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Language, Text, Subject

A Critique of Hispanism

Malcolm K. Read

209 pages
Purdue University Press

The central concern of this radically innovative study is to offer a critique of traditional Hispanism in the light of its assumption of a transcendental subject and its corresponding insistence on the autonomy of the literary text. Rereading canonic Spanish texts from Renaissance humanism to modernist literature, Read deploys a theoretical basis of post-structuralist thinking and brings Kristeva, Foucault, Althusser, Eagleton, and other important theorists to bear on a field hardly touched by such approaches. Chapters 1 and 2, dealing with Garcilaso de la Vega and Calderonian drama, respectively, argue the need to relate cultural development to the transition from medieval organicism to bourgeois animism. Chapters 3 and 4, which treat the Enlightenment figures Martín Sarmiento and Jovellanos, show how rationalism presupposes a binding of the body (of language). Chapters 5 and 6 argue that the neo-idealist view of language in modern linguistics and literature posits an overdetermined subject, which is a symptom of and a reaction to the reification of capitalism. Read’s study not only provides new readings of canonic texts but also brings under critical scrutiny some of the assumptions about the human subject and the role of writing and literature that are implicit in the construction of the field of Hispanism itself. Language, Text, Subject is recommended for scholars and students of literary theory and Spanish literature, culture, and linguistics.