How Do Printed Objects Help Political Subjects Make and Remake Worlds? This is One of the Central Questions Animating Raúl Coronado's brilliant book A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture. I believe Coronado is one of the most gifted and imaginative literary scholars working today. What is more rare, his writing is both provocative and a pleasure to read. Casting himself as a genealogist, he deploys previously little-known printed materials to tell a dramatic story, and he tells it with a narrative confidence seldom seen in studies that rely, as his ultimately does, so heavily on the close reading of texts.
In a series of discontinuous but deeply contextualized studies situated on the borderlands of Mexico and the United States, advancing from the 1810s to the 1850s and taking readers at times much further back (into, say, the diffusion of scholastic thought), Coronado traces a history of foreclosed revolutionary possibilities, of discursive dead ends and epistemological ruptures, and of the failure of communities to become anything but imagined. He probes understudied people, texts, and episodes for what they can tell us about the complex processes of the experience of modernization—and by modernization he means the major movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for republicanism, capitalism, individualism, secularism, and nationalism. He uses this discontinuous narrative also to arrest what he takes to be a misguided quest among some in his field for a different kind of genealogy: an unbroken lineage of Latino identity and subjectivity that centers on resistance. Instead, he narrates the making of a people as the unintended consequence of individuals who had hoped and failed to make a nation.