After spending almost a month in Buenos Aires, researching in the archive, I am back in New York, and beginning to pull together the information and material I gathered in my time away.
Reflecting on my work, I am surprised by how different my experience was from what I had expected. In preparing for my departure—pulling together bibliographies, beginning to identify documents I wanted to look at in the archive, etc.—I had thought I would get as much writing as investigation done while I was away. However, once in Buenos Aires, I found that my focus quickly shifted to gathering as much material as possible and to taking advantage of my time in there by meeting with professors, exploring bookstores, etc. Over the course of my time there, I increasingly made an effort to allow my research and my thinking to “wander,” so to speak. I found that I had vastly underestimated the importance of this intellectual “wandering” that time in the archive (or the field) researching allows. I found quite a bit of material pertaining to my initial questions, but I also encountered unexpected details that, while perhaps not immediately useful to the topic(s) on which I am working, gave me a more textured understanding of Sarmiento in general.
When I initially formulated my project, I wanted to find and analyze Sarmiento’s discussion of the Facundo in his correspondence, as a means for beginning to think about the particular tension between the various “protagonists” (Facundo Quiroga, the biographical subject, but also Juan Manuel de Rosas and Sarmiento himself, both of whom lurk in the background) of the text. This had roughly two components: (1) the discussion of the Facundo as an important social/political “tool”—i.e. as an integral part of Sarmiento’s broader political and cultural program, for which, for example, the translations of the Facundo in Sarmiento’s lifetime were important starting points, and (2) the discussion of the internal dynamics of the text itself, particularly in terms of Sarmiento’s aggressive focus on Quiroga versus Rosas. I, perhaps predictably, found much more of the former than the latter. What became increasingly clear to me as I was working, however, was that the Facundo (the text) is itself the most valuable resource for exploring my questions—close and critical reading being central to my work as a literary scholar. In the coming weeks, I look forward to developing my close reading of the tension between the various “protagonists” of the Facundo in conjunction with the material I gathered on the trip, and to presenting this research in October.
Attached to this post is a photograph of the first publication of the Facundo—it was originally serialized in the Chilean newspaper El Progreso; it appears in the bottom third of the page—one of the many documents I was able to look at in archives and library of the Museo Histórico Sarmiento.
PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature