In seven strikingly argued essays, John Beverly proposes major revisions for Hispanic literary criticism. In the first essay, “¿Puede el hispanismo ser una práctica radical?,” he makes clear his point of departure—a Marxist position that focuses on the social and economic determinants of literature. His studies of major texts and genres from Spain and Spanish America include an examination of the ideological bases of the esthetic act, as well as of its production and reception.
The three strongest essays deal with major works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—the picaresque novel, the baroque utopian vision, and the politics of accumulation in baroque poetry. Supported by wide-ranging documentation in social and economic theory, Beverly shows the conflicting ideologies and economic trends (feudalism to capitalism, literature as commodity) that shaped the literature of imperial Spain and its colonies. The inclusion of texts from both Spain and Spanish America makes clear the essays’ place in a volume on imperialism and colonialism. “Novela y política en América Latina,” a critique of romantic liberalism and the “boom” novel, gains force when read with the essays that follow on Central American poetry and recent testimonial literature. Less original in its conclusions than the previous essays, it does provide an excellent overview of current debates on the modern novel. Central American poets Ernesto Cardenal and Roque Dalton are the focus of a comparative study that views their works within their specifically national heritages. The final chapter on the “testimonio” is an admirable, nonreductionist study of this newly important literary form.
Del Lazarillo al sandinismo will be of interest to students of social science and history, as well as to literary scholars. It adds to the growing body of critical literature which bridges the traditional divisions between peninsular and New World, and baroque and modern literatures. In general, it presents its case with conciseness and complexity. Although it unfortunately lacks an index and bibliography, its notes are a rich source for further readings.