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The Reception of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in Meiji to Taishō Japan  

Yoshio Takanashi

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were fascinated by Asian philosophies and religions. The two American philosophers discovered “Asia” in their own Transcendentalist views of nature and human ethics. Beginning with the works of Frederic Carpenter and Arthur Christy in the 1930s, American scholars have undertaken comprehensive studies of the ways in which Oriental ideas and religions, such as Neoplatonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Persian poetry, Confucianism, and Daoism, influenced American Transcendentalism. In this global age, Emerson and Thoreau, as transnational figures, have come to be given a great deal of attention. Few scholars today realize that the works of Emerson and Thoreau were widely read by Japanese intellectuals during the Meiji and Taishō periods (1868–1926). The Japanese highly admired the spirit of independence and freedom advocated by the two Concordians. Although studies of their reception in Japan have been made, and many of their writings have been translated, the strength of Emerson’s and Thoreau’s influence on Japanese readers may not yet be fully understood. Suzuki Daisetsu made a significant contribution to Western philosophical thought by bringing the teachings of Zen Buddhism to the attention of the Western world. He felt deep sympathy with Emerson’s and Thoreau’s views of nature. Influenced by Suzuki, some American and Japanese scholars have remarked on similarities between Zen Buddhism and American Transcendentalism. Until now, scholars in the West have tended to assume that Zen Buddhism was the primary medium of Japanese interest in Emerson and Thoreau, partly because Zen Buddhism was in vogue during the middle decades of the 20th century. While it is true that both Emersonian and Thoreauvian philosophies and Zen Buddhism center on a spirit of seeking the spring of universal spirituality within the inner soul, Suzuki’s emphasis on that similarity may be one reason for the current difficulty in understanding the diversity and complexity of both Eastern and Western philosophies and religions.


Reception Theory, Reception History, Reception Studies  

Ika Willis

Reception-oriented literary theory, history, and criticism, all analyze the processes by which literary texts are received, both in the moment of their first publication and long afterwards: how texts are interpreted, appropriated, adapted, transformed, passed on, canonized, and/or forgotten by various audiences. Reception draws on multiple methodologies and approaches including semiotics and deconstruction; ethnography, sociology, and history; media theory and archaeology; and feminist, Marxist, black, and postcolonial criticism. Studying reception gives us insights into the texts themselves and their possible range of meanings, uses, and value; into the interpretative regimes of specific historical periods and cultural milieux; and into the nature of linguistic meaning and communication.


Rechy, John  

Ricardo L. Ortiz

For half of his nearly sixty-year writing career, John Rechy was recognized primarily for his contributions to homosexual literature in the United States, even as from the beginning of that career he consistently cast his major protagonists as young men of mixed ethnicity, part-Mexican and part-Scottish, hailing like him from the border city of El Paso, Texas. As the fields of queer and US Latinx literary studies emerged in the 1980s, critics and scholars began to study the important intersectionalities of Rechy’s multiple identities more explicitly and intentionally, and that attention has been sustained ever since, leading to a significant rethinking of earlier responses to Rechy’s literary work, and a significant opening of the possible viable readerly approaches to Rechy’s entire writing career. Underrepresented in this matrix of critical approaches toward Rechy’s work that favor issues of identity, however, is a more direct, committed interest in describing the specifically literary, and aesthetic, aspects of Rechy’s contributions to the cultural traditions to which he matters, regardless of whether that interest foregrounds or not the understandably compelling factors of identity (ethnic, gender, sexual, class, geographic, etc.) that drive so much extant Rechy criticism. That critical project will surely benefit from a greater attention to, for example, Rechy’s experiments with form, style, and the materiality of print across the six decades of his career, very likely discovering there that those experiments can open alternative doors to understanding not only Rechy’s artistry, but also the unique qualities of his queerness, and the unique qualities of his latinidad.


