I arrived in Buenos Aires a week ago, and will be here until June 11. My project is to conduct research on references to Facundo, o civilización y barbarie (1845) in the letters of Domingo F. Sarmiento, president of Argentina 1868-1874. Sarmiento wrote Facundo while in exile in Chile from the regime of Juan Manuel Rosas.
Ostensibly the biography of a provincial caudillo, Juan Facundo Quiroga, the text is also a denunciation of the dictator. Through its biographical description of Quiroga, his context, and rise to power, Facundo presents an archaeology of despotism as a political and cultural phenomenon. It provides a foundational binary paradigm—civilización o barbarie—for much subsequent political and cultural thought in Latin America. My research interest is in tracing the (competitive) tension between the author and his subject(s), and I am particularly interested in the correspondence because it is here that Sarmiento occasionally addressed his motivations. While as a literary scholar, the primary component of my work is close attention to the text itself, my hope is that this archival work will enrich my reading and provide new entrances into a (and much written about) canonical text.
I have spent the my first week in Buenos Aires learning how to get around the city and doing preliminary work at my primary research site: the archives at the Museo Histórico Sarmiento in the Belgrano section of the city.
Thus far, I have been fortunate to find that most of the clusters of correspondence I was interested in reading have been edited and published as volumes, often with limited distribution and almost impossible to find elsewhere. These, however, are held by the Museo and I should be able to gather copies (photocopy or photograph) of most of the relevant material to have on hand when I return to New York. Among the useful material I have viewed this week are Valentín Alsina’s notes to Sarmiento for the second edition of the Facundo (microfiche) and an edited volume (1936) of Sarmiento’s letters of Mary Mann, wife of Horace Mann, who translated the Facundo into English in 1868; I had thought I would need to access this material in the Archivo General de la Nación and was happy to find it in a more workable form. I have also found a digital archive of Sarmiento’s work available online which provides keyword-searchable PDFs of several of Sarmiento’s works—a wonderful time-saver.
In the coming week I will be making my way through the large amount of material I have located thus far; once the archive’s catalogue is back up and running I will be using it to make a wider search of the correspondence. I will also visit and register with the Biblioteca Nacional. Finally, in the coming week I will also be meeting with local scholars who work on nineteenth century literature in Argentina, with whom my professors at NYU helped me get in touch. I am looking forward to the conversation and new leads.
PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature