Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 December 2020
This essay discusses the historical, literary, and geopolitical junctures that influenced the development of Cuban literature during the nineteenth century and turn of the twentieth century. It demonstrates how, albeit in contradictory ways, literature from this period became a means for criollo self-determination and self-reflection, rooted in literary forms like the nineteenth-century cuadro de costumbres, historical novel, and antislavery narrative.
This essay then moves to the second half of the nineteenth century and explores the way in which the exile literature of José Martí and others was equally important in fostering a sense of national identity. However, an emphasis on Martí and his contemporaries has overshadowed the writing of Cuban women writers. Thus, this essay also argues that the Cuban women writers need to be put in conversation with the male-dominated intellectual tradition of Cuban literature. It concludes by analysing the importance of Nicolás Guillén’s avant-garde poetry for the reclamation of blackness in Cuban literature.
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