Francine Masiello published an article of some interest in LARR 28:2 (1993): 3-33 that I read and marked up at the time, and then forgot, although I kept that issue of the journal with a bookmark in it. I am trying to clear shelves of journals I rarely read, and I found this. Perhaps I should keep it, tear it out as though it were an offprint. These, in any case, are some notes.
RETHINKING NEOCOLONIAL ESTHETICS: LITERATURE, POLITICS, AND INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITY IN CUBA’S REVISTA DE AVANCE
– The pastiche of materials found in the modern review exposes the heterogeneity of the intellectual field in a way the neat boundaries of the finished work.
– Masiello assumes the materials compiled in a little review form a coherent, if uneven or apparently erratic whole. She will study the overlappings of literature, esthetics and politics as they appear in the R de A.
– The discussions in the R de A (1927-1930) focused on national identity and esthetics, questioned role of intelligentsia as regards readers at home and writers and artists abroad. What were the relationships between intellectual and national culture? What were the traditions of foreign and local concerns about art, esthetics, and race? What were the polemics on cultural and economic dependency that engaged Cuban avant-garde writers in the 1920s? If we investigate these questions, we will see what the R de A’s roots in ideology and history were.
– The R de A was beautiful and cosmopolitan, and it had many reproductions of works of modern visual art. “R de A” is really its subtitle; title is the YEAR, e.g. 1927 (title), revista de avance (subtitle); this suggests movement through time and space, marked by progress within history.
– There were other reviews on more local avant-garde activities, but the R de A emphasized the international scene.
– Cuban avant-gardes made a politicized appraisal of national culture, and R de A members, in this context, emphasized the African legacy in Cuba, using it as a tool for denouncing foreign influence in local affairs.
– Many LA avant-gardes were not exclusively cosmopolitan, but were also nationalist; R de A was like this, too. “Its editors organized a program of political resistance specific to the issues of the 1920s with a corresponding proposal for renovating the arts in Cuba.” (8)
– Politics and esthetics were considered to be interwoven domains of interest, and there was a “high degree of editorial reflection about the complexities of Cuban culture under neocolonial rule.” (8)
– In these discussions a new vision of the author was created — as a leader of political activity and as a guide to an alternative esthetics.
Authority and dissent: the writer in the nation
– In the 1920s, under the Platt Amendment, US sugar interests altered the composition of rural and urban populations and Cuban authorities facilitated the evolution of neocolonial rule.
– There were lots of protests and the writer emerged as a leader of national concerns; the R de A was created in this situation. The platform of the journal was that writers and artists should have activist roles, and politics should be interested in art.
Defining the national character
– They say there is a national malaise — inertia — and a profoundly equivocal interpretation of national history.