Reed, Ishmael  

Lynn Orilla Scott

Among contemporary African-American writers, Ishmael Reed is one of the most innovative, prolific, and controversial. To date he has published nine novels, five collections of poems, four collections of essays, and four plays. He has also authored three television productions, an opera, and a “gospera.” Some of his poetry has been set to music and produced on record. A sampling of his fiction, poetry, and essays has been collected in The Reed Reader (2000). As a teacher, a cultural activist, and especially an editor and publisher, Reed has been an advocate of multiculturalism in American literature since the early 1970s. His experimental work, which draws from myth, history, popular culture, and African-American oral culture, can be classified as “populist postmodernist.” The most characteristic attribute of his work is its aggressive, provocative, and sometimes outrageous humor.



Satya P. Mohanty

Reference is one of the most important concepts in literary studies, routinely invoked in theoretical discussions since the rise of poststructuralism in the 1970s. Derrida and those who follow his general approach, in particular, take for granted the view that reference is a reductive notion since it limits the range of possible textual interpretations and the free play of language; it does this, they say, by privileging an element drawn from the social or historical context and making it the foundation on which interpretations are based. But this view of reference is both narrow and misleading, since a much richer conception of it can be drawn from such thinkers as the late-19th-century pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce as well as realist philosophers from the Anglo-American tradition who started writing in the second half of the 20th century. According to this conception, literary reference points not to a “thing,” or what Derrida calls a “sensible presence,” but rather to a complexly mediated object of knowledge, an object that is a part of an epistemic field that includes the written or oral text. Elaboration of this epistemic account of literary reference, illustrated through a comparison of two 19th-century realist novels from India where one comments on and corrects its predecessor, provides a more adequate theory than the simple and schematic view poststructuralists rely on. It shows how such a theory of reference can be a valuable, and even an essential, component of literary studies and can indicate how literary interpretation is related to other epistemic practices in human societies, including explanatory work done in the social and natural sciences.


Remaking Charles Dickens for 21st-Century Russia  

Emily Finer

Charles Dickens’s writing entered the Russian cultural sphere only a year after he published The Pickwick Papers in England. In 1838, extracts from The Pickwick Papers appeared concurrently in different translations in several Russian journals. Canonical 19th-century writers and thinkers (including Nikolai Gogol, Vissarion Belinsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Lev Tolstoy) read the novels in Russian, French, German, or English, either serialized in journals or as books. The popularity of Dickens in Russian translation was such that by the centenary of his birth in 1912 the third complete works—with new translations of all the novels—had been published. His stories of childhood were by then commonly excerpted and rewritten in magazines for Russian children. During Soviet times, Dickens increased in importance and was embedded in both official and private cultural spheres. His realism, his interest in poverty, and his own childhood experience of deprivation in London all rendered him suitable for retranslation for the new mass reader and for Soviet children, all of whom were to be furnished with negative portrayals of life under capitalism. Despite these propagandistic intentions, children and adults often identified with the suffering of Dickens’s child characters and found comfort in his reliable happy endings. In the Soviet Union, novels by Dickens typically held positive associations of warmth, safety, and moral consistency. They also offered inspiration for imaginative travel to a foreign country they could not dream of visiting in person. This convergence of official and personal appreciations of Dickens resulted in the publication of the most complete of complete works: thirty volumes of completely new translations supported by detailed scholarly apparatus. This so-called dark green edition was published in time for the 150th anniversary of Dickens’s birth in 1962, and a five-kopek postage stamp with a portrait of Dickens was issued in the same year. By the 2000s, a reading public who read Dickens as children in the Soviet Union could now read Dickens in English, on and offline, and even visit London for themselves. Two hundred years after Dickens’s birth, in 2012, the glossy Russian magazine Snob dedicated a special issue to Dickens with new commissions from notable writers including Eduard Limonov, Evgenii Popov, and Marina Stepnova. For the special issue’s editors, Dickens was less a representative of English culture than a conduit of nostalgia for their childhoods in the Soviet Union. At the same time, they noted that Dickens’s reception in Russia had come full circle: from the hypercapitalist publishing environment of Victorian London to the wild capitalism of Putin’s Russia.



