Theses Doctoral

Translation Spaces: Mexico City in the International Modernist Circuit

Luiselli, Valeria

This dissertation studies modernist translation spaces in Mexico City, a city that became an important hemispheric destination during the early twentieth-century. Although some earlier examples are provided for historical context, my analysis focuses primarily on architectural and editorial spaces that emerged in the city between 1917 and the late 1930s, the decades between the final years of the Mexican Revolution—during Venustiano Carranza’s administration, following the Queretaro Constitution—and the instauration of the Partido de la Revolución Mexicana—founded by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1938.
Modernism in Mexico City involved an international circuit of people—such as the poet Langston Hughes, the art historian Anita Brenner, the editor and anthropologist Frances Toor, the Indian activist, and founder of the communist party in Mexico M.N. Roy, and the photographers Tina Modotti and Edward Weston—all of whom traveled to or lived in Mexico City during the 1920s and 1930s. It also involved a series of Mexican writers, artists and intellectuals—among them, the poets Gilberto Owen, Salvador Novo and Xavier Villaurrutia, the writer and intellectual Alfonso Reyes, the muralist Diego Rivera, the architects Juan O’Gorman and Juan Segura, and the painters Dr. Atl and Nahui Olin—whose translation practices were instrumental for the making of Mexican modernism. I argue that these modernist actors played a key role as cultural translators and that it was ultimately through their work that Mexico City, among other so-called peripheral modernities, found a place in the cultural and geographical map of international modernism—a place, nonetheless, which modernist studies still tend to ignore or misrepresent.
Drawing from translation theory, architectural history, transatlantic modernism, and the spatial semiology and hermeneutics, Translation Spaces maps the places, both cultural and physical, that these international modernists occupied or, in some cases, created. The five chapters study different architectural spaces—i.e. theaters, rooftops, houses, cinemas, and apartment buildings—and combine spatial analysis and architectural history of such spaces with analysis of specific translation practices that took place in them, such as literary translation, film dubbing and subtitling in modern sound cinemas, urban photography, adaptations of architectural languages to local needs, as well as literary representations and discussions of modern spaces. Taken together as different examples of modernist translation practices, the objects of study in this dissertation map modernist Mexico City as a space in a synchronic relationship to the larger map of international modernism.


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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
October 9, 2015