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Writing the Earth, Writing the Nation: Latin American Narrative and the Language of Geography

Madan, Aarti (2010) Writing the Earth, Writing the Nation: Latin American Narrative and the Language of Geography. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines the relationship between literary writing and geographical discourse in Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's Facundo: Civilización y barbarie (Argentina, 1845), Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões (Brazil, 1902), and Rómulo Gallegos's Doña Bárbara (Venezuela, 1929). These narratives are often read as locating their authority in the discourse of science or within the didactic lessons of the national allegory. I contend that both readings simplify the legacies of these works and elide the significance behind the form coupled with their content. To fully understand the politics of these mixed forms, we must move from the general (empiricist science) to the particular (geographical discourse). I defend this move by demonstrating that Sarmiento, Cunha, and Gallegos emerge as literary figures alongside, and even participate in, the formation of politically oriented geographical institutions; between 1833 and 1910 over fifty geographical societies appear across the Americas, first in Mexico and later in Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela. This simultaneity — between literary writing and institutional formation — points to an understudied alignment between literature, geography, and politics in Latin America. I illustrate that, through a host of literary devices (e.g. metaphor, anaphora, alliteration, etc.), these writers give form to a consolidated nation-state by constructing a unified—or potentially unify-able—geographic space. By tracing how their narratives are informed by and in dialogue with previous non-Latin American land treatises (by, for example, Alexander von Humboldt, Henry Thomas Buckle, and Agustín Codazzi), I argue for the centrality of geographical discourse in literary, cultural, and social analysis. This project contributes to several conversations in the field, including the discourse of Eurocentrism, the issue of Amerindian versus Occidental epistemology, and the interconnectedness of race, inequality, and land distribution.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairLund, Joshua K
Committee MemberChamberlain, Bobby
Committee MemberDuchesne-Winter, Juan
Committee MemberAndrade, Susan
Date: 23 June 2010
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 8 April 2010
Approval Date: 23 June 2010
Submission Date: 16 April 2010
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Hispanic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Agustín Codazzi; Alexander von Humboldt; Argentina; Brazil; cartography; ecocriticism; Euclides da Cunha; geography; Hegel; Henry Thomas Buckle; immigration; institutions; literature; maps; nation; nineteenth century; Positivism; Rómulo Gallegos; sovereignty; Venezuela; ecofeminism; Poetic Logic; geographical discourse; Domingo Faustino Sarmiento
Other ID:, etd-04162010-174715
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:37
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:40


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