The secularization of the Divine in find de siglo Mexico : religion and modernity in prose works by Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Federico Gamboa, and Amado Nervo




Garcia-Guajardo, Elizabeth Anne, 1960-

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The purpose of this study is to examine literary representations of religiosity and the spiritual realm in late nineteenth-century Mexico, in prose works by Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera (1859-1895), Federico Gamboa (1864-1939), and Amado Nervo (1870-1919). Through an analysis of selected texts by these authors, I will explore how they articulated the Roman Catholicism that permeated their cultural context, amid the processes of modernization. I will also show how they expressed subjective spiritual experiences, independent of the doctrinal precepts of the Church. All three of these writers devoted attention to the pervasive religiosity of their milieu, and wrestled with the question regarding the relevance of the Church in modernity. However, each one presents a distinct vision for the role that institutional religion should play. Each of these authors also portrays his own individual experiences of the metaphysical realm. Part One is based on an analysis of selected articles, chronicles, and short stories by Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera. This author utilizes the modernista aesthetic of the era to transform the religious impulse into subjective expressions of the Divine. In this regard, he presents a secular form of spirituality, although his texts often contain undertones of a lingering Catholicism. Part Two addresses the tension between religious orthodoxy and modernity in three novels by Federico Gamboa, narratives that reflect the author’s close adherence to Church dictates. In these stories the protagonists often come into conflict with the prevailing religious discourse that attempts to thwart their autonomy. Yet the narratives ultimately reaffirm and uphold Catholic values. In Part Three of this study I turn my attention to a selection of articles, chronicles, short stories, and novellas by Amado Nervo, the most spiritually inclined of the three authors. His early novellas present similar themes as Gamboa’s novels regarding the interference of the Church in the lives of the characters. However, Nervo’s later texts reveal that he did not feel compelled to remain within the limits of Church doctrine. Instead, he follows Nájera’s lead in exploring alternative perspectives of the Divine, such as spiritualist practices and the other religious traditions.



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