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Title:Fertilizer dreams: Peruvian and Chilean culture of the guano and nitrate eras
Author(s):Burner, Lisa Reinhalter
Director of Research:Beckman, Ericka
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Beckman, Ericka
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Meléndez, Mariselle; Goldman, Dara E.; Jacobsen, Nils P.
Department / Program:Spanish and Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Latin America
Latin American Literature
Nineteenth Century
Political Economy
Juana Manuela Gorriti
La quena
El tesoro de los incas
El chifle del indio
Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna
Clorinda Matto de Turner
Aves sin nido
Benjamín Luis Cisneros
Luis Orrego Luco
Casa grande
War of the Pacific
Abstract:This dissertation provides a new reading of modern Peruvian and Chilean literatures through the tumultuous history of the global trade in fertilizer. Focusing on the guano era in Peru (1840s-1870s) and the nitrate era in Chile (1880s-1930s), it demonstrates that the literature of the period is animated by what I call “fertilizer dreams,” that is, the hopes and fears of elites with regards to guano and nitrates. One the one hand, cultural production gives voice to the hope that Chile and Peru could be just on the verge of achieving the ever-distant ideal of European-style modernity. At the same time, however, the texts are haunted by the realities of economic instability, resource depletion, and violent dispossession that accompanied the export booms. The dissertation is divided into four chapters, each of which considers a different literary genre that I have identified as a key expression of the Fertilizer Dreams of Peruvian and Chilean elites. The first half of this dissertation examines what I call “Foundational Myths of Resource Extraction,” which present allegorical origin stories for the extractive industries of Chile and Peru. Chapter One analyzes nineteenth-century tales of buried Incan treasure that I call “Precious Metal Melodramas.” Focusing on three texts written by Juana Manuela Gorriti, the chapter demonstrates how the Precious Metal Melodramas allegorically engage with guano-era concerns related to coloniality, resource depletion, and the perils of enrichment without labor. Chapter Two analyzes what I call “Legends of the Chilean Miner,” featured in politician Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna’s three-part history of mining in Chile. It examines how the legends condense conflicts within the mining industry between domestic and foreign interests as well as between capital and labor in a single mythic figure of the Chilean Miner. Chapter Three examines the canonical novels of Clorinda Matto de Turner. Focusing on the less-studied novel Índole (1891), the chapter highlights the centrality of counterfeiting and debt to Matto’s ouvre. I argue that these novels are “Romances of Capital Investment” which seek to rekindle Peruvian faith in the promise of resource extraction made possible through foreign capital investment via the joint stock company. This romanticization of investment is achieved through a sentiment-laden portrayal of investment as an act of charity, specifically associated with the moral value of creole, republican womanhood. Chapter Four brings together two novels that have been previously been read as the most iconic literary expressions of the guano and nitrate eras: Luis Benjamín Cisneros’s novel Julia (1861) and Luis Orrego Luco’s Casa grande (1908). The chapter proposes that these novels are “Accounts of Fictitious Prosperity” which seek to make sense of the financialization of the guano and nitrate economies through the concept of its inherent fictitiousness and propensity towards ceaseless repetition.
Issue Date:2015-06-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Lisa Burner
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-29
Date Deposited:August 201

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