Adam Hammond

The concept of remediation, as elaborated by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin in Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999), is premised on the notion that media are best understood in interaction rather than in isolation. Every artistic medium, they argue, orients itself in relation to another medium, whether respectfully—as in the case of an online literary database that seeks to provide easy access to faithful facsimiles of manuscripts—or competitively—as with a videogame that seeks to replace the linearity and passivity of print with open-ended interactivity. Bolter and Grusin describe individual media in turns of two basic impulses: immediacy, or the attempt to erase the mediating function and present the illusion of directly represented reality; and hypermediacy, or the attempt to foreground the mediating function, exposing the impossibility of direct representation. They employ the same vocabulary to describe the interaction of media. Every act of remediation—every representation of one medium in another—necessarily involves both immediacy and hypermediacy. A digital edition of a literary text grants access to the words of the original print artifact (immediacy), yet by including audio readings and video commentary draws attention to its digital-specific affordances (hypermediacy). A digital archive gathers together high-resolution, color-accurate reproductions of materials scattered in rare-book libraries around the world (immediacy), yet by granting free and instantaneous access to these precious, fragile objects, fundamentally transforms the experience of engaging with their analog originals (hypermediacy). Insisting that one approach media through interaction, Bolter and Grusin’s theory of remediation positions the movement of content from one medium to another as a form of translation—a transformative act in which much is lost as well as gained.


Renaissance Literature and the Environment  

Todd Andrew Borlik

As the environmental humanities have gained traction, its practitioners have ventured beyond a predictable canon of modern nature writers and Romantic poets into earlier eras to better fathom the origins of our ecological predicament. It has become abundantly clear that the Renaissance (c. 1340–1660), often reframed as the early modern era (c. 1500–1800), marks a pivotal epoch in the history of the earth. Spurred by the rediscovery of classical learning to rival the grandeur of Ancient Rome and by Columbus’s plundering of the West Indies, European powers studied and exploited the environment with unprecedented zeal, while investing in resource extraction, overseas colonization, and technoscience. These developments left an indelible imprint on both the planet and the period’s literature. In tandem with the invention of landscape by Renaissance painters, writers in the generations between Francesco Petrarch and John Milton sought new ways—while reviving and adapting ancient ones—to capture the beauty, fragility, and animacy of the natural world. In the works of poets such as Torquato Tasso, Michael Drayton, and Mary Wroth, trees can bleed, rivers speak, and nightingales transform into violated maidens. As such conceits suggest, the prevailing views of nature can seem quaint or anthropomorphic by post-Enlightenment standards. Yet Renaissance literature has proven, in part because it enables us to interrogate those standards, surprisingly responsive to ecocritical concerns. Bringing these concerns to bear on the era has revealed startling new facets of familiar texts, thrown more limelight on undersung authors, unsettled complacent assumptions in environmental history, and greatly enriched eco-theory. Nature has always been a site of ideological contestation, but the historical distance afforded by the Renaissance can bring this into shimmering focus. If the label “early modern” underscores the era’s continuity with the present and its foreshadowing of ecological issues and sensibilities, the somewhat old-fashioned label Renaissance reminds us to keep sight of its alterity and to view its literature as an archive of radically different attitudes, epistemologies, and material practices that might help us to better understand and combat environmental problems. The urgency of the climate crisis makes it imperative to trace or insinuate parallels between then and now, but newcomers to the field would also be well advised to acquaint themselves with the contours of early modern cultural and environmental history so as to undertake ecocritical interpretations responsibly without peddling anachronisms or reductive caricatures. Early modern worldviews can be both familiar and alien, and its literature can jolt us into a greater awareness of these tensions. It is, for instance, ironic yet strangely apt that the same Francis Bacon reviled as an architect of the Anthropocene was one of the first to denounce the anthropocentric prejudice of the human sensorium and mind. Bacon also feared that language and an excessive reverence for the received knowledge of the past might warp our understanding of nature. Four centuries later, his words provide a cautionary reminder that we should not approach Renaissance literature as a repository of timeless, universal truths. Rather, insofar as studying Renaissance literature enables us to see beyond the shibboleths of our own culture and historical moment, it offers valuable cognitive training that might help us recognize and overcome species bias.



