Faits divers : national culture and modernism in Third World literary magazines




Micklethwait, Christopher Dwight

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Commitments to cosmopolitanism and indigenism complicate the Modernist literature of the Third World. This study investigates the rhetorical and aesthetic responses of Third World "little magazines"--short-running, self-financed cultural magazines--to these two notions. These little magazine evolved with the daily newspaper as a tool favored by avant-garde movements for critiquing the social structures that produced it and for codifying their aesthetic and political principles. Comparing the Stridentist little magazine Horizonte (1926-1927) to D. H. Lawrence's novel The Plumed Serpent (1925), I argue that the Mexican Revolution created a climate of nationalism that reoriented the Stridentist movement away from a version of cosmopolitanism influenced by European modernist movements and toward a deeper interest in the Mexican folk and indigenous culture. Following form there, I consider the concept of cosmopolitanism in the Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier's El Reino de este mundo (1949) in comparison to two Haitian magazines: La Revue Indigène (1927-1928) and Les Griots (1938-1940). Here I find that, while Carpentier stages a relatively global critique of primitivism as a false cosmopolitanism, the magazines La Revue Indigène and Les Griots reflect a turn from such a cosmopolitanism that values the primitive for its own sake toward a cultural nationalism invested in the real and imagined recuperation of Haiti's African origins through the study of folklore, Vodou, the Kreyòl language and poetic images of Africa. Finally, I compare Futurist F. T. Marinetti's Mafarka le futuriste: roman africain (1909) to the Egyptian literary magazine Al-Kātib Al-Miṣrī (1945-1948) in order to demonstrate the distance between Egyptian modernity in the European imagination and the self-conceived notions of Egyptian modernity. In Al-Kātib Al-Miṣrī, I find that these writers value cosmopolitanism, arguing that it is in fact indigenous to Egyptian culture itself and constructing their notion of Egyptian modernity around the maintenance of continuity with this indigenous cosmopolitanism. My examinations of these magazines suggests that, though the European avant-gardes and Third World literary Modernists may wield the little magazine similarly against hegemonic cultures, their purposes are divided over the roles cosmopolitanism and indigeneity play in the formation of national culture.



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