The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War: Narrative, Time, and Identity

The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War: Narrative, Time, and Identity

The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War: Narrative, Time, and Identity

The Literatures of the U.S.-Mexican War: Narrative, Time, and Identity

Synopsis

The literary archive of the U. S.-Mexican War (1846-1848) opens to view the conflicts and relationships across one of the most contested borders in the Americas. Most studies of this literature focus on the war's nineteenth-century moment of national expansion. In The Literatures of the U. S.-Mexican War, Jaime Javier Rodr guez brings the discussion forward to our own moment by charting a new path into the legacies of a military conflict embedded in the cultural cores of both nations.

Rodr guez's groundbreaking study moves beyond the terms of Manifest Destiny to ask a fundamental question: How do the war's literary expressions shape contemporary tensions and exchanges among Anglo Americans, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans. By probing the war's traumas, anxieties, and consequences with a fresh attention to narrative, Rodr guez shows us the relevance of the U. S.-Mexican War to our own era of demographic and cultural change. Reading across dime novels, frontline battle accounts, Mexican American writings and a wide range of other popular discourse about the war, Rodr guez reveals how historical awareness itself lies at the center of contemporary cultural fears of a Mexican "invasion," and how the displacements caused by the war set key terms for the ways Mexican Americans in subsequent generations would come to understand their own identities. Further, this is also the first major comparative study that analyzes key Mexican war texts and their impact on Mexico's national identity.

Excerpt

I began reading the literatures of the U. S.-Mexican War in hopes of finding new ways to understand the intersections of narrative, history, and identity as they converged along the geographic and cultural boundaries between the United States and Mexico. the novelettes, dime novels, poems, and other writings from Mexico and Mexican American literature displayed their desires and anxieties with such force and clarity that they seemed to be nearly transparent windows through which one could see origins and fundamental themes and revelations. I wished also to critique the contemporary border stories as propagated by the mass media in the United States. Having grown up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, I, and others like me, have understood those depictions as simplifications of actual problems and conditions, with the region’s vitality and creativity nearly completely omitted. I set out, then, on a recuperative undertaking, hoping to make present the elided and to complicate the oversimplified.

Along the way, however, I began to suspect that the recuperative project as I had initially conceived it aimed at themes resting on the surface of a different field of investigation. I began to wonder increasingly about history and narrative, the way both constitute identity, and the way identity remains a project of continual recuperation. As I read the often seductively chaotic novelettes written about romantic adventures during the war, as I looked into how Mexican writers angrily denounced the invasion of their country, and as I studied the complex responses by Mexican American writers, I began to wonder whether the literary nationalism in the United States that elides . . .

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