I have recently completed a book manuscript, Modernism and Its Merchandise: The Spanish Avant-Garde and Material Culture, 1918-1936. In this book I examine how the writers and artists of the Spanish avant-garde, enthralled with the stream-lined, mass-produced products of the Machine Age, incorporated these objects into their literary and visual works. In doing so, they launched a broad inquiry into the relations between mind and matter, people and things, words and world. My book traces that dissonant but productive line of inquiry by focusing on the objects of obsession for the Spanish vanguardists: starting with the fruit bowls of cubist still life; continuing with the merchandise, machines, and fashions of the 1920s; and concluding with objects of ruin and decay. The trajectory thus moves from the natural to the technological domains, and from the new to the out-moded. Throughout my study, objects appear ever in motion, engaging and altering their human subjects--whether as objects of exchange, as prosthetic organs, or as triggers for the powerful affective responses of appetite, taste, and disgust. The insights that arise from these encounters with material things, I suggest, anticipate the knowledge emerging today in the fields of material culture, technology studies, and network theory.
In my current book project, Taking Sides: War, Crisis and Polarization in the Spanish Avant-Garde (1921-1936), I re-situate the Spanish avant-garde within its historical circumstance: the Moroccan War, Primo de Rivera's dictatorship, the rise of regional nationalisms, working-class militancy, and a surge in industry and commerce that nevertheless left broad sectors of the population behind. The proclamation of the Republic in 1931 occurred against the backdrop of economic crisis and burgeoning fascist movements abroad. It became impossible for the Spanish vanguardists to avoid taking sides, as political polarization intensified throughout the society. As I trace the trajectories of representative figures who veered to the left or right, I seek to answer the following questions: What aspects of the avant-garde imaginary proved to be compatible with fascism, with anarchism, or with Soviet communism? What is the role of affect—of fear, desire, and disgust—in the processes of ideological identification? Did the vanguardist discourse on the purity and impurity of art find its counterpart in political discourses on racial purity and sexual propriety? In sum, what can the case of Spain tell us about the historical and social conditions that produce extreme polarization within a society?
Recent and Selected Publications
"Moda y modelo de la literatura de avanzada: >La venus mecánica de José Díaz Fernández. Arbor: Ciencia, pensamiento, cultura. Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. (forthcoming in spring 2012)
"Geometría y angustia: García Lorca, Busby Berkeley, y el Crack de Wall Street." Lars, cultura y ciudad 15 (2009): 70-75.
"War-likeness: The Pugilist in Francisco Ayala's Vanguardist Narratives." Special issue, España en armas: Cultures of War in the Iberian Penninsula. Vanderbilt E-Journal of Luso-Hispanic Studies 5 (2009): 114-33. http://libdig10.library.vanderbilt.edu/index.php/lusohispanic/article/view/3226/1432
"Metafiction and Beyond: Collective Consciousness in Misericordia." Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 40 (2006): 265-82.
"Metaphoric Commerce: The Greguerías novísimas and Their Circumstance." Special Issue, Matters of the Market. Eds. Christine Henseler and Alejandro Herrero-Olaizola. The Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies 9 (2005): 119-36. (Reprint in Spanish: http://www.ramongomezdelaserna.net/Abc6.boletinRAMON.htm
"Ramón Gómez de la Serna in the Atomic Age." Romance Quarterly 52.3 (2005): 233-52.
Portraits of Excess: Reading Character in the Modern Spanish Novel. Boulder, Colorado: Society of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, University of Colorado, 1999.
Recent graduate courses taught:
The Spanish Historic Avant-Garde: Politics, Aesthetics, War
Which Side Are You On? Vanguardia y compromiso, 1918-1940
Narrative Negotiations: Public and Private
Literary Commerce in the Modern Spanish Novel
Avant-Garde Objects / Avant-Garde Texts, 1918-1936
Writing Under the Regime: The Spanish Novel, 1939-1975
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
International Cinema and the Spanish Avant-Garde, 1920-1936
Lorca and Historical Memory
Survey of Spanish Literature I: Poetry and Everyday Life
Everyday Life Under the Franco Regime
The Poet in the City: Lorca in New York, Borges in Buenos Aires
Questioning Everything: Spanish Literature, 1898-1931
From Biblical Crowds to Smart Mobs (freshman honors seminar)