Tracing the evolution of “sense work” in literary texts, the visual arts, periodical culture, and history, this paradigm-shifting book explores how embodied cognition helps define democratic practice and rebellion, cultural crisis, and social change.
In The Senses of Democracy, Francine R. Masiello traces a history of perceptions expressed in literature, the visual arts, politics, and history from the start of the nineteenth century to the present day. A wide transnational landscape frames the book along with an original and provocative thesis: when the discourse on democracy is altered—when nations fall into crisis or the increased weight of modernity tests minds and nerves—the representation of our sensing bodies plays a crucial role in explaining order and rebellion, cultural innovation, and social change.
Taking a wide arc of materials—periodicals, memoirs, political proclamations, and travel logs, along with art installations and fiction—and focusing on the technologies that supplement and enhance human perception, Masiello looks at the evolution of what she calls “sense work” in cultural texts, mainly from Latin America, that wend from the heights of romantic thought to the startling innovations of modernism in the early twentieth century and then to times of posthuman experience when cyber bodies hurtle through globalized space and human senses are reproduced by machines. Tracing the shifting debates on perceptions, The Senses of Democracy offers a new paradigm with which to speak of Latin American cultural history and launches a field for the comparative study of bodies, experience, pleasure, and pain over the continental divide. In the end, sense work helps us to understand how culture finds its location.
- List of Illustrations
- Chapter 1. Sensing the Early Republic
- Chapter 2. Troubled by Gender: Technology and Perception in the Women’s Nineteenth Century
- Chapter 3. Collective Synesthesia: The 1920s Avant-Garde
- Chapter 4. A Politics of Perception against the State
- Chapter 5. By Way of a Conclusion: A Sense of the “Now”
- Works Cited
“While the focus is on Latin America, the universe this book moves in is a wide one, informed by US literature and history, European arts, literature and philosophy, and imperial and postcolonial theory and history, all rendered by a sharp-eyed and prodigiously informed mind. Few scholars can hold so many literary and historical traditions in dynamic counterpositioning. In this sense, the book is a real tour de force. It welcomes the reader and sets up no barriers to comprehension. Much of its brilliance lies in this incredible juggling act.”
Gwen Kirkpatrick, Georgetown University, author of The Dissonant Legacy of Modernismo: Lugones, Herrera y Reissig, and the Voices of Modern Spanish American Poetry
“A new literary and cultural history of more than two hundred years of cultural production. This book is clearly the work of a scholar who has reached a brilliant point of integration of her analytical and interpretive powers and who has the insight to be both original and persuasive. I would not be surprised if Masiello opens up a field of Latin American sense studies with the publication of this book.”
Diana Sorensen, Harvard University, author of A Turbulent Decade Remembered: Scenes from the Latin American Sixties