Professor Jean Franco’s book deals with Spanish-American literature in its entirety, chronologically and geographically. It is, however, an introduction rather than an outline. The author is more interested in clear exposition of major trends than in the number of names included, or equitable distribution by country or region. The book is a good general statement which does not seek the haven of superficiality.

Treatment of the Colonial Period is relatively brief. It constitutes the introductory chapter and, therefore, appears as a prelude to the main event. Accordingly, Professor Franco is more concerned with the general ambience of the period than with detailed history or criticism. Moving into the years of national independence, the book’s pace slows considerably. Once past the wars for independence (Chapter One), the organization of the material takes on considerable originality.

Chronology tends to become less important than certain functions of literature. The second chapter deals with nationalism, civilization and barbarism, the historical novel, and Ignacio M. Altamirano. The following chapter relates literature to the “American Experience”: gauchesque poetry, the noble savage. Liberalism and positivism form the basis of the fourth chapter which includes Alberto Blest Gana and José Martí. When we reach Modernism in Chapter Five, we have already left Marti.

This kind of organization has the obvious disadvantage of distorting chronology. For example, the unwary may well take Vicente Riva Palacio and Justo Sierra O’Reilly to be contemporaries of each other though their works belong to two very distinct generations. Altamirano may seem closer to J. J. Fernández de Lizardi than to Blest Gana. On the credit side, this organization sometimes brings out truths that are often overlooked—the importance of Altamirano, for instance.

The five remaining chapters deal with the rediscovery of America, regionalism in fiction, realism and social protest, vanguardism in poetry, and contemporary fiction. The improbable associations continue; but if they are inconvenient, surely they are balanced out by such refreshing innovations as consideration of Hugo and Schopenhauer as influences on Modernism, or the relationship of myth, psychology, and art in the indigenista novel.

Professor Franco’s judgments are occasionally disconcerting. She thinks the sonnets of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz are certainly not “moving” poetry. She places Heredia in a bundle with Olmedo and Bello, dismissing all three with equal disdain. Gauchesque poetry evokes her first really enthusiastic response. Some variety of “americanidad” may be one of her criteria. Still she seems not much concerned about such matters when dealing with Modernism or later vanguardist poetry.

Other possible objections to her work may well be blamed on its “introductory” nature. I confess I was displeased by inaccuracies in some matters which I have investigated thoroughly. I suspect other specialists may have similar reactions. However, in all fairness I doubt that an introduction to literature could be otherwise. The crucial question is whether I would like this book to be read by people who do not know Spanish-American literature. The answer is a resounding affirmative because Professor Franco’s exposition reveals a literature that is intellectually and artistically valid, without sounding apologetic.