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Dante and Argentine Identity

  • Author(s): Sottong, Heather Renee
  • Advisor(s): Ciavolella, Massimo
  • et al.

This dissertation examines Dante’s afterlife in Argentina in selected works by Bartolom� Mitre, Leopoldo Lugones, Jorge Luis Borges, and Leopoldo Marechal. My analysis is informed by the theories of Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson, and Nicolas Shumway, who coined the concepts of “invented traditions,” “imagined communities,” and “guiding fictions” respectively. I have applied these notions to the case of Argentina, which after the War of Independence from Spain (1810-1818), had to develop its own national cultural identity. In Chapter 1, “Bartolom� Mitre and the Building of a Nation,” I examine Mitre’s 1897 translation of the Divine Comedy, his friendship with Giuseppe Garibaldi, and his role as President of Argentina from 1862-1868. I have found Mitre’s reading of Dante to have important resonances with the readings of Risorgimento Italians such as Mazzini who associated Dante with political unity, morality, and high culture. I argue that Mitre’s translation is a counter-operation to the linguistic and aesthetic tendencies and socio-political message of Jos� Hern�ndez’s El Gaucho Mart�n Fierro (1872).

Chapter 2 is dedicated to Leopoldo Lugones (1874-1938) and Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). Lugones’ short story “Francesca” (1909) is a creative re-invention of the Vth Canto of Inferno. Borges, who was well aware of this story and its lack of correspondence to the literary nationalism Lugones advocated in El payador, set out to write a Francesca of the pampas. His short story “The Intruder” simultaneously subverts Dante’s Vth Canto and Lugones’ adaptation. I also examine Borges’ famous story “The Aleph,” which, I argue, is not only a parody of the Divine Comedy, but also a subtle critique of Lugones in the figure of Carlos Daneri. In the third and final chapter I discuss how in Ad�n Buenosayres (1948) Leopoldo Marechal employs Dante to parody the viewpoints of many of Argentina’s intellectual elite (including Borges) on the topic of Argentine literature and identity. I conclude that the Divine Comedy, a work widely acknowledged to have played a key role in the emergence of Italian national conscious, was an important font of inspiration for a several major Argentine authors concerned with developing Argentine national literature.

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