Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures School of Languages and Cultures

Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano

Araceli Tinajero

Araceli Tinajero’s Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano falls within the present revisionist trend with respect to Spanish American modernism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The text’s uniqueness stems from its focus on allusions to images, artifacts, and thought from the East—primarily Japan—found in central and peripheral writings within the Spanish American movement. The author knows Japanese language and culture and brings her knowledge to bear in her discussion of modernist writers who, chiefly as chroniclers and correspondents, made their way to the East, and there invented-constructed a form of exoticism (Orientalism, following but diverging from Edward Said) while discovering affinities between non-European tendencies within their own American environment and Eastern culture. The result of this encounter was a unique, non-European Orientalism.

Drawing on ethnography, postcolonial studies, literary theory, art history, and travel theory, Tinajero analyzes a selection of modernist texts to show how writing at the “margin” of Western modernism-modernity is at once within and without the mainstream. The examination of Oriental cultural artifacts in modernista texts contributes to our understanding of modernism, of the East-West encounter, and of the culturally specific configurations of these phenomena in South America.

Tinajero’s concept of “Orientalism” focused on Spanish American modernism is a fresh approach. It represents a valuable contribution to Spanish American modernist scholarship.

"Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano consciously builds on pre-existing criticism, while offering an original and well-focused take on the discursive representation of Oriental images and artifacts in a vast array of modernista writings, from poetry, short stories, and essays to travel narratives and chronicles....

"What further sets the current project apart from existing bibliography is its promise to emphasize the original and imaginative rather than derivative character of Spanish American modernista orientalist discourse. [Tinajero] succeeds in fulfilling this promise through a combination of strategies: literary criticism, cultural anthropology, postcolonial studies, art history, and an ample but manageable selection of primary texts.... This well-researched and timely study is likely to enrich the bibliography on modernismo, exoticism, orientalism, and Latin American studies in general." —Elzbieta Sklodowska, author of La parodia en la nueva novela hispanoamericana

“In a much needed book length project that furthers the study of Orientalism from the Spanish American viewpoint, Araceli Tinajero focuses on the representations of Oriental subjects in 19th-century travel literature and poetry, written both by those who experienced the Orient firsthand and those who responded to stimuli from texts and cultural artifacts. ... Returning to a definition of Orientalism that emphasizes the Other’s influence on the West, this study is interested in Orientalism as an appreciation of cultural artifacts rather than a polemic of representation, and in this measure distinguishes itself from Said’s work.” —Julia A. Kushigian, Revista de Estudios Hispánicos

For the full review, see Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 38.3 (Oct. 2004): 624-26.

Orientalismo en el modernismo hispanoamericano ... explores previously unexamined aspects of this well-recognized feature of modernista discourse. Based at least in part on the knowledge that she acquired during her years of living in Japan, Tinajero reveals subtleties of the Asian world present in modernista texts that the uninitiated reader would tend to overlook. ... This book brings a great deal to the attention of Western readers and certainly is an important contribution to the area of Asian influences on modernista art. It is clearly written and directly presented. While some of its textual interpretations could have gone further, students of nineteenth-century Spanish-American literature will benefit from the knowledge and insights contained within the study.” —Cathy L. Jrade, Hispania

For the full review, see Hispania 87.4 (Dec. 2004): 737-38.

“[the author] has unearthed fascinating historical research concerning the Silk Route to Manila and the consequent trade in artifacts that re-appear in Darío’s prose. ... Tinajero deals knowledgeably with Japanese terms and cultural contexts.” —Jason Wilson, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

For the full text, see Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 82.3 (July 2005): 403-04.

“En este caso nos encontramos con una revisión de algunos aspectos concretos del modernismo, tal y como la crítica tradicional lo había definido, que se apoya en los datos obtenidos después de analizar e interpretar diversos textos escritos por autores modernistas hispanoamericanos ... e inspirados en artefactos o temática oriental. ... El libro ... resulta pues novedoso en cuanto a que expone de una manera clara y amena las características principales del modernismo vistas a la luz de la utilización que algunos escritores hispanoamericanos hicieron de motivos y temas orientales con fines artísticos.” —María López González, Hispanic Horizon

For the full text, see Hispanic Horizon No. 25 (2006).

“... Tinajero’s readings of texts clearly establish the mechanisms through which Latin American orientalism constituted itself, and offers us exciting and adroit readings of canonical and lesser-known texts. ... Araceli Tinajero’s book illuminates a key facet of Latin American Modernism that has not received the attention it deserves until now. Tinajero’s examination of “oriental” voices in conjunction with those of Modernists, and her insightful exploration of the visual arts and the impact of commerce on culture make this book necessary reading for scholars of the Latin American fin-du-siècle.” — Christopher Conway, Hispanófila

For the full text, see Hispanófila No. 147 (May 2006): 109-11.

“Por dos razones deseo sin reservas recomendar este libro al lector. En primer lugar porque sus argumentos, a pesar de lo extensamente publicado al respecto, son interesantes y originales. En segundo lugar, por razones editoriales, ya que es encomiable que Purdue University Press haya tenido el coraje intelectual y comercial de editar en castellano en un medio editorial donde ello no es común—muy por el contrario, es casi inexistente.”—Claudio Canaparo, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

For the full text, see Bulletin of Spanish Studies 83.5 (July 2006): 732-33.

For more reviews of this book, see:
Revista de Crítica Literaria Latinoamericana 31.61 (2005): 273-77.

Araceli Tinajero received her PhD in Latin American Literature from Rutgers University and is a member of the Spanish and Portuguese faculty of Yale University. She has taught Latin American literature at Middlebury College and Japanese language at the University of Wales, UK. She is the co-founder of The Yale International Haiku Club. Her profound interest in Japanese culture led her to travel to Japan, where she lived for two years while she learned Japanese aesthetics, language, and literature.

1-55753-326-1 Paper $29.95
2003. Vol. 27. x, 173 pp.

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