous aspects of American nature and culture are conceived by employing, alternately, the techniques of scientific observation and the newly defined aesthetic registers of the beautiful and the sublime. Through his discussion of these two works, Higgins illustrates how Eguiara and Landívar helped to create the Spanish colonial regime of knowledge that would be relied upon in the nineteenth century by the postindependence elites of Spanish America.

This book opens up an important area of research that will be of interest to scholars and students of Spanish American colonial literature and history.

"I find this book to be an original and timely contribution to colonial Latin American studies, and to the study of eighteenth-century Hispanic letters in particular. I appreciate the mix of poetry and prose writing under consideration, and Higgins's ability to make sense of works that have long been considered inaccessible or of little interest to modern readers and scholars." Karen Stolley, Emory University

"Anthony Higgins's Consructing the Criollo Archive deals with an area of colonial literary production that has received almost no critical atttention at all: texts written in Latin.... Higgins's aim is to explore the emergence of a criollo subject during the eighteenth century, and how that subject constructed knowledge as a way to legitimate the power and privilege that criollos had in their society... Higgins also studies the way these two texts are part of the emergence of a discourse of modernity in Latin America. Under this light, the juxtapostion of these two texts becomes more relevant. Eguiara is still writing from a baroque perspective, whereas Landívar has moved into the lanugage of the enlightenment.... Higgins's reading of the poem is illuminating, and is a welcome step into an area that needs much further study: the work of the exiled Jesuits. Indeed, while in Italy, this group of intellectuals produced some of the fundamental works that would shape the historical and political discourse of the post-independence nineteenth-centruy Latin American nations; texts that, once again with a few exceptions, are begging for critical editions and new readings." Francisco Javier Cevallos, Colonial Latin American Review

For the complete review, see Colonial Latin American Review 10.2 (Dec. 2001): 297-300.

"Higgins vuelve a llamar nuestra atención sobre estos textos, abriendo su estudio con un ambicioso marco crítico que incluye algunas de las vertientes teóricas que preocupan actualmente al mundo académico estadounidense, tales la creación del sujeto colonial, las esfera pública y la noción de archivo.... Higgins termina su libro con un amplio abanico de pregunatas a manera de derroteros para futuros investigadores, abriendo el apetito a lo que queda por hacerse en los estudios virreinales." Beatriz de Alba-Koch, Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispanicos

For the complete review, see Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispanicos 27.2 (Jan. 2003): 21-22.

"...ambitious and provocative study, ....clearly argued and written.... this is a very good book that will inspire the writing of others on eighteenth-century Spanish American culture, and it deserves a wide audience." Ruth Hill, Dieciocho

For the complete review, see Dieciocho 24.1 (Spring 2001): 185-88.

"Higgins suggests that researchers in colonial Latin American literature investigate the cultural and political impact of other criollo intellectuals." J.A. Gagliano, Choice

For the complete review, see Choice, April 2001.

"... the late Antony Higgins' study of Eguiara y Eguren and Landívar stands very self-consciously outside [Mexican classical] tradition.... the very purpose of his audacious project is in fact to characterize eighteenth-century humanism in terms of struggles for power and intellectual authority in colonial Spanish America.... H. has little interest in critical evaluation or Quellenforschung....This refusal to wear a philological uniform is not a weakness of the book but one of its major strengths. All too often and for far too long, neo-Latin scholars have read the texts in their domain as footnotes to Virgil or Cicero, as the kind of texts they would like to produce themselves if only they could. Yet, as H. himself points out (14), within the culture of eighteenth-century Mexico 'criollos would have been as comfortable writing in Latin as they were in Castilian.'" Andrew Laird, Journal of Roman Studies

For the complete review, see Journal of Roman Studies (JRS) 43 (2003): 345-47.

For another review, see Book News.

Antony Higgins (d. 2001) was an assistant professor at Duke University. He authored articles on Mexican and Peruvian colonial literature, focusing on questions of ethnicity and race, satirical writing, and intersections between literature and paradigms of knowledge during the Baroque period and the eighteenth century in colonial Spanish America.

2000. PSRL 21. xiv, 182 pp. Cloth $29.95 PRICE REDUCED