Catherine Pickstock

Literary, aesthetic, and theoretical negotiations of repetition tend to focus on the category of repetition as a feature of spoken or written discourse, or visual or audible patterning, instantiated so as to produce a specific effect, such as of monotony or interruption. This effect is based upon a normative assumption that discourse will be structured according to a decorous balance between same and difference; when this decorum is not observed, a marked effect is realized. However, is repetition merely an aesthetic category deployed for local or ephemeral emotional or sematic emphasis? Given that exact repetition is perforce an impossibility, since no two moments are ever the same, nor is one moment the same as itself, what are the implications of this tension between an effect of sameness and an awareness of its impossibility? Are these implications ontological or metaphysical in character?


Representations of Women in Southern Literature  

Pearl Amelia McHaney

The myths of southern women include mammies, belles, ladies, and mulattos. In southern fiction, drama, poetry, and memoir, these categories of women are both perpetuated and disrupted. Much southern literature also portrays these stereotypes as independent women deliberately confronting the systems of oppression including patriarchy, slavery, and racism. Such independent women struggle for and often attain agency. Other literary characters are more succinctly called rebels, openly fighting against class, social, economic, and racist constraints. Many representations of women in southern literature were popularized in the 19th century by northerner Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and in the 20th century by southerner Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind (1936). Between these two novels, with new publications of 19th-century fictions by African Americans, and from the 1940s into the 21st century, concurrent with modernism, feminism, and increased publication opportunities, women in southern literature are often depicted seeking agency, finding voice, and acting independently. Representations of antebellum southern women as mothers, black and white, illustrate the enormous difficulties of birthing and nurturing children to adulthood. Mothers, daughters, sisters, and young girls (black and white) in the 20th century evidence a diminishing presence of the southern past as well as vastly changing family dynamics. In southern literature of the 21st century, women vigorously explore their sexualities, races, ethnicities, social and economic classes confluent with a redefined global south, climate change, drug epidemics, and political activism. Women in 21st-century southern literature successfully challenge the hegemony of white authors and white characters and the binary of black and white.


Revisiting Asian American Poetics  

Juliana Chang

The most discussed and cited works of Asian American writing in literary studies include mainly novels, memoirs, short fiction, essays, and plays. To use Sau-ling Wong’s terms Necessity and Extravagance, the study of prose narrative has become a Necessity in the establishment of an Asian American literary canon, while poetry appears to occupy the status of the Extravagant—not excluded, but not as important or basic as prose. However, considering Asian American studies through the framework of not just poetry as a genre but also the poetic as a mode leads to some fresh understandings of canonical narratives, as well as criticism and theory. The power of poetry and the poetic do lie in their alignment with Extravagance, especially in their play with rules and expectations of language, convention, and form. Poems by Asian American writers point to the underside of play, the ways in which play can threaten minority subjects. At the same time the poems enact their own forms of play, through literary allusion and figurative language, for example. Asian American poetry and the Asian American poetic harness the energies of recreation and enjoyment to build and repurpose literary and discursive forms that articulate racial, ethnic, and gendered perils and promises.



Thomas H. Ford and Joe Hughes

Rhetoric was—or is, and the uncertainty here is to the point—an unstable but hegemonic assemblage of categories, practices, doctrines, and institutions that endured from classical antiquity through to modernity. Rhetoric underwent radical transformations over this period of nearly three thousand years, entering into complex relationships with its discursive and educational others, including literature, philosophy, theology, and science. Rhetoric has variously been the pragmatic art of verbal action; the teachable (and so saleable) skill of persuasive speaking; an elite training in literary forms and genres inherited from ancient Rome and Greece; a set of protocols governing textual production and reception; the antiquarian collection of ornate and artificial modes of phraseology; a transcendent spirit of linguistic articulation and creation; and a branch of instruction in professional communication. This article presents five scenes—sometimes more tightly focused, sometimes more diffuse—drawn from the long history of rhetoric: a moment of rhetoric’s inception, in Syracuse in 466 bce; of its Christianization, in Milan, 387; of linguistic productivity, in Cambridge, 1511; of rhetorical transcendence, in Basel in 1872; and of social composition, in Minneapolis, 1968. In each of these moments, rhetoric’s conceptual, discursive, and institutional relations with literature were transfigured. They were scenes in which rhetoric was retied, so to speak, into a series of new knots with literature and philosophy. Other scenes and other itineraries would no doubt generate different stories—other knottings of rhetoric and its others.



