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Author of the Month: Claire Emilie Martin and María Nelly Goswitz

Published: November 15, 2013

Retomando la palabra: las pioneras del XIX en diálogo con la crítica contemporánea

Edited by Claire Emilie Martin and María Nelly Goswitz / Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures

Published in 2012 by Iberoamericana-Vervuert, Re-Taking the Word: 19th Century Women Pioneers in Dialogue with Contemporary Critics reflects the changes that have taken place in the field of 19th-Century Latin American studies since Martin’s 2001 collection, La mujeres toman la palabra. Escritura femenina del siglo diecinueve and Cien años después: la literatura de mujeres en America Latina (2010), both volumes of critical essays on 19th century Latin American women writers. “This is a relatively new field that started with a trickle of articles in the late 1980s,” said Martin, a member of the university since 1988. “The book reflects a reconceptualization of the by now canonical texts produced by these writers along with a fresh perspective based on new texts that had been previously overlooked. We drew a mix of well-established and upcoming scholars who added interesting theoretical rethinking to well-known works.” Gender issues are the predominant theme of the volume but Martin explains that the issues tend to be more complex when seen from the 21st century vantage point. “We’re looking at issues of racial politics, cultural hegemony and economics discussed by women who published essays in newspapers and debated these issues in letters, salons and ‘tertulias’,” she said. “These spaces allowed women writers to enter the public sphere in a more familiar and slightly less threatening way. Many of these writers achieved a measure of prominence within the political, artistic and educational systems of their countries. Most became polemical figures because they looked at the political, racial and economic landscape from a different lens. They went beyond the polarized politics of the 19th century favored by most male politicians. Their stance on these controversial issues was much more nuanced, open to dialogue, compromise and concessions. Ambiguity was a concept the male intelligentsia at the time was not willing to entertain. Some of the letters and essays studied in this volume demonstrate how different ‘women’s way of knowing and learning’ was in 19th century Latin America and how many of these writers had a very modern approach to problem solving.” Martin authored a chapter that described the correspondence and friendship between an American educational reformer, Mary Peabody Mann, and her Argentine counterpart, Juana Manso, as it also studied the migration of New England women educators to Argentina through their correspondence. “Young women from the U.S. were brought to Argentina as educators by then-President (Domingo Faustino) Sarmiento to found schools and to train other teachers,” she said. “Those schools planted the seeds for

Book of the month for Claire Martin and Nelly Goswitz

the nation’s system of teacher education that exists to this day but these young women had no idea what they were getting into. Most knew no Spanish. All believed they would stay in the capital of Buenos Aires only to discover that they would teach in faraway provinces, exposed to great dangers due to the constant fighting against the indigenous populations that inhabited the land. This is fascinating stuff that isn’t very well known.” She encourages potential readers to discover stories of defeat, triumph and relevance. “The power of the written word gave these women the ability to go beyond their circumstances. They accomplished incredible things in spite of the insurmountable limitations imposed by their societies. Every one of them has a remarkably revealing story at the level of the individual, and as a witness of a region in constant turmoil. Despite ferocious resistance, they found the strength to change themselves and those around them for the better,” she said. Martin comes to CSULB from Argentina and is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and has a working knowledge of Italian and Portuguese. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and her Ph.D. from Yale.