Theses Doctoral

The Avant-Garde in the Tabloids: Cultural Reconfiguration in the Argentine Popular Press of the 1920s

Baffi, Maria Carolina

This dissertation analyzes a set of innovative literary practices happening in the popular press in Argentina in the 1920s. It takes its departure from two theoretical premises: that what precipitated the historical avant-garde was the spread of mass culture and that art redraws its limits by incorporating the foreign into it. With these premises in mind, the dissertation shows that the aguafuertes of novelist Roberto Arlt and the women’s columns by poet Alfonsina Storni, because they were written especially for the popular press and because their authors positioned themselves as artists of and in the media, the two—Arlt and Storni—were able to process political, social, and economic changes in a forceful and unprecedented way. Technologically accelerated modernization became their vehicle, and it allowed them to contribute to the democratization of the Argentine cultural field in that decade. Further, analysis of this under-read corpus allows me to assert that it was their journalistic texts in which Arlt and Storni experimented with novel poetics, which “modernized” their own more literary practices.
Published in discardable formats that were hardly prestigious in the center of the mass media of the day, these texts have passed largely unperceived by critics, although in their moment they formed part of a broad cultural agitation that they themselves in part created. Their marginal placement doesn’t obscure the same procedures used in them as was used by the classic avant-garde. In their newspaper writings, Arlt and Storni erased the borders between genres, re-used found materials and did not shun low materials, provoked the public and at the same time included the public, transgressed reigning norms for the behavior of women. No understanding of the 20s in the Río de la Plata can dispense with these texts, and others like them. They were an integral part of the cultural network; more than this, they worked through the extreme transformations of the epoch—as this dissertation shows—with a radicality beyond that of the local avant-gardes.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Montaldo, Graciela Raquel
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
March 22, 2017