Claire Colebrook

The concept of the rhizome was first articulated in Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, published in French in 1975 and translated into English in 1986. Here the term emerges from a reading of Kafka’s description of movements in his novels and short stories, but it is also tied to a mode of reading and of composition. In Mille Plateaux (1980), translated into English as A Thousand Plateaus in 1987, the term has both a broad reference towards modes of thinking and analyzing that are nonhierarchical and decentered, and a more specifically literary sense of styles of writing. In A Thousand Plateaus, the term is introduced in order to describe a mode of composition that is distinct from the book, and a theory of language that is opposed to a basic structure, logic, or grammar from which variations develop. Languages and dialects do not emerge from a central grammar; instead, everything begins with variations of sound and sense. There is no universal grammar; every language has its distinct mode of growth. It is therefore illegitimate to talk of grammar “trees,” and far better to think of variation without a center. Rather than a linear development or progression, a rhizomatic text is composed of multiple points of entry. A rhizome is a lateral, decentered, proliferating, and interconnected web of relations and is therefore unlike the hierarchical (root, branch, offshoots) model of a tree.



Laura Marcus

The topic of rhythm in literary theory draws both on discussions of poetry and prose and on much broader currents of thought in the natural sciences and philosophy. In Western thought, rhythm was a central focus of attention in ancient Greece, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when theorists and practitioners of literature and the other arts often referred back to classical models. This is also the case in more recent theorizing of rhythm in the context of everyday life in advanced modern or, as some would say, postmodern societies. Nietzsche, who constantly circled around the term and with frequent direct and metaphorical references to dance, is in many ways the central figure in these discussions. He was massively influential after his death in 1900, both in Germany and more widely, for example, in Britain and North America, and he was taken up again, along with Heidegger, in much French thought after World War 2. Contemporary debates around rhythm and its relation to meter continue to refer to classical Greece, and in Chinese and Indian thought there is a similar continuity of attention to issues of rhythm.


Rich, Adrienne  

Claire Keyes

Adrienne Rich has earned a place in American literature as the leading feminist poet of the 20th century. Most critics agree that she has accomplished what no woman writer has done before: to speak—in poetry—with a public voice. Although some aspects of her verse might be considered in the confessional mode, she demands that her poetry be more than a personal expression. As a result of her prose as well as her verse, she has developed a wide, international readership. A feminist trailblazer at a time when one was needed, Rich moves beyond feminism to speak her poetic truth and unabashedly allies that truth with politics. In forging her identity as poet, public intellectual, nurturer of other women, and advocate for causes, she challenges women to seek a larger, more equitable world for themselves and others.


