Title

Jose Marti: Dismantling National Narratives at the Root of American Imperialism

Lead Author Major

Political Science & English

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Jeffrey Hole

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Abstract/Artist Statement

In this essay, I examine the ways in which Jose Marti produces a critique of imperial democracy by appropriating and re-imagining Walt Whitman's persona of the “common man.” While Whitman's poetry resonates with democratic jubilation, it simultaneously conveys imperial ambitions. In recalling the poems “The Errand-Bearers” and “Passage to India" - two principal examples of these imperial ambitions - I argue that Whitman's rhetoric of democracy coincides with U.S. Imperial expansion over the continent and other portions of the globe, including Latin America. Whitman's yearning to speak for the everyday person through his poetry, however, provided Jose Marti with a symbol of America's national narrative with which to launch a critique of imperial democracy. By abstracting from the rhetoric of Whitman's poetry, Marti re-appropriated its essence in works like “Cuento de Elefantes” (“Elephant Tales”) and "Versos Sencillos" ("Simple Verses"). In these works, Marti acknowledges the very imperial ambitions Whitman's rhetoric conceals. Instead of celebrating them under the guise of democracy, Marti backs away from them. What emerges out of Marti's work is a weariness for what is lost to empire. While Whitman implicitly provides a justification of empire, Marti challenges this with his own poetry which leaves behind the rhetoric of democracy and liberation that characterizes much of Whitman's work. My paper will show how Marti's work resisted imperial democracy by dismantling the “myths of liberation and anti-imperialism [that] hide a history of imperial aspiration and oppression” (Gustafson, "Histories of Democracy and Empire," 111).

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

26-4-2014 9:00 AM

End Date

26-4-2014 12:00 PM

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Apr 26th, 9:00 AM Apr 26th, 12:00 PM

Jose Marti: Dismantling National Narratives at the Root of American Imperialism

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

In this essay, I examine the ways in which Jose Marti produces a critique of imperial democracy by appropriating and re-imagining Walt Whitman's persona of the “common man.” While Whitman's poetry resonates with democratic jubilation, it simultaneously conveys imperial ambitions. In recalling the poems “The Errand-Bearers” and “Passage to India" - two principal examples of these imperial ambitions - I argue that Whitman's rhetoric of democracy coincides with U.S. Imperial expansion over the continent and other portions of the globe, including Latin America. Whitman's yearning to speak for the everyday person through his poetry, however, provided Jose Marti with a symbol of America's national narrative with which to launch a critique of imperial democracy. By abstracting from the rhetoric of Whitman's poetry, Marti re-appropriated its essence in works like “Cuento de Elefantes” (“Elephant Tales”) and "Versos Sencillos" ("Simple Verses"). In these works, Marti acknowledges the very imperial ambitions Whitman's rhetoric conceals. Instead of celebrating them under the guise of democracy, Marti backs away from them. What emerges out of Marti's work is a weariness for what is lost to empire. While Whitman implicitly provides a justification of empire, Marti challenges this with his own poetry which leaves behind the rhetoric of democracy and liberation that characterizes much of Whitman's work. My paper will show how Marti's work resisted imperial democracy by dismantling the “myths of liberation and anti-imperialism [that] hide a history of imperial aspiration and oppression” (Gustafson, "Histories of Democracy and Empire," 111).