Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Populating the Possible Republic: Representations of the People, the Public, and the Popular Masses in Alberdi's Literature
by Guevara, Ma. Isabel Roces, Ph.D., New York University, 2011, 342; 3466889
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the literary production of Juan Bautista Alberdi (1810 – 1884), focusing above all on the figure of the pueblo, notions of the public, and representations of the popular masses. The premise is that a careful reading of Alberdi’s more imaginative works is critical to a fuller understanding of his political thought. My claim, more specifically, is that there appear to be two questions—both fundamentally challenging to representative government—that pervade his literature: how to represent the people and how to communicate with the public. Over the course of four chapters, I will be tracking how Alberdi tussles with these problems in his Figarillo articles, his theatrical works, and his novel, in ways that he could not within the confines of his more systematic writings on politics, history, and jurisprudence.

The first chapter examines Alberdi’s La Moda articles (1837 – 1838) alongside the periodical writings of Larra and Franklin. Such a treatment exposes how he employs the journalistic medium to mediate between conflicting notions of the public and the popular, while maintaining a firm distinction between representative and demagogic leadership. Chapter two considers La Revolución de Mayo (1839) in the context of the historiographical debates on the revolution’s ‘popularity.’ This supremely unperformable play, I propose, yields an unlikely—perhaps shocking—lesson on the stakes of political representation under cover of what appears to be a canonical liberal account of the May Revolution. The third chapter, best read in conjunction with the latter, further teases out the concept of representation in Gigante Amapolas (1841). In light of Plato’s and Rousseau’s critiques of theatricality, I suggest that Alberdi uses the very best resources of theater to proscribe theatricality from the realm of politics. Finally, chapter four deliberates on the matter of political voice and public speech in Peregrinación de Luz del Día (1871), arguing that the novel offers a balanced assessment of the significance of the rhetorical arts. More Aristotelian than Platonic, Alberdi shows that while rhetoric can certainly be used to deceive the masses, it is nevertheless a necessary tool for public communication, which cannot rely on rational discourse alone.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Fernandez, James D.
Commitee: Briggs, Ronald, Lane, Jill, Molloy, Sylvia, Pratt, Mary L.
School: New York University
Department: Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American literature, Theater
Keywords: Alberdi, Juan Bautista, Argentina, Crowds, Public, Representation, Theater
Publication Number: 3466889
ISBN: 978-1-124-80790-4
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