Right-Wing Literature in the United States since the 1960s  

Carol Mason

Examining fiction and nonfiction written explicitly by and for members of right-wing movements provides a deeper understanding of points of affinity as well as contention in the midst of increased polarization in United States political culture. Primary materials include fiction penned by conservative politicians and pundits, fiction written by right-wing agitators, and nonfiction movement literature such as periodicals, advice books, and tactical instruction guides. Since the middle of the 20th century, right-wing literature has sustained and motivated an increasingly formidable political force that undermines democratic ideals and encourages reformatory or revolutionary action. Comparing and contrasting fiction with movement nonfiction written by conservatives of the Cold War era illuminates how right-wing politics shifted away from pessimistic accounts of the supposed decline of Western civilization. In the 1960s, conservative book clubs advertised fiction in which heroes typically were ordinary white businessmen whose love of country led them to fight “un-American” foes, often depicted as sexual deviants, racialized immigrants, or a combination of the two. The fiction, then, presented a means of transcending abstract, erudite discussions of the presumed “suicide of the West” that preoccupied conservative intellectuals. Likewise, more radical nonfiction offered a hopeful, less fatalistic sense of right-wing plight. While an urgent tone characterized both fiction and nonfiction in the Cold War era, the fiction and some smaller political publications illuminated a difference between using doomsday rhetoric and deploying an apocalyptic narrative in which readers could see themselves taking action in social dramas and political conflicts. This rejection of fatalistic passivity corresponded with the postwar persistence of American anti-Semitism that coded communism as Jewish, with anti-integration efforts that framed racial concerns as parental ones, and with the rise of the New Right, which de-emphasized economic imperatives to thwart the supposed anticommunist evil that plagued America. Instead of economic concerns, the New Right began politicizing social issues to inaugurate a cultural conservatism, which went beyond conserving and defending a right-wing version of the American way of life and went on the offensive in the 1970s and 1980s. Right-wing fiction of the Culture Wars not only reflected this shift but also ushered it in. In the midst of and after the Reagan Revolution, male protagonists in right-wing fiction were more socially outcast and persecuted than their Cold War counterparts and therefore more action-oriented from the start. Macho serial fiction and novels penned by right-wing provocateurs in the anti-abortion and white supremacist movements fomented militant insurgency and revolution. Meanwhile, mainstream publishers created imprints specifically designed to cater to conservative readership, especially women. An industry boom in conservative Christian fiction emerged with orchestrated efforts to challenge educational curricula and with increased popularity in homeschooling. The trajectory of influential conservative women’s writing went from atheistic free-market novels and prim advice books on how to negotiate assertiveness and subservience in holy matrimony to political conspiracy books and increasingly vicious attacks on particular liberals presumed to be agents (not dupes) of the antichrist. In recent years, women and right-wing pundits have published commercially successful young adult and children’s literature expressly with conservative themes. In the post-9/11 era, narrating state power involved capitalizing on a sense of trauma by integrating feelings of imminent conflict with the daily rhythms of society. Right-wing literature in the United States reflected and promoted this disjointed temporality.


Roberto Bolaño within World Literatures  

Oswaldo Zavala

The name Roberto Bolaño (Santiago, Chile, 1953–Blanes, Spain, 2003) has become a central signifier within Latin American contemporary literature but also a key reference in what is often called “world literature” in academic discussions and mainstream editorial circles. At the regional and the global levels, both in the original Spanish and in English translation, Bolaño’s work moved from the margin to the canonical center as Latin America’s foremost representative in the 21st century, as Argentinean Jorge Luis Borges, Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, Mexican Carlos Fuentes, and Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa all did during the 20th century. Bolaño’s novels, short stories, essays, and poetry delve critically into Latin America’s past—Chile’s 1973 coup d’état and subsequent military dictatorship and Mexico’s convulsive 1960s and ’70s society—but also offer insightful explorations of contemporary Western culture and its history of violence, from the effects of world wars, racism, and gender violence to intellectual engagement, avant-garde poetics, and the question of culture in disenfranchised societies of late capitalism. His two masterpieces are major canonical landmarks: The Savage Detectives (1998), a nostalgic memoir about the forgotten avant-garde “visceral realism” and the artistic ethos of his generation, those who witnessed the defeat of the Latin American’s left with the rise of neoliberal governance, and 2666 (2004), his most ambitious book—composed of five interrelated but independent novels—bridging European, US, and Latin American histories converging in the sinister femicide at the US-Mexico borderlands. Read as the author of a complex œuvre expanding across continents, Bolaño surpasses expectations for writers from non-hegemonic cultural centers, defying various conceptions of Western canons and pioneering the avenues of 21st-century Latin American literature.


