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The Sonic Archive of Twentieth-Century Nicaraguan Literature: Sound, Music, Technology, and Listening in Selected Works by Rub�n Dar�o and Sergio Ram�rez


In this dissertation, I examine the works of Rub�n Dar�o (1867-1916) and Sergio Ram�rez (b. 1942) with the goal of determining their contributions to the construction and representation of sound, music, and sound technology in twentieth-century Nicaragua literature. I consider: 1) the sounds and music represented in their works; 2) the listening practices they establish through prose and poetry; and 3) the social, economic, and cultural contexts of these sonic representations.

My study builds on the work of earlier scholars such as Erika Lorenz, Cathy L. Jrade, and Stephan Henighan who explored music and sound in Dar�o’s and Ram�rez’s literary works, yet considered them primarily from philological, philosophical, or formal perspectives. In contrast, the approach I develop in this dissertation is rooted in Sound Studies. By becoming more attentive to a wider array of sounds in Dar�o’s and Ram�rez’s works and their representative meaning, I am able to offer new pathways toward understanding these authors’ methods of curating, listening to, and describing sound.

In the three chapters of this dissertation, I explore three different aspects of sound representation in twentieth-century Nicaraguan literature and poetry. In the first, I evaluate Dar�o’s short stories and one essay, identifying two listening patterns that inform his sound descriptions. I note that he rejects modern city noise in favor of the sound of “beautiful” music as a way of escaping from imperial and neocolonial aggression in Central America. In this chapter, I document Dar�o creating a sonic archive for modernismo. In the second chapter, I explore select poems by Dar�o to trace how he listens to and sonically imagines Central American landscapes, seascapes, animals, and Greek antiquity. I then compare Dar�o’s sonic archive with the materialized sounds in the concert march Luis A. Delgadillo wrote for Dar�o’s funeral, which represents a critical moment in which imagined sounds were realized in a concert march form. Delgadillo’s setting and interpretation of the sounds evoked by Dar�o’s poetry lead me to consider discourses about pan-Latin Americanism, US imperialism, Argentinean intellectualism, and Nicaraguan nationalism. Most importantly, I come to understand how sound representation shifted after Dar�o’s death, as his experience retreated into the past and his achievements came to be memorialized within a national Nicaraguan context. In the final case study I examine Ram�rez’s short fiction published in the 1990s, evaluating his nostalgic return to the listening practices, sounds, and sound technology of his own family and in Nicaragua earlier in the century. Ram�rez’s stories give evidence of how the arrival of US recording technology in Nicaragua between 1910 and 1960 shaped the local population’s listening practices. By exploring Ram�rez’s return to these soundscapes, I offer a third level of understanding of a Nicaraguan sonic archive, progressing in my dissertation from representation to memorialization to nostalgic memory of sound in Nicaraguan fiction in the twentieth century. I hope with this methodological intervention based on sound to contribute in a significant way to the study of Central American literature and culture.  

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