Robinson, Edwin Arlington  

Scott Donaldson

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935) was the first great modernist American poet. He grew up during a period of prettified poetry and rejected its archaisms and artificialities out of hand. For a long time, the diction of his verse was thought to be too much in the common grain, too plainspoken, to be deserving of publication alongside the work of such once-eminent practitioners as Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Richard Watson Gilder. Robinson was revolutionary too in his concentration on ordinary people as subjects for poetry. He was forced to pay for publication of his first book, The Torrent and the Night Before (1896). “There is very little tinkling water, and there is not a red-bellied robin in the whole collection,” he wrote a friend. Instead there were incisive short glimpses, some in restrictive sonnet form, of the people he observed around him—among them the elderly clerks at a dry goods store.


Rodríguez, Luis J.  

Josephine Metcalf

Luis J. Rodríguez is a Chicano memoirist, novelist, poet, children’s author, and activist. Born in 1954 in Mexico, his family migrated to the United States when he was young. As a youth, he spent many years immersed in the street gangs of Los Angeles while concurrently partaking in community protests and mobilizations that became known as the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It took Rodríguez several years to extract himself from a life of crime and addiction to drugs, though all the while he was writing, painting, and being inspired by revolutionary figures. His first book of poetry was published in 1989, but it was his memoir of gang life, Always Running—La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA, released in 1993 in the aftermath of the LA riots, that garnered him mainstream literary attention. Always Running and its sequel, It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions and Healing, eighteen years later, can be labeled testimonio for detailing a Latina/o “lived” experience and fighting social injustices. In many ways Rodríguez can be deemed a “classic” Chicana/o author: he addresses the experience of migration and writes in both English and Spanish; he explores themes of prejudice and identity for Mexican Americans in the United States; and he considers the role of heteropatriarchal aspects of Mexican culture in defining his relationships (with women and children). His steadfast dedication to Native American/indigenous spirituality is a more recent focus in his life and writings, situating him among a long list of Chicana/os who have embarked on the “Red Road,” that is, life as indigenous-identified subjects. But what most arguably sets Rodríguez apart from fellow Chicana/o writers is his allegiance—throughout all his works in all genres—to proletarian politics and concerns for the working classes. His critiques of deindustrialization and its subsequent effects, particularly poverty, are reflected, for example, in his depictions of the Bethlehem Steel Mill of LA, where Rodríguez worked.


Rodriguez, Richard  

Juan Velasco

The overwhelming critical attention received by Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez (1982) has eclipsed the complexity and diversity of his work as well as the discussion on his impact on Latina/o studies and autobiography studies. A great deal of bibliography dedicated to Rodriguez is the result of the ideological battles the book was engaged in during the 1980s. The political context in which the book was used (mostly to oppose affirmative action and bilingual education) defined the rest of Rodriguez’s work, as some critics considered his positions on education almost treasonous. Lee Bebout summarizes those reactions in “Postracial Mestizaje: Richard Rodriguez’s Racial Imagination in an America Where Everyone Is Beginning to Melt,” as he mentions how most critics saw Rodriguez’s work as the result of a colonized mind, a mannequin for white America. “Tomas Rivera, Ramon Saldívar, William Nericcio, and others critiqued Rodriguez’s thinking, and sometimes Rodriguez himself, as the result of a colonized mind, blind to history and structural inequalities, and playing the role of a “Mexican” mannequin in the mind of white America.” In an interview with scholar José Antonio Gurpegui in Camino Real, Rodriguez admitted “I do see myself—in some more complicated way—as truly being a traitor to memory, if not exactly a traitor to Mexico or to Latin America. I do think I betrayed my family, betrayed my mother and father by becoming someone new—a ‘gringo.’” If we place his work in this context, Rodriguez’s work brings urgency and new significance to Latina/o studies in the 21st century by highlighting the unresolved contradictions that memory, culture, and identity posit as vehicles of agency. His approach to autobiography redefines traditional notions of identity, race, and language, and offers critical notions of subject formation beyond cultural nationalism, proposing queer paradigms that complicate and challenge writing as a clear vehicle for self-empowerment. His writing, queer to cultural nationalism, is deeply committed to the exploration of autobiography as discontinuous space—a space of disruptive transgression where words are barely a ghostly shell; a floating dream in